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Waiver Wire: Don't be too hasty

Fantasy Writer
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In the course of an NBA season, a player's outlook can change on a weekly basis. Between injuries, trades and just the random whims of a coaching staff, team rotations prove to be particularly malleable.

That proves especially true at the lower end of the NBA talent spectrum, where players tend to be more replaceable -- it is infinitely easier to find a sixth man than a star, after all. Finding these marginal players as they move into a bigger role is one of the keys to sustained Fantasy success. The latest example of this has been Bucks center Samuel Dalembert, who was the most added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues this week (up 34 percent).

From Jan. 2 through Feb. 2, Dalembert appeared in just 10 of the team's 17 games, playing 122 of 816 possible minutes and scoring 49 points. Dalembert looked like a total non-factor in the team's rotation, thanks to the emergence of Larry Sanders as a major contributor. Something unexpected happened Feb. 5 in Denver to change Dalembert's outlook, and it is up to us to determine whether this is a new, improved Dalembert we are dealing with.

Despite Dalembert dropping a career-high 35 points in just 27 minutes against the Nuggets (and following it up with a pair of double-doubles), I am inclined to say that Dalembert is hardly worth rushing out to grab off the waiver wires. At 31, Dalembert has a long track record of being a mostly mediocre player, and he is still averaging just 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on the season, albeit with a a career-high 59.1 percent mark from the field.

The Bucks rightly view Sanders as their future at the center position and are reportedly actively looking for trades involving Dalembert, despite just acquiring him in the offseason from Houston. Dalembert has stepped up his individual numbers in Sanders' absence due to an injury, however that has meant little for Milwaukee's' prospects as a team; they have lost each of the last four games since Sanders' injury.

Dalembert can pitch in for Fantasy owners in a pinch in Sanders' absence, but there is likely little reason to view him as a long-term piece -- the Bucks certainly don't. As soon as Sanders is ready to get back on the floor, Dalembert should be cast back to the scrap heap. The only issue complicating things is Sanders is unsure when he will be able to return, as his bruised lower back seems to be healing slowly. Sanders is set to receive a second opinion in the coming days, which should give us a better picture of when we can expect Dalembert to return to his role on the bench.

Most added guards

Martell Webster, Wizards: In eight NBA seasons, spanning over 1,500 three-point attempts, Webster has established himself as a solid sharpshooter, so his recent success should not come as a huge surprise. We always knew Webster could shoot, but he has been mostly unable to get a grip on a full-time role, largely thanks to injuries. Webster is in a particularly good spot in Washington, where point guard John Wall has come back to take control of the offense and is consistently putting Webster in position to succeed. According to analysis by BulletsForever.com, a Wizards-centric blog, Wall led the league in assists on corner three-pointers, a type of shot that Webster has been feasting on this season. A total of 95 of Webster's 186 three-point attempts this season have come below the break, and he is shooting an astounding 51.6 percent on those attempts. Webster is averaging 12.6 points per game since John Wall returned to the lineup Jan. 12, and while he will likely not continue shooting 52.2 percent from the field, he is clearly benefiting from Wall's presence. I don't see much of a drop-off in store as long as the Wizards' franchise point guard stays healthy. (53 percent owned; +26 percent)

Nate Robinson, Bulls: I've written plenty about Robinson in recent weeks, as the diminutive guard has exploded in the absences of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has yet to play in the month of February while Rose has been out all season, and Robinson has taken advantage. Robinson is averaging 17.2 points and 8.3 assists per game in six February games, however the Bulls have gone just 2-4 in that stretch, a stat that will certainly not sit well with Chicago's notoriously competitive coach, Tom Thibodeau. Robinson's long-term value increased with the USA Today report Tuesday that Rose has no plans to return before the next few weeks. When asked how close he is to 100 percent, Rose said, "Right now, probably in the high 80s. Far away. Far away." If Rose cannot return healthy this season (a possibility he hinted at in the story), that would certainly change Robinson's long-term outlook. Hinrich is out until at least after the All-Star break, and it is not clear when he will return at this point. Fantasy owners who have picked up and ridden Robinson during this hot streak may end up disappointed with Robinson's play upon Hinrich's return, however. (81 percent owned; +17 percent)

Jordan Crawford, Wizards: While Webster and the Wizards are soaring -- by their generally floor-bound standards, anyways -- one player has crashed and burned recently. Crawford has long had a well-earned reputation as a score-first gunner who cannot operate within a successful team concept, and that has certainly proven to be true this season. The Wizards have been consistently more competitive all year long with Crawford on the bench; the Wizards are being outscored by just 1.0 points per 100 possessions with Crawford on the bench, as compared to a 7.4 points-per-possession deficit with him on the floor. Crawford has not played more than 24 minutes in any game since Jan. 4, a streak that has coincided with the Wizards going 11-8. The team's success with Crawford seeing a smaller role should came as no surprise, given the numbers. Fantasy owners do not get extra points for team success, but Wizards coach Randy Wittman has obviously come to the realization that Crawford is not part of a winning combination. When the coach can't keep a player on the floor, it is time to cut him loose. (41 percent owned; -12 percent)

Most added forwards

Lavoy Allen, 76ers: Allen showed some potential as a contributor in his rookie season, but has not taken a step forward as a 23-year-old. If you had told me that at the beginning of the season I would have assumed it was natural with Andrew Bynum's dominance of the center minutes in Philadelphia, but that has clearly not been the issue here. Even without one of the league's best centers sopping up minutes, Allen has been unable to consistently step up in a larger role. Allen has had some big performances over the last week, including a massive 14-point, 22-rebound game against the Bobcats last Saturday. Fantasy owners are probably hoping that his three-game double-digit scoring streak portends big things to come for Allen, but that would be a surprise; he followed up that stretch with four points and a pair of rebounds in his next game. I would not expect him to be worth starting in the future. (43 percent owned; +34 percent)

Charlie Villanueva, Pistons: Villanueva has fallen badly out of favor in Detroit since signing a five-year contract four years ago, but he has a chance to prove his worth in the next few weeks. With the news that Andre Drummond will miss at least a month due to a fractured tailbone, Villanueva may end up being the de-facto replacement for second units, even though he and Drummond's games could not be any less similar. Drummond had his best two-game stretch immediately following news of Drummond's injury, as he scored 39 points and grabbed 21 rebounds last Friday and Saturday. What remains to be seen moving forward is whether the Pistons will ask him to continue to carry a large offensive load with the bench units. Villanueva has a unique skill set that can make him a useful Fantasy option, but he is a full four seasons removed from actually being one in a consistent manner. Continue to monitor the Pistons' usage of the 28-year-old, as he may be worth a flier. (21 percent owned; +18 percent)

Ed Davis, Grizzlies: No player in the league saw his ownership drop like Davis', as Fantasy owners awakened to the fact that the Grizzlies simply do not plan on featuring Davis heavily. The trade that sent him to Memphis was the worst possible scenario for the 23-year-old, who looked to be coming into his own in Toronto. In five games with the Grizzlies, Davis is averaging just 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, as the team's fourth big man in the rotation. Barring injury, Davis is unworthy of owning in any Fantasy formats at this time. (32 percent owned; -23 percent)

Most added centers

Byron Mullens, Bobcats: It is not always pretty -- or particularly efficient most of the time – but Mullens continues to put up the kind of numbers that Fantasy owners simply cannot turn down. The gawky seven-footer has come back from his ankle injury and hit the ground running, averaging 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game over his first five games, all while shooting 45.9 percent from the field. Mullens has struggled with his efficiency all season, so his hot shooting since returning from the injury is likely just an illusion. Even if a few shots stop falling, Mullens should be back to being a decent Fantasy option, if a frustrating one on a nightly basis. The Bobcats are one of the league's worst offensive teams, and Mullens certainly doesn't help that much. But, his youth and size are enough to ensure that the team will continue to throw him out there, results be damned in another lost season. With how shallow the center position is, it would not be going too far to say that he is worth owning in just about every Fantasy format. (88 percent owned; +13 percent)

Robin Lopez, Hornets: Lopez is in a world of Fantasy limbo, as he consistently hovers between 60 and 80 percent ownership, mostly based on how well he has played over the last few games. The Hornets situation has not changed much through this season, with a few early injuries to rookie Anthony Davis being the only catalysts for change. This jump in Lopez's ownership is largely based on his recent run of very strong play, as he is averaging 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over the last eight, while shooting a blistering 65.1 percent from the field. His playing time has increased a bit (30.3 minutes in this stretch, compared to 26.1 per game for the season as a whole. Lopez is enjoying a career-best season, but Fantasy owners should be aware that he averaged just 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in the eight games prior to this most recent stretch. His Fantasy value will fluctuate seemingly at random for the rest of the season, but Lopez is absolutely worth leaning on when times are good. (71 percent owned; +9 percent)

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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
(9/17/2014) 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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