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Waiver Wire: Trouble in Atlanta?

Fantasy Writer
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The loss of Lou Williams last week to a season-ending ligament tear in his knee has created a big hole Atlanta badly needs to fill if it wants to keep its waning playoff hopes alive. Williams wore many hats for the Hawks, working as a backup point guard, crunch-time playmaker or secondary scorer, depending on what the team needed at the time. He had emerged as a strong floor-spacer as well, tossing up five three-pointers per game and hitting 36.7 percent of them.

His absence for the remainder of the season will force a number of players to step up and Fantasy owners seem to be betting heavily that veteran wing Kyle Korver will fill in during Williams' absence. Korver has been the second-most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues over the last week, jumping from 36 percent ownership to 54 percent.

Korver is a superior floor-spacer to Williams, but he lacks many of the other skills that made Williams such a useful option, both for Fantasy owners and the Hawks. Korver averages just 1.7 assists per game on the season, compared to Williams' 3.6, and will likely be asked to do far less play-making than Williams ever was. Korver's limitations as a ball-handler will make it unlikely that he can fill in totally for Williams, so the Hawks will have to shift some of Williams' responsibilities around.

Still, Korver is exceptional at the things he does well, and it would not be a surprise at all to see the Hawks rely on him more heavily for scoring moving forward. Korver has been starting for much of the season, but has seen an increase to 36.9 minutes per game in the three since Williams suffered his injury. That increase comes in spite of being moved out of the starting lineup as of the team's most recent game.

As a shooting specialist, Korver gets most of his touches off screens and in spot-up situations, and he is among the league's leaders in efficiency in both play types. According to MySynergySports.com, 67.7 percent of Korver's possessions ending in either a field-goal attempt, foul drawn or turnover come via spot-ups or coming off screens. His ability to race around screens puts a ton of pressure on defenses, as Eye On Basketball's Zach Harper covered here. His never-ending pursuit of open spots on the floor clears up plenty of room for him to get open looks. He ranks 17th in the NBA in points per possession on spot-ups and 13th off screens. His movement and shooting prowess helps grease the wheels for a Hawks offense that sometimes struggles to find room with its big lineups.

By necessity, Atlanta will try to approximate Williams' production from a number of different sources, and Korver should be just one. Expect the Hawks to lean on Korver's off-ball movement to create space in the offense even more, with Jeff Teague taking on more ball-handling duties. Korver could end up becoming a 30-plus minutes per game player and is worth snagging off the waiver wire -- especially in category-based Fantasy formats, where his three-point shooting will make an even bigger impact.

Most Added Guards

Devin Harris, Hawks: The other part of the "Replacing Lou Williams" equation is likely to be Harris, a veteran point guard who has been a major disappointment thus far in his time in Atlanta. Harris has been playing some better ball recently and looked to be taking a step forward in Williams' absence, scoring 30 points in 50 minutes over two games after Williams suffered the injury. Harris also suffered an injury of his own shortly after, however that is just a minor ankle injury that is expected to cost him only one or two games total. Harris has his best chance to step up in Williams' absence as the backup point guard, though he will need to improve his play in a big way in order to make an impact. Harris is posting a career-low assist rate of just 17.0 percent on the season. His career mark is 29.9 percent. Harris' assist rate has surely been hurt by the presence of Teague and Williams, so we will need to see whether he can step up with his larger role. Harris has little track record this season to fall back on, but Fantasy owners looking for an upside play can look his way, on the chance that he rediscovers his former All-Star form. (48 percent owned; +17 percent)

Shannon Brown, Suns: Brown has seen his Fantasy value fluctuate all season long, which is to be expected for a streaky jump shooter like him. 69.3 percent of Browns' field goal attempts qualify as jump shots according to Basketball-Reference.com, an unnecessarily high number for someone who shoots just 31.5 percent on those attempts. When the shot is falling, Brown can fill up the scoreboard, as he ranked third among Suns' regulars in field-goal attempts per 36 minutes. He has scored in double figures in four games in a row as of Tuesday, which has prompted resurgence in interest in him. Unfortunately, he had been held to just 6.2 points per game in the team's previous five games. Taking a flier on Brown is fine if you are trying to find a quick spark plug. Just don't expect him to earn a permanent spot in your plans. (43 percent owned; +14 percent)

Jarrett Jack, Warriors: Despite being the backup at point guard, Jack has seen his role continue to increase as the season has gone on. Jack averaged just 24.6 minutes per game in the month of November, a number that has crept to 31.1 in 10 January games. Despite the presence of a potential All Star in Stephen Curry, Jack has had no problems finding the floor, and he saw a slight boost in his floor time last week when Curry missed a few games. Jack's spike in ownership was likely due to concerns that Curry's surgically-repaired right ankle was flaring up and would cost him to miss significant time yet again. Unfortunately, Curry sat out just two games, during which Jack averaged 18.0 points and 6.0 assists. Jack is worth owning in most Fantasy formats, but it is not fair to expect his value to improve too much moving forward. (88 percent owned; +10 percent)

Most Added Forwards

Al-Farouq Aminu, Hornets: Aminu has been rebounding like a madman of late, averaging 10.3 per game over the last 10 contests. His offense, as always, has remained a work-in-progress, however he has shown some real signs of life of late. With Eric Gordon's return from a knee injury, the Hornets have been playing at a much faster pace, a style that almost certainly helps a player like Aminu thrive. With Gordon on the floor, the Hornets sporting a Pace Factor of 93.9, which would rank seventh in the league. Without Gordon, they are at just 89.9, one of the most sluggish in the league. Aminu does his best work offensive in transition and on offensive rebounds, the only types of plays where he ranks among the 100-most efficient players in the league, according to Synergy. The Hornets have stepped on the accelerator offensively recently, and the result is that Aminu has racked up three straight double-digit scoring games, as of Tuesday. If he can continue to find easy points, Aminu might be worth grabbing in all Fantasy formats, however his track record indicates that patience will be key. (66 percent owned; +21 percent)

Earl Clark, Lakers: Clark had all of the makings of a flash-in-the-pan for the Lakers, ala Antawn Jamison and his short-lived flirtation with Fantasy relevance earlier in the season. However, coach Mike D'Antoni made it clear Monday that Clark was here to stay, at least as far as his spot in the team's starting lineup is concerned. Clark has found his calling as a stretch power forward in Mike D'Antoni's offensive system, and he is averaging 10.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game over the last nine, since becoming a larger fixture in the rotation. Clark's track record does not suggest that this is the type of production we can expect moving forward, however D'Antoni's offense looks to be turning Clark into a contributor. At the very least, it looks like he can be a useful provider of points and rebounds through sheer energy, given the 30-plus minutes he figures to see per game moving forward. (53 percent owned; +17 percent)

Elton Brand, Mavericks: Brand had been all but left for dead from a Fantasy perspective after the first two months of the season, as he averaged just 6.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game through the first 27 games of the season. Brand was more than a step slow on both ends of the court, and looked to be carrying every one of his 800-plus NBA games played with him each time down the court. Something happened at the start of the New Year, however, as Brand has begun to turn the clock back a bit. Over the last 11 games, Brand is averaging 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, despite playing just 23.7 minutes per game off the bench. He has been even better recently, reaching double-figures in scoring in five games in a row, as of Tuesday. Brand is a long way from the All-Star form he showed for so many years, but any signs of life are encouraging after the abysmal start. Brand has emerged as the better option next to Dirk Nowitzki, and it would not be a surprise to see his role continue to increase. I think he could be worth starting in the near future. (56 percent owned; +15 percent)

Most Added Centers

Tiago Splitter, Spurs: Splitter has continued his gradual improvement this season, taking on a larger role in the Spurs' offense with almost no drop in his efficiency. His play of late has been especially impressive, as Splitter has essentially become a full-time player for the first time in his career. Over the last 10 games, Splitter has played at least 26 minutes in all but one game, while averaging 28.9 per game. He has become a contributor on both sides of the floor, and is one of Gregg Popovich's most reliable big men. It looks like Splitter is blossoming into the player he has shown flashes of being in the past. Given how shallow the center position is, Splitter's dual eligibility makes him a worthy pick up, where available. (61 percent owned; +13 percent)

Andre Drummond, Pistons: As expected, it took a while for Drummond to get up to speed in the NBA, after an up-and-down freshman season at UCONN. Lately, however, the only thing standing in the way of Drummond being a true Fantasy force has been his coach's insistence on limiting his minutes. In the first 20 games of the season, Drummond averaged 6.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in just 17.6 minutes per game. He has taken consistent steps in his progress in the last 20 games, but has been rewarded at every step with just small increases in playing time. He is averaging 8.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in 22.0 minutes per game in that span, while shooting 64.1 percent from the field. Drummond's inability to sink free throws certainly hurts his chances of seeing significant crunch-time minutes, but the Pistons should probably be more concerned about future development than short-term victories. Drummond is so close to being a big-time Fantasy contributor -- he is averaging over 20 Fantasy points per game over the last month, ranking him in the top-30 among all centers. If he starts seeing 25-30 minutes per game in the second half of the season, he might end up developing into a top-15 center. Smart Fantasy owners will want to squeeze onto his bandwagon before he is taken in every league. (75 percent owned; +5 percent)

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Player News
LeBron James dealing with some back soreness after scrimmage
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Cavaliers forward LeBron James is dealing with a bit of back soreness following the team's scrimmage Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Following the scrimmage, head coach David Blatt downplayed the issue. "I think overall [LeBron's] fine," Blatt said. "He’s got a little bit of back soreness and we’ll monitor that carefully." James scored 13 points during the scrimmage. 


Pelicans being 'smart' with Jrue Holiday's practice time
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) The Pelicans are being cautious with point guard Jrue Holiday, limiting his practice time as he returns from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his tibia, The Times-Picayune reports.

"We are trying to be smart with his comeback," coach Monty Williams said. "After about two weeks of this, it's time to ramp it up and get going."

Holiday said he came out of Tuesday's and Wednesday's practices feeling good if a bit sore. "I'm sore," Holiday said. "Again I don't think I have pushed my body this much for a long time. It's good. All of our trainers and Monty had to kick me off the court yesterday because I didn't want to stop. But I am glad he did because I am feeling it today. Again that's a part of me still learning how to take care of my body and come back strong these next days."

Holiday didn't play a game after Jan. 8 last season and ultimately underwent surgery in February. He averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 34 games.


Hornets center Al Jefferson looking to improve defensive presence
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Hornets center Al Jefferson said he is tired of being a defensive liability and is looking to make sure opposing teams don't target his pick-and-roll defense, according to The Charlotte Observer.

"I refuse to continue getting picked on at the end of games. It’s not fun," Jefferson said. "Last year at the end of games teams always put me in high pick-and-rolls. I got sick of them thinking that was to their advantage, and it was to their advantage."

Coach Steve Clifford said he was happy that Jefferson brought up the subject of his defensive issues and saved the coaches from having to point it out.

"He’s working hard. His attitude is great. I sense more of a hunger than any kind of complacency," Clifford said. "He sees what the possibilities are for the group. He’s competitive and wants to win."


Pistons coach speaks highly of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy spoke highly Wednesday about second-year guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, according to the team's official website.

"You always look at players first to their strengths, where can a guy be great," Van Gundy said. "I think he can be an elite defender in this league at the two guard and we’ll look for that every night. I think he is a high-energy guy who can get up and down the floor and attack the basket in transition. Those two things have got to be his foundation."

Caldwell-Pope averaged 24 points per game in the Summer League. However, he's still not at the stage in his career where the Pistons are counting on him to be one of their top scorers.

"On the offensive end, he’s going to have to slow down a little bit, get under control, and like a lot of people it will come down to how many shots he can make, how efficient he can be shooting the ball, how consistent can you be," Van Gundy said. "But I think he’s got a great foundation with the defense and energy that will get him on the floor and give him a chance to develop in those other areas."


Lakers forward Ryan Kelly suffers hamstring strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Lakers forward Ryan Kelly suffered a moderate left hamstring strain Wednesday. The Lakers will have more information about the severity of his injury Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Pacers forward C.J. Miles not worried about calf strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pacers forward C.J. Miles has been unable to complete a full practice at the start of training camp due to a calf strain, according to VigilantSports.com. However, Miles is not worried about the injury.

"It’s just a little strain, nothing crazy," he said Wednesday. "I’m pretty much healed. I’m doing everything just monitoring the contact a little bit just because of the wear and tear on it.

"It doesn’t make sense for me to be out with a strain for three weeks now when I could take a couple days just two get it all the way back, finish the month and be ready for the first game of the season. But I’m well past sitting out. Just monitoring it, that’s all."

Miles added he only sits out a portion of practice.

"I do everything throughout the whole practice until like just a little bit of the contact just towards the end," he explained. "Since the first practices are long, they don’t want me go through the wear and tear of the whole practice."


Jonas Jerebko will be part of Pistons' 10-man rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy indicated Wednesday forward Jonas Jerebko will be part of a 10-man rotation this season.

"We'll play at least nine on a nightly basis but probably 10 a lot, based on the way Jonas has played in September and in camp," Van Gundy said after Wednesday's morning practice, per the team's official website. "I've been really happy (with him). Nobody put more time in here this summer than Jonas did. Because of his play with the national team in years past, he's never really been able to devote as much time to his own development and his own game. He's gotten stronger. He's in tremendous shape.

"I think the key to Jonas -- and we talked about this early on -- is he has to get back to being the guy he was when he first came into the league, that hungry guy playing with incredible energy, trying to make his spot. What we've seen in September, he looks like a guy who is committed to being a high-energy guy."


D.J. Stephens added to Pelicans' training camp roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) The Pelicans added guard/forward D.J. Stephens to the training camp roster, according to The Times-Picayune. Stephens appeared in three games for the Bucks in 2013-14, averaging 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds.

Josh McRoberts expects to be ready by Heat season opener
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Heat forward Josh McRoberts will not play in Wednesday's scrimmage due to a toe injury, according to the Sun-Sentinel. McRoberts, who had toe surgery in the offseason, said he has dealt with the issue for years.

"I've needed surgery for a couple years," McRoberts said. "We kind of figured out last year before the season started. I knew right when the playoffs ended, so it was something I had planned for."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the Heat are just being cautious to avoid McRoberts aggravating the injury. However, McRoberts expects to be ready by the season opener in late October.

"I'm just kind of easing back into things," McRoberts said. "It takes time to recover from something like this. I'm just trying not to overdo it."


Heat forward Chris Andersen working on jump shot
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10/1/2014) Heat forward Chris Andersen is spending extra time after practice during training camp to work on jumpers from the elbow and baseline, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Andersen is putting in the extra work because the Heat feel he can be used in more than just pick-and-roll situations.

"To step out and have that confidence to shoot the 15-footer, a lot of people haven't seen it or don't expect it," Andersen said. "This year, [coach Erik Spoelstra] says he's going to implement it into the game plan. I look forward to getting that opportunity."


 
 
 
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