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Week 1 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer

After all of the planning and waiting of the offseason, the season is finally upon us. Things kick off Tuesday with a trio of intriguing matchups, and we get six days of action in Week 1 (Oct. 28-Nov. 3). Sure, that's one day less than normal, but it is more than enough to count as a full week for Fantasy purposes, which means the season is already in full swing.

Most weeks will have a bit more variety than the first, but this week features very little. All but four teams play three times this week, and two of the ones that have four games on the schedule (Miami and Los Angeles) don't carry a ton of Fantasy intrigue right now. That means you'll probably be riding with your best players across the board, without worrying too much about matchups yet.

There are plenty of rotation and injury concerns in the first scoring period, which definitely clouds the short-term prospects of some of the players you drafted. Some of our favorite breakout candidates each year usually take a few weeks or months to get going, so you might have some guys underperform early on.

Guards we like for Week 1
Player Own/Start
1. Mo Williams, Trail Blazers 38/12
2. Will Bynum, Pistons 6/3
3. Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz 1/0
4. Jordan Farmar, Lakers 2/0
5. Mario Chalmers, Heat 41/20
6. Ramon Sessions, Bobcats 66/21
7. Rodney Stuckey, Pistons 29/4
8. Lance Stephenson, Pacers 20/7

We're introducing a new format for this advice column this season, which will feature more analysis of each team's schedule, as well as a more in-depth list of players and their relative value. Hopefully, this gives a better view of the league as a whole on a week-to-week basis.

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta had quite a bit of turnover in the offseason, but the team's Fantasy prospects haven't changed much; Paul Millsap simply slides into Josh Smith's place next to Al Horford as the team's high-end forward. None of Atlanta's Week 1 opponents figures to be a defensive juggernaut, so they could be involved in high-scoring contests all around. Start your Hawks with confidence.

Schedule: @DAL, TOR, @LAL
Average points-per-game: 22nd (2012)
10-team starters: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap
12-to-14-team starters: Kyle Korver
Deep-league fliers: Elton Brand, Dennis Schroder, John Jenkins

Boston Celtics

This team is a mess, especially for Fantasy purposes. Sure, Jeff Green was great in the second half of last season, but that was as a third option in the offense on most nights. We're not sure what he can do as a team's primary offensive focus. Beyond him, prospects are grim, with a hopeful resurgence from Gerald Wallace the only thing standing between this roster and nearly total Fantasy irrelevance at the start of the season. This team has few playmakers, and I wouldn't trust any of the lower end guys at this point, at least until we see how the rotation shakes out.

Schedule: @TOR, MIL, @DET
Average points-per-game: 18th (2012)
10-team starters: Jeff Green
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Wallace
Deep-league fliers: Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass

Brooklyn Nets

We're still not quite sure how Brooklyn will play, with regards to both style and substance. Are they going to push the pace and share the ball, or will they let their offensive stars isolate? Who knows. They have a very versatile roster that is deep with strong scorers, which could limit some players' upsides. The likely starting lineup should spread the ball around enough to be worth using this week, with a couple of solid matchups on the way.

Schedule: @CLE, MIA, @ORL
Average points-per-game: 18th (2012)
10-team starters: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez
12-to-14-team starters: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson
Deep-league fliers: Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche

Charlotte Bobcats

Things could change pretty drastically if Al Jefferson's ankle remains an issue, but all indications are that he is going to play from the onset. Each of their three opponents in Week 1 could feature drastically improved defenses from a year ago, but I'm not sure that would change Charlotte's outlook for this week all that much anyway. Cody Zeller is the riskiest of the starting options for Week 1, since we're simply not sure how much he will play as a rookie.

Schedule: @HOU, CLE, @NO
Average points-per-game: 22nd (2012)
10-team starters: Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions, Cody Zeller
Deep-league fliers: Jeff Taylor, Josh McRoberts, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Chicago Bulls

I was tempted to drop Joakim Noah down a tier, as his lingering groin issue might cost him at least one game this week. In a normal week, he will be a solid starter in all leagues. I split the difference in the hopes he can at least play twice this week, but that injury risk deserves to be acknowledged. Taj Gibson flashed an improved offensive game in the preseason, and would be worth starting in deeper Fantasy formats if we get word of Noah missing at least one of the team's three games.

Schedule: @MIA, NY, @PHI
Average points-per-game: Eighth (2012)
10-team starters: Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng
12-to-14-team starters: Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson
Deep-league fliers: Kirk Hinrich

Cleveland Cavaliers

This is a team with some serious questions early in the season, which is why I am approaching them with trepidation. I'm not touching Andrew Bynum until he proves he is healthy, and it looks like he might not play for a few more weeks. As long as Bynum is out, Varejao can be safely considered a high-end center option, and Bynum's absence nearly bumps Tristan Thompson up to the top tier. Unfortunately, he did not really take off a year ago until Varejao's injury, so his effectiveness and role are in question at this point.

Schedule: BKN, @CHA, @IND
Average points-per-game:12th (2012)
10-team starters: Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao
12-to-14-team starters: Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Jarret Jack
Deep-league fliers: Anthony Bennett, Alonzo Gee

Dallas Mavericks

The high end of this roster should be worth starting every week, even against some of the league's tougher defenses. There is no reason to think that won't hold true in Week 1, even against some of the best frontcourts around like they face this week. With two very capable pick-and-roll partners, Fantasy owners shouldn't be worried about Dirk Nowitzki against this slew of strong defensive big men. The bottom of the roster, on the other hand, is pretty rough right now; I wouldn't feel terribly comfortable about starting guys like Samuel Dalembert this week, even in a deeper league.

Schedule: ATL, @HOU, MEM
Average points-per-game: 14th (2012)
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon
12-to-14team starters: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter
Deep-league fliers: Samuel Dalembert

Denver Nuggets

We'll get our first glimpse of the new-look Nuggets this week, after a preseason that saw a variety of injuries and little coherence offensively. Given the loss of coach George Karl and concerns about Brian Shaw's offensive plans, I'm mostly staying away from the Nuggets early on. Maybe they'll get out and push the pace like year's past, but I'm concerned enough to bump most of their players down. The fact that they are the only team not playing at least three times this week only hurts the lower-end players even more. This will be a team to watch moving forward to see if their fast-paced days are done. That would spell Fantasy doom.

Schedule: @SAC, POR
Average points-per-game: 26th (2012)
10-team starters: Ty Lawson
12-to-14-team starters: Javale McGee, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried
Deep-league fliers: JJ Hickson, Andre Miller, Randy Foye, Nate Robinson

Detroit Pistons

We won't see this team at full strength until at least Week 2, given the absence of Brandon Jennings due to a tooth issue. The lack of a strong point guard option could definitely hurt this top-heavy team, especially since their best Fantasy options are big men who struggle to create for themselves at times. Throw in matchups against three of the league's better defensive teams a year ago, and you'll want to stay away from all but the team's three best active players this week.

Schedule: WAS, @MEM, BOS
Average points-per-game: 7th (2012)
10-team starters: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe
12-to-14-team starters: Andre Drummond
Deep-league fliers: Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Chauncey Billups

Golden State Warriors

These three games could very easily turn into shootouts, which should make these players' Fantasy owners quite happy; the Warriors averaged 103.8 points per game in 12 contests against these three opponents a year ago. This is a team with little in the way of Fantasy filler -- you'll want to start the good players, and there isn't much there beyond that.

Schedule: LAL, @LAC, SAC
Average points-per-game: 19th
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut

Houston Rockets

The Rockets added just one big piece this offseason, but it pretty drastically changes the team's outlook. Fortunately for Omer Asik, the team's experiments with a two-center starting lineup were successful enough that it looks like that will be the plan to start the season, making him worth starting in deeper formats while it lasts. We have to see how the rest of the rotation shakes out, but I'd say the starting lineup is worth using across the board against a trio of porous defenses. Dwight Howard in particular should feast against his likely matchups in the opening scoring period.

Schedule: CHA, DAL, @UTA
Average points-per-game: 24th (2012)
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons
12-to-14-team starters: Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik
Deep-league fliers: Francisco Garcia, Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas, Omri Casspi

Indiana Pacers

Danny Granger is expected to miss at least a few weeks to start the season, but that shouldn't directly impact your Fantasy plans much right now. Granger was clearly still trying to get his feet under him in the preseason after missing most of last season due to knee surgery, and is likely to need a while to settle in this season. That means we're likely back to where we were last season, with a very top-heavy roster construction. Week 1 features a collection of good matchups for Indiana, but that probably doesn't matter much here. You know who to start from this team, and that won't really change, barring injury.

Schedule: ORL, @NO, CLE
Average points-per-game: 21st (2012)
10-team starters: Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert
12-to-14-team starters: George Hill
Deep-league fliers: Luis Scola, Lance Stephenson

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers should be an offensive juggernaut once again this season, and Week 1 offers three chances for big Fantasy performances. We didn't get to see much of J.J. Redick in the preseason due to a hamstring injury, but he should be ready to hoist up a steady diet of open jumpers this week, so I'm not worried about his health. I waffled between putting DeAndre Jordan in the second and third tiers, a trend that I think will continue all season long. The Clippers face a pair of soft frontcourts among their three games, so I like his chances to start fast.

Schedule: @LAL, GS, @SAC
Average points-per-game: 24th (2012)
10-team starters: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin
12-to-14team starters: J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, DeAndre Jordan
Deep-league fliers: Jared Dudley, Darren Collison

Los Angeles Lakers

Forwards we like for Week 1
Player Own/Start
1. Amir Johnson, Raptors 75/34
2. Taj Gibson, Bulls 26/8
3. John Henson, Bucks 15/2
4. Martell Webster, Wizards 20/2
5. Jeff Taylor, Bobcats 3/0
6. Omri Casspi, Rockets 5/1
7. Andrew Nicholson, Magic 9/2
8. Dorrell Wright, Trail Blazers 15/5

Woof. This team is old, unskilled and injury-prone. But they still have Mike D'Antoni, so they'll probably play fast on offense, which means there is still some Fantasy potential here. We're not sure how much we can expect from Steve Nash, who only appeared in one preseason game; it wouldn't be a surprise if he missed one half of the team's season-opening back-to-back. He should still be worth starting in many Fantasy formats, but his inability to be a full-time player at his age also opens up plenty of playing time for Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar behind him. They are definitely worth a flier with four games on the schedule.

Schedule: LAC, @GS, SA, ATL
Average points-per-game: 12th (2012)
10-team starters: Pau Gasol
12-to-14-team starters: Steve Nash, Nick Young, Chris Kaman
Deep-league fliers: Jodie Meeks, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake

Memphis Grizzlies

Another top-heavy team with little in the way of the chewy center that makes for Fantasy depth. This section of the column should look pretty similar on a weekly basis, as Memphis grinds their way toward 50 low-scoring wins on the backs of their highly paid stars.

Schedule: @SA, DET, @DAL
Average points-per-game: 19th (2012)
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis

Miami Heat

I could just reiterate what I wrote for Memphis here, but to an even further extent. Miami is the most top-heavy team in the league, though there are still some decent lower-end starters around. You know you are starting Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh every week, but with four games on the schedule, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers should produce enough from the perimeter to be worth your time as well.

Schedule: CHI, @PHI, @BKN, WAS
Average points-per-game: 4th (2012)
10-team starters: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
12-to-14-team starters: Ray Allen
Deep-league fliers: Mario Chalmers

Milwaukee Bucks

This is another team that went through plenty of upheaval in the offseason, which means you might want to stay away early in the season. An injury to Ersan Ilyasova weakens their Fantasy depth, as he might not play at all this week. Theoretically that gives John Henson a boost, but we simply haven't seen enough from him to know he'll get 30 minutes and be worth starting. His upside is considerable for the season as a whole, but he is an unknown commodity right now.

Schedule: @NY, @BOS, TOR
Average points-per-game: 12th (2012)
10-team starters: Larry Sanders, O.J. Mayo
12-to-14-team starters: Brandon Knight
Deep-league fliers: John Henson, Caron Butler, Luke Ridnourv

Minnesota Timberwolves

The injury to Chase Budinger makes this team's wing rotation a bit muddier than it would otherwise have been, and that should hold true from Week 1 to about Week 8 or so. Derrick Williams and Corey Brewer both have the ability to turn into worthwhile Fantasy options, but I would steer clear until we see one or the other step up and take on a majority of the small forward minutes. That means the team's four best players are the only ones I would feel comfortable starting right now.

Schedule: ORL, OKC, @NY
Average points-per-game: 13th (2012)
10-team starters: Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
12-to-14-team starters: Kevin Martin
Deep-league fliers: Derrick Williams, Corey Brewer, JJ Barea

New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis looks like a superstar, and he could put up superstar numbers beginning in Game 2 against the Magic; the Pacers front court could hold him in check to open the season. Still, there are two strong matchups here for Davis, who should be considered a must-start Fantasy option at this point. The biggest question early in the season will be how this team's wing rotation shakes out, as Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans' roles will be a riddle for coach Monty Williams to determine. They're both such talented scorers and playmakers that they are worth starting almost across the board, but I have to knock them both down a tier until I see how things shake out.

Schedule: IND, @ORL, CHA
Average points-per-game: 18th (2012)
10-team starters: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson
12-to-14team starters: Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon
Deep-league fliers: Greg Stiemsma, Al-Farouq Aminu, Austin Rivers

New York Knicks

Another team with major questions about the rotation, we still have to see how things shake out here with the lower-end guys. Iman Shumpert should get extensive run with J.R. Smith set to open the season with a suspension.

Schedule: MIL, @CHI, MIN
Average points-per-game: 13th (2012)
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton
12-to-14-team starters: Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace
Deep-league fliers: Beno Udrih, Pablo Prigioni, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani

Oklahoma City Thunder

Jeremy Lamb is just about the only player on the roster with a chance to move up a tier, but he needs to show us something first. Flashes of competence in the preseason and Summer League aren't enough to make him a starting Fantasy option right now.

Schedule: @UTA, @MIN, PHO
Average points-per-game: 22nd (2012)
10-team starters: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lamb, Thabo Sefolosha

Orlando Magic

Centers we like for Week 1
Player Own/Start
1. Enes Kanter, Jazz 75/34
2. Samuel Dalembert, Mavericks 26/8
3. Miles Plumlee, Suns 15/2
4. Alex Len, Suns 20/2

For what should be a bad team, this is a pretty stacked roster of Fantasy options. Under normal circumstances, I would suggest steering clear of this team, since so much of their rotation is unsettled. Fortunately, Orlando is one of just three teams to play four times this week, which means it might be worth sticking all of their borderline options into the lineup and taking the risk that the extra game makes up for any limited roles.

Schedule: @IND, @MIN, NO, BKN
Average points-per-game: 10th (2012)
10-team starters: Nikola Vucevic
12-to-14-team starters: Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo
Deep-league fliers: Andrew Nicholson

Philadelphia 76ers

This roster is a dumpster fire, but it is intriguing enough for Fantasy purposes. We know Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner can put up good numbers, and there is plenty of opportunity for other players to step up otherwise. This is a pretty brutal schedule to open the season, so I had to drop Michael Carter-Williams down a tier; Miami and Chicago eat point guards alive.

Schedule: MIA, @WAS, CHI
Average points-per-game: 5th (2012)
10-team starters: Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner
12-to-14team starters: Spencer Hawes
Deep-league fliers: James Anderson, Michael Carter-Williams

Phoenix Suns

Well, they've got a pretty good backcourt, and that's set in stone. Absolutely everything else is up in the air, though it's not like they're juggling a bunch of interesting prospects. Especially in the wake of their tank-tastic trade of starting center Marcin Gortat on the eve of the season. Somebody has to step up and put up numbers in the frontcourt here, but I won't go near anyone until we see someone do it. I wouldn't start anyone beside Bledsoe and Dragic right now.

Schedule: POR, UTA, @OKC
Average points-per-game: 15th (2012)
10-team starters: Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Alex Len, Gerald Green, Channing Frye

Portland Trail Blazers

This team added a real-life bench this offseason, but they look like the same roster from a Fantasy perspective at the start of the season. Even against two teams that should be disastrous on defense to open the season, I wouldn't dip into this team's set of reserves right now.

Schedule: @PHO, @DEN, SA
Average points-per-game: 20th (2012)
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum
12-to-14-team starters: Wesley Matthews, Mo Williams, Robin Lopez
Deep-league fliers: Dorell Wright

Sacramento Kings

If one of Isaiah Thomas or Greivis Vasquez had been able to take hold of a clear majority of the team's minutes at point guard in the preseason, I would probably bump him up to the top tier. Unfortunately, it looks like a true timeshare for both players, which limits their value. This team is crowded at power forward and in the backcourt, but I wouldn't trust any of the big men beyond DeMarcus Cousins until we see how they are used.

Schedule: DEN, LAC, @GS
Average points-per-game: 16th (2012)
10-team starters: DeMarcus Cousins
12-to-14-team starters: Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas, Greivis Vasquez, Ben McLemore
Deep-league fliers: Patrick Patterson, Jason Thompson

San Antonio Spurs

Same as it ever was. After a tough season-opening matchup, things get considerably easier this week. Not that it matters with this well-oiled machine.

Schedule: MEM, @LAL, @POR
Average points-per-game: 15th (2012)
10-team starters: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard
12-to-14-team starters: Danny Green, Tiago Splitter
Deep-league fliers: Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli

Toronto Raptors

Boston probably won't be the tough defensive matchup of year's past, and Jonas Valanciunas could feast on their weak frontcourt. Which is good, because the following two games represent a pretty tough test for the young big man with the huge upside.

Schedule: BOS, @ATL, @MIL
Average points-per-game: 15th (2012)
10-team starters: Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas
12-to-14-team starters: Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan
Deep-league fliers: Steve Novak, D.J. Augustin, Landry Fields, Tyler Hansbrough

Utah Jazz

This team is stocked full of breakout candidates, but also features a roster that is almost entirely turned over to new leaders. That means there are rotation questions to figure out, as with a number of teams. This team could end up offering a wealth of Fantasy options down the line, but the coaching staff has a lot of questions to work out. Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward are your only reliable options for Week 1, given their sure roles.

Schedule: OKC, @PHO, HOU
Average points-per-game: 21st (2012)
10-team starters: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors
12-to-14team starters: Enes Kanter
Deep-league fliers: Richard Jefferson, Jamaal Tinsley, John Lucas, Alec Burks

Washington Wizards

The last-minute addition of Marcin Gortat could give everyone a boost here; John Wall gets a good pick-and-roll partner to work with, which shifts defensive attention away from Nene and Bradley Beal. It could take a while to fully integrate Gortat into the offense, but those four should still get theirs in Week 1.

Schedule: @DET, PHI, @MIA
Average points-per-game: 11th (2012)
10-team starters: John Wall, Bradley Beal
12-to-14-team starters: Nene, Marcin Gortat
Deep-league fliers: Kevin Seraphin, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White |
(9/20/2014) 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 |
(9/20/2014) 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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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, 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 |
(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, 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 |
(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 |
(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 |
(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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