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Waiver Wire: Trades making an impact

Fantasy Writer
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This was one of the busiest weeks of the year for player movement so far, as no fewer than 27 separate players were either added or dropped in 10 percent or more of CBSSports.com Fantasy Basketball leagues. We lost a handful of major players across the league to injury, while a six-player, three-team trade last Wednesday shook up a few rotations in a big way.

The biggest gainer and loser came from the same team, as Magic rookie forward Maurice Harkless was added in 42 percent of leagues, the same number that dropped Glen Davis in the same time. Davis suffered a broken foot that required surgery and will likely cost him most, if not all, of the remainder of the season. Another Magic forward, Andrew Nicholson, also saw his ownership jump from 7 percent to 17 percent, so we need to see which of these two rookies is going to see the biggest jump from Davis' absence.

The early returns suggest it will be Harkless who sees the lion's share of the minutes with Davis out, as he was already working his way into the starting lineup prior to Davis' injury. In the four games since Davis went down, Harkless is averaging 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting just 36.3 percent from the field.

Nicholson has also recently joined the starting lineup with Harkless, and he has shown flashes of possibly being a better option at this time. In three starts, Nicholson is averaging 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 56.0 percent from the field. He has been more efficient and effective than Harkless, however he has been unable to take on quite as heavy a load, averaging just 23.7 minutes per game to Harkless' 37.8 per game.

Nicholson was selected four spots after Harkless, and is four years older, so the Magic may be faced with a conundrum moving forward -- Harkless' development is more important for the long-term future of the franchise, while Nicholson may be able to provide more immediate value, based on the small-sample size data.

I would guess Harkless is going to see more consistent playing time than Nicholson, despite Nicholson looking more capable of making an impact right now. On the season, Nicholson is averaging 3.5 minutes per game fewer than Harkless, but is contributing more points (7.4 to 4.7) and only slightly fewer rebounds (3.3 to 3.7). Both players are going to see bigger roles moving forward, but Harkless' upside makes him worth hanging on to. He could end up putting up solid numbers on a bad team over the second half of the season.

Most Added Guards

Nate Robinson, Bulls: Robinson and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau have made an odd pairing all year long, with Thibodeau's intense, defense-first style seemingly at odds with Robinson's shoot-first (and if that doesn't work, shoot-always) approach. And yet, necessity has brought the two together and has produced some rather impressive results recently. "Nate has always been a shot-maker, and that was a need," Thibodeau told Grantland.com Tuesday. "I think he's capable of playing good defense when he's focused. He's older now. He's gained some experience." Robinson is on fire recently and Thibodeau has been relying on him heavily, to prop up an offense that has struggled at times. The diminutive 28-year-old has now scored in double-figures in each of the last 11 games, while averaging 28.1 minutes per game. One thing to keep in mind with Robinson is that this ride is almost certainly going to come to an end before long, as the Bulls expect Derrick Rose to return from knee surgery soon, possibly in the next few weeks. That will almost certainly lead to Robinson's return to Fantasy irrelevance, which explains why so many Fantasy owners are hesitant to use a roster spot on him. I think he is worth snagging in all available leagues right now; handle Rose's return when it comes. (66 percent owned; +35 percent)

Jerryd Bayless, Grizzlies: Somewhat surprisingly, Bayless has been the biggest beneficiary of the Rudy Gay trade, as the Grizzlies have left him in the starting lineup since losing their starting small forward. Bayless got hot with Mike Conley dealing with an injury, and coach Lionel Hollins has opted to keep him in their smaller starting lineup even with Conley back. Bayless got off to a disappointing start to the season, and it has taken him a long time to actually get going. He averaged less than 7.5 points per game in each of the first three months of the season, though he has been showing plenty of life recently. Bayless is averaging 10.1 points per game over the last 10 games, and 19.6 over the last five, as his resurgence has come very recently. Bayless is not particularly efficient as a scorer, and he does not always do well when asked to create for others, but the Grizzlies are sill badly in need of some offensive help. Bayless should continue to see solid minute, as the Grizzlies' 18th-ranked offense needs off-the-dribble creation whenever possible. Don't expect 20-plus points consistently, but I would continue to suggest grabbing Bayless. (57 percent owned; +25 percent)

Eric Bledsoe, Clippers: Chris Paul has missed eight of the last nine games, and while this has been a boon for Bledsoe's Fantasy value, it has brought the Clippers' rise to prominence to a screeching halt. Los Angeles has lost seven of the last nine games, despite Bledsoe stepping his game up and averaging 12.8 points and 5.9 assists over that span. Bledsoe's increased role, and the improved numbers that have come with it, have led to an increase in Fantasy value, but owners need to be aware that it is an improvement that is unlikely to be sustained. ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Paul expects to be back by the weekend, which will move Bledsoe back to the bench. Bledsoe averages just 8.4 points and 2.6 assists per game when coming off the bench, so be prepared to drop him one Paul returns. (73 percent owned; +16 percent)

Most Added Forwards

Taj Gibson, Bulls: In the span of one week, Gibson has gone from a Fantasy non-entity to one of the hottest commodities around, as injuries have decimated the Bulls' frontcourt. Forward Carlos Boozer was forced to miss three of the last four games with a hamstring injury, while center Joakim Noah was forced out of the last three due to a plantar fasciitis issue. Those injuries have left the Bulls stretch, and coach Thibodeau has relied heavily on Gibson as a result. Gibson has played at least 40 minutes in each of the three games since Noah was sidelined, and he is averaging 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. As with all players who see a big boost due to injury, Fantasy owners will obviously need to keep an eye on the Bulls' injury report. Clearly, all Gibson needs to be a Fantasy contributor is a chance; unfortunately, his chance depends on other players getting hurt. As long as Noah remains out, Gibson is worth keeping on the roster. (47 percent owned; +42 percent)

Michael Beasley, Suns: I expected a breakout season from Beasley, on a rebuilding Suns team that seemed likely to need an offensive boost. While Phoenix's 24th-ranked offense has certainly needed help this season, Beasley has very rarely provided the sort of lift we thought was coming when he signed a three-year deal this offseason. Lately, however, there have been signs that Beasley is finding his comfort zone as a scorer, as the former No. 2 overall pick has reached double-figures in seven of the last 11 games, including four 20-point efforts. Many Fantasy owners have hung on to Beasley, but there has still been enough room for movement for him to have been the sixth-most added player this week. Beasley is still maddeningly inconsistent, scoring in single-digits in four of the last 10 games, despite averaging 15.8 per game. The Suns seem to have developed a policy wherein they ride Beasley when he is hot, and give him a quick yank otherwise; he has played fewer than 28 minutes in each of his single-digit scoring games. Fantasy owners will not like the day-to-day production Beasley is providing, but his overall production is starting to push him back into low-end starting territory, despite being unpredictable. (82 percent owned; +24 percent)

Jimmy Butler, Bulls: Like his teammate Gibson, Butler emerged as a Fantasy option due to injuries in the Bulls' rotation. Unlike Gibson, Butler has been able to prove his worth even with the team healthy, as he is still seeing upwards of 30 minutes per night with Luol Deng back. Butler first made his name a few weeks ago by stepping up in Deng's absence, but he has slid in nicely at the shooting guard spot next two Deng, while also showing the ability to guard three positions. He is still developing as a shooter, but it looks like he has worked his way safely into coach Thibodeau's circle of trust. Butler should be good for a dozen points and five-to-six rebounds per game moving forward, so continue to add the 23-year-old. (62 percent owned; +23 percent)

Most Added Centers

Aaron Gray, Raptors:Gray exploded with a 22-point game last Monday, and has been on Fantasy owners minds since. He is averaging 28.8 minutes per game in the last four games, and seems to be cemented in as the team's starting center in the aftermath of the Ed Davis trade. Gray has 21 total points in the three games since Davis was moved, however he has grabbed 35 rebounds in that same span. Fantasy owners snagging him are surely hoping that he can fill in as a low-end option in the shallow center position, but I would not do more than pencil him into the lineup. At 28, we pretty much know who Aaron Gray is, and there is little to indicate that he will be worth keeping on the roster for long. Don't rush out to grab him, despite his entrance into the starting five. (17 percent owned; +16 percent)

Byron Mullens, Bobcats:Mullens was one of the more unique players in Fantasy prior to his injury, as he was averaging 7.9 rebounds per game while attempting more than one-third of his shots from three-point range. That combination led to some ugly efficiency numbers for a center, but it also gave you a rare combination of three-point shooting and rebounding that proved useful in category-based Fantasy formats. He is back from a 19-game absence, and was inserted right back into the rotation Monday, playing 28 minutes in a loss to the Heat. Mullens can be an incredibly frustrating Fantasy option, as there are plenty of nights where he struggles to get his shots to fall. Still, this was a center who scored in double figures in 17 of 27 games prior to the injury, and is worth picking up in most Fantasy formats. (75 percent owned; +5 percent)

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:00 pm ET) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(4:41 pm ET) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(3:51 pm ET) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(3:02 pm ET) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:09 pm ET) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:28 pm ET) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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