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Waiver Wire: Magic's moves making some sense

Fantasy Writer
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Lottery-bound teams might not be much fun to watch, but the Magic have become something of an exception lately -- especially for Fantasy owners. General manager Rob Hennigan has done a great job starting out the post-Dwight Howard era, snagging a handful of young, promising players in a slew of moves, both big and small, that has the future looking bright even as they hurtle toward the bottom of the standings.

A big reason why the Magic have actually been watchable since the trade deadline has been the emergence of newly acquired forward Tobias Harris, a 20-year-old tweener who is starting to tap into his considerable upside. Harris is averaging 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in six contests since the trade. He ranks second on the team in scoring in that span, despite coming in fourth in minutes played. Some in Orlando are already calling for the Magic to insert Harris into the starting lineup.

It is little surprise, then, that Harris has been the most-added player in CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues over the last week. He has gone from a Fantasy non-entity to the most highly coveted player around, and we have to figure out whether he can sustain that. To do that, we have to look at how Harris has been coming into his success.

Harris' success has been built on extremely efficient scoring, and it is easy to see that the foundation for that has been built on scoring near the basket. According to Stats.NBA.com, Harris' 59.4 percent shooting mark from the field is buoyed by an 87.0 percent mark within the restricted area; he is shooting a rather more pedestrian 45.6 percent from beyond three feet.

Harris is an impressive athlete, registering a 37.5-inch vertical leap at the 2011 combine, but it still might be too much to expect him to sustain that type of mark. After all, LeBron James is shooting 10 percent lower in the restricted area than Harris during his streak.

Even if we assume that Harris is due for some regression in his hot shooting, however, there is still a valuable player there, and one that is likely to remain a central part of the Magic's plans. He is still getting most of his shots from close to the basket as well, so there is little reason to think Harris is due for a dramatic drop-off. Fantasy owners might not be able to expect 17 points per game from Harris moving forward, but something close to 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game seems reasonable.

Most Added Guards

Marcus Thornton, Kings Thornton was one of the biggest busts around for the first three-fifths of the Fantasy season, making my All-Disappointment team at the All-Star break. Thornton, who led the Kings in scoring a year ago at 18.7 points per game, was averaging just 11.5 points per game at the break. He has been the player we expected since then, as his role has grown along with his comfort level in the offense. Thornton is shooting a blistering 53.6 percent from the field since the break, a mark that the career 43.8 percent shooter almost certainly will not keep up. So, don't expect him to flirt with 20 points per game once his shot levels off. Still, Thornton might be worth hanging on to anyways, as he is averaging almost four more minutes and two field-goal attempts per game over the last seven. (77 percent owned; +26 percent)

E'Twaun Moore, Magic: Moore enjoyed a nice six-game stretch as the team's starting point guard over the last few weeks, averaging 31.7 minutes per game with 11.3 points and 7.3 assists per game. That run of Fantasy relevance came to a crashing halt Monday, and it not coincidentally coincided with Jameer Nelson's return to the starting lineup. In 16 games as a starter, Moore is averaging 12.1 points and 5.5 assists per game; he averages just 7.3 points and 2.1 assists per game otherwise. As long as Nelson is healthy, there is little reason to roster Moore. (33 percent owned; +15 percent)

Wilson Chandler, Nuggets: Chandler is listed as a shooting guard in CBSSports.com's system since that is the position he most recently started at, but he has become a front-court play for the Nuggets. According to 82games.com, Chandler is playing the majority of his minutes at power forward this season, with the rest mostly coming at small forward. He is benefiting from matchups with big men who can't possibly keep up with him on the perimeter, averaging 15.9 points per game since the All-Star break, while shooting a blistering 46.2 percent on three-pointers. The Nuggets are a perfect fit for Chandler, and he is taking advantage of his role on the team now that he has put his hip issues behind him. As long as Chandler is getting close to 30 minutes per game, Fantasy owners have to consider him worth grabbing off the wires. (55 percent owned; +26 percent)

Most Added Forwards

Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets: Motiejunas has had plenty written on him recently, due to his ascension to the starting lineup of one of the league's most explosive offenses. Motiejunas has started three games so far, and is averaging 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 three-pointers made in those games. He is a perfect fit for the Rockets' offense, as a stretch-four in a team offensive philosophy that emphasizes floor spacing. I remain a bit concerned about his conditioning and subsequent ability to play a large minute load, but teammate Omer Asik put similar concerns to rest this season already. I love Motiejunas' skill set in the Rockets' offense, both as a floor-spacer off the ball as well as in the pick and roll, and think he is worth snagging in most deeper Fantasy formats. (40 percent owned; +32 percent)

John Salmons, Kings: As with teammate Thornton, Salmons has seen his production improved since the All-Star break, leading to a boost in ownership. Unlike Thornton, Salmons' role on the team has mostly remained the same, as he is averaging just 1.6 minutes per game since the break. Salmons is averaging 13.3 points per game over the last seven games, a 4.4 point increase, despite the similar role. The reason for this boost has been a wholly unsustainable shooting mark from three-point range, with Salmons shooting an unimaginable 61.8 percent on long-range attempts in that span. Salmon is a pretty good long-range bomber, but there is no way he keeps this up. I doubt those Fantasy owners who picked him up will hang on to him for too long. (26 percent owned; +15 percent)

Thomas Robinson, Rockets: A week ago, Robinson was the most-added player, garnering a full write up wherein I expressed my doubts about his abilities to live up to expectations. Robinson is still a work in progress as a player, and the Rockets have been notoriously patient with their young players in recent years, and especially big men. Robinson has played just 34 minutes over three games since the trade, however he did put up 10 points and eight rebounds in his most recent game against the Mavericks. Robinson can give the Rockets a sorely-needed rebounding presence, but I just don't he currently fits what they want to do as much as Motiejunas, and should be owned in far fewer Fantasy leagues. (33 percent owned; -15 percent)

Most Added Centers

Jermaine O'Neal, Suns: From a personal standpoint, O'Neal has had a tough go of it this season, which makes his recent performance all the more impressive. Unfortunately, things keep cropping up for him off the court, and O'Neal is expected to miss at least a week of action, and possibly more, with his daughter set to undergo heart surgery in the next few days. Obviously family is going to be O'Neal's first priority, and you cannot be upset about him feeling that way. Fantasy owners might be frustrated by their new piece's absence, because O'Neal has been terrific recently while playing a much bigger role in the Suns' plans. I would still say he is worth stashing, given the lack of other viable center options. (55 percent owned; +26 percent)

Enes Kanter, Jazz: Kanter has absolutely feasted over the last two games without Al Jefferson, totaling 41 points and 32 rebounds. His and Derrick Favors' play when given the chance continues to underscore how shortsighted the Jazz were at the trade deadline by standing pat. Kanter could be a starting caliber Fantasy center with the minutes, as he is averaging 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per-36 minutes on the season. Unfortunately, his value remains inextricably tied to the status of Jefferson's balky ankle. Jefferson is being considered day to day, but is already out for Wednesday's game. As long as Jefferson remains out, Kanter looks like a good play for Fantasy owners. Enjoy the boost while it lasts, however, as he will likely not prove to be a worthy long-term option on your roster. Be ready to cut Kanter loose when Jefferson is available to return. (34 percent owned; +20 percent)

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


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. 


 
 
 
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