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Playing the Waiver Wire for Week 8

Fantasy Writer
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Given the rumors flying around the league, this looks like it could be a busy year for trades. The trade season unofficially opens Sunday, as players signed to free-agent contracts this offseason are finally eligible to be traded, and already a number of big names are being bandied about.

ESPN.com reported last week the Rockets have imposed a Dec. 19 deadline to trade center Omer Asik, likely bringing an end to a saga that has been five months in the making. The most obvious trade options for Houston are stretch power forwards to play next to Dwight Howard, as the Rockets appear less enthused about Terrence Jones than Fantasy owners do. Jones is owned in 85 percent of CBSSports.com leagues, a number that could go down if a trade is made. Conversely, Asik's 51 percent ownership rate should shoot up whenever he is moved, but I wouldn't recommend speculative adds just yet.

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The rumor with the biggest momentum at this point is Kyle Lowry to one of the floundering New York teams. The biggest possible Fantasy impact would be derived from Lowry moving to the Knicks, as it would leave Lowry in a starting role, while freeing up Greivis Vasquez to run the pick and roll to his heart's content with Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. Vasquez has done absolutely nothing since the trade to Toronto last week, but if I had a free spot on my roster or was carrying dead weight like Raymond Felton, I would definitely consider a speculative add for Vasquez in one of the 21-percent of leagues where he is a free agent..

The new collective bargaining agreement has made teams covet young assets and first round picks more than ever in recent seasons, but those factors don't seem likely to suppress movement at this point. There are plenty of teams desperate to dig themselves out of early season holes or get into position for a high draft pick. The Fantasy landscape could look significantly different in a few weeks, and Fantasy owners savvy enough to take advantage are going to be the ones that benefit.

Most Added

Terrence Ross, G, Raptors: Ross was absolutely buried in the rotation as a rookie, and things weren't looking great to start this season. The Rudy Gay trade may prove to be fateful for Ross, who has played 25-plus minutes in three of the last four games; he topped that mark in just two of the first 18 games of the season. Ross hasn't shown a consistent ability to do much beyond score in the NBA, and his college track record doesn't suggest that a big boost in playmaking is looming with a larger role. Ross does have an intriguing skill set as a scoring option, however, as he takes a ton of 3-pointers and should be able to leverage his athleticism into shots at the rim as he develops. Ross is averaging just 20.0 Fantasy points per game since the trade, and his lack of contributions in multiple categories limits his Fantasy impact in both scoring formats. Still, I think he is worth snagging in any league with more than 12 teams at this point. (33 percent owned; +26 percent)

Jon Leuer, F, Grizzlies: With the presence of former lottery pick Ed Davis, it comes as something of a surprise that the unheralded Leuer has emerged as the Grizzlies' third big man. However, it makes some sense when you consider the makeup of the team. Even with Marc Gasol healthy, the Grizzlies are an offensively challenged bunch, and replacing Gasol with Kosta Koufos only exacerbates the issue. Davis has his uses, but he isn't a particularly skilled offensive player, and his limited range only further mucks the floor up. Leuer's ability to stretch the floor makes the best of a bad situation for the Grizzlies, as he at least provides some semblance of an offensive threat outside of 10 feet. Fantasy owners are obviously hesitant to buy into such an unheralded player, but Leuer ranks 30th among forwards in Fantasy scoring at 26.7 points per game over the last two weeks, and is nearly matching Zach Randolph in production. His role seems pretty consistent at this point, and seems more worth owning than someone like Luis Scola (34 percent) or Wesley Johnson (31 percent) at this point. (26 percent owned; +23 percent)

Mike Dunleavy, F, Bulls: Dunleavy's Fantasy appeal is based almost entirely on his ability to score. He is averaging 17.2 points per game over the last five games, a period that not coincidentally overlapped with the absences of Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler from injuries. The Bulls badly need Dunleavy's offense, but I'm still not sure there's much worth looking at here. It took his recent hot streak just to get to 10.4 points per game on the season, and I would expect his role to return to his previous levels once Butler and Deng get back to full speed. I would rather have the upside of each of the two players listed above than Dunleavy. (33 percent owned; +19 percent)

Amir Johnson, F, Raptors: After disappointing for much of the season's first month, Johnson has absolutely exploded since a benching last week. In his last six games, Johnson is averaging 20.0 points per game, albeit fueled by an entirely unsustainable 70.6 percent shooting mark from the field. Johnson will obviously not continue making nearly three of every four shots, but he might keep taking 10 per game, which will be enough to keep him productive. Johnson attempted at least 10 shots in just one of the first 16 games, but has reached that mark in each of the last six. Johnson is able to fill up the stat sheet whether he is scoring or not, but the possibility that he will settle in as a 15-point-per-game scorer is enticing enough to make him a must-add in the few leagues in which he remains available. (92 percent owned; +18 percent)

Amar'e Stoudemire, C, Knicks: Earlier in the season, Amar'e told reporters he wanted to be more involved in the offense, as he blamed his sluggish start on a lack of touches. Desperate, the Knicks went out and exhumed Stoudemire's body, feeding nearly eight field-goal attempts per game so far in December. Astonishingly, the perpetually injured big man has responded with a string of solid games, scoring in double figures in five of seven games in the month, while shooting 68.5 percent from the field. He is still playing just 23 minutes per game, but he did show last season he can be productive in a small role, as long as the Knicks make a point of utilizing him; he averaged 14.2 points in just 23.5 minutes per game before injuries ended his season. Given the fragile state of Stoudemire's body, relying on him to consistently help you is a mistake. But, as a reserve option in a 12-team league, he is worth a roster spot. (41 percent owned; +18 percent)

Most Dropped

Steve Blake, G, Lakers: Talk about bad luck. Steve Blake was enjoying arguably the best season of his career and has been thriving in Mike D'Antoni's offense. He had double-digit assists in nine of his last 13 games before tearing a ligament in his elbow, an injury that will cost him six weeks of action. A big part of Blake's recent success was dependent on the Lakers' lack of other options, as both Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash were sidelined by their own injuries. You might be inclined to just stash Blake given how well he was playing, but he is likely to return to a much different roster than the one that allowed him to thrive. With Nash and Farmar likely to be back before Blake, and Kobe Bryant taking on play-making duties, it is probably fine to part ways with Blake. (55 percent owned; -28 percent)

Channing Frye, F, Gerald Green, G, Suns: The Suns have been an ongoing problem for Fantasy owners, with Green and Frye being joined by Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris as parts in the Suns' offense. For nearly a month, Green was a big part of the Suns' offense, scoring 15.7 points per game and reaching double figures in 14 of 15 games. In five games since, he has a high-point total of just 10 points. Frye has seen a similar drop off, going from a 15.0 point average over a span of nine games to just 9.2 per game over the last five. At this point, the Suns are just going to ride the hot hand with their role players, which makes Frye and Green, along with the Morris twins, essentially interchangeable. All four players should be waiver wire fodder all season long, so don't make the mistake of growing attached. (58 percent owned; -11 percent [Frye]; 29 percent owned; -11 percent)

Flavors of Next Week

-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)

We've already seen Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant make their returns, and still have a few such as Rajon Rondo and Danilo Gallinari to look forward to.

But those guys aren't the only promising Fantasy options to watch out for. Brandan Wright (30 percent) made his season debut Saturday and should play his way into major minutes at center for the Mavericks, as he represents everything they are missing in the frontcourt. Wright was shelved in the preseason after undergoing shoulder surgery, but wasted no time in his first game back, scoring a team-high 19 points on 9 of 10 shooting in just 19 minutes of game time.

Dallas' other big men are either too slow and uncoordinated (Samuel Dalembert) or quite simply not big enough (DeJuan Blair). Wright might only stand 6-foot-10, but his 7-foot-5 wingspan and 40 inch vertical render Dalembert and Blair obsolete when it comes to what the Mavericks need down low. No longer will Monta Ellis have to dump off what should be easy dunk opportunities to the unsure hands of Dalembert or the unathletic frame of Blair.

We warned you before the season started about John Henson's sleeper potential, so consider us the authority on the upside of long-armed former Tar Heels. Wright isn't as wiry as Henson, but he too uses his unique body type to block shots and get the ball up on the rim quickly. He averaged 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while shooting a hair under 60 percent from the field in just 18 minutes per game last year. His ownership saw a 24 percent increase since last week based on just one game, so pick him up now if you want to enjoy an efficient big man, whose youth and athleticism will likely have him logging major minutes as the season goes on. Monta Ellis has gotten off to a great start when it comes to distracting the opposing defense and setting up Dallas' many jump shooters. Now he'll be able to do the same thing for Wright -- except in the paint, leading to many plays like this.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, G, Bucks, (23 percent): This guy has more letters in his name than years on this earth, but don't let the fear of having to pronounce his full moniker scare you away from adding him. What we've got here is a 19-year-old, Kevin Durant-sized guard known to Bucks fans as "The Greek Freak." Right now, he's only averaging 6.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18 minutes per game, but lately, injuries and a lack of better options has provided Antetokounmpo some nice opportunities. In Milwaukee's last three outings, he's averaging 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds while logging 30 minutes a night. If you want a glimpse at how excited the Bucks are about him, just look at their official twitter account, which practically exists to celebrate Antetokounmpo's every move. This is still a deep-league lottery ticket, but "The Greek Freak" gets the Philly bump in Week 8, so don't be surprised if his playing time and production stay on the rise. One more thing: Apparently this guy isn't done growing. By the end of the season, you could be the proud Fantasy owner of a seven-foot, guard eligible rookie. Now isn't that exciting.

Andray Blatche, C, Nets, (53 percent): Blatche is pretty much the equivalent to a 6-foot-10 J.R. Smith, which is definitely scary on many levels. But Brook Lopez's chronic ankle problems and Kevin Garnett's landslide decline have left the Nets with little other choice. Blatche does things that would probably get any other starting center in the league a spot on the bench, such as isolation dribble moves out on the perimeter that lead to awesome fade away jump shots. But for whatever reason, it works for him and more than half of his field goal attempts this year have come right around the rim, meaning, for the most part, he knows his place on this team. Blatche has averaged a double-double over his last three games and it's safe to say he's going to keep up that production with the 76ers appearing twice on Brooklyn's Week 8 schedule. He's a streaming option for now, but he's a must-add for any Brook Lopez owner, being the sole beneficiary of all that missed time. Lopez is poised to come back this week, but who knows how long he'll stick around this time.

Alec Burks, G, Jazz, (54 percent): We wrote about Burks as a sleeper heading into the season, but Trey Burke's injury forced Burks into an unfitting point guard role to start the year. Now he's back at his natural position and seems to be thriving with less playmaking responsibility. He went for a career-high 31 points Monday against the Heat, adding seven assists, three rebounds and four steals to boot. Burks is a gifted athlete with a relentless motor and sound fundamentals. He's a natural at the rim, and even when he's not shooting well, he'll hustle his way into other stats to salvage his night. He's only 22, so if Burks can build on his big game against Miami, he possesses the kind of all-around skill set Fantasy owners crave from their guards. He can get you the same production as Rodney Stuckey and Corey Brewer, but the potential is there to break into the Eric Gordon/Manu Ginobili range by the end of the year.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(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 | CBSSports.com
(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 | 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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