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Playing the Waiver Wire for Week 10

Fantasy Writer
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The recurring theme through the first third of the 2013-14 NBA season has been the startlingly high rate of injuries to star players. While people who are paid to think about the league wonder why this sudden rash of injuries is occurring, Fantasy owners have no time for such intellectual exercises. You have holes in your roster to fill yet again this week, and none bigger than that left by Thunder star Russell Westbrook.

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Savvy Fantasy owners already had Reggie Jackson on their rosters, though he was owned in just 61 percent of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues at the time of the announcement of Westbrook's surgery. That number is already up to 88 percent as of Monday, and it should continue to creep higher as Jackson steps into an even bigger role.

In his first two starts since Westbrook's injury, Jackson is averaging 13.0 points and 5.5 assists per game, though those numbers are deflated a bit by playing just 26 minutes in a blowout win over the Rockets. Jackson isn't nearly as good as Westbrook, but he plays the game in a similar way, thriving off drives to the basket to set up scoring chances for himself and his teammates. He averaged 14.3 points per game in the month of December, and it is not at all unreasonable to think he can sustain that while improving on his paltry 3.5 assists average as a full-time starter.

Jackson has looked uncomfortable at times working with the first-team offense this season, which is to be expected for such a young player. He will never be the playmaker Westbrook is, but he should have no problem emerging as a useful starting Fantasy option in the seven weeks Westbrook is expected to be on the sidelines while recovering. He should be owned in all Fantasy formats for his upside alone.

Most Added

Khris Middleton, F, Bucks: Middleton has mostly come out of nowhere this season, but his ascension to relevance has been a steady climb. The Bucks don't have a ton of talent and Middleton has stepped up and grabbed a big role in the offense solely based on the strength of his play. Middleton has strung together an entire month of solid play, averaging 15.3 points per game in December. He ranked 35th among forwards in Fantasy scoring for that month and has only gotten better as the games have gone on, averaging 17.3 points per game over the last eight, after seeing his role dip for a few games in the middle of the month. Middleton has a limited track record of success, so I understand being hesitant to buy in. However, he absolutely looks like a starting Fantasy option and his role on this bad team makes him someone worth adding in the 19 percent of leagues in which he remains available. (81 percent owned; +30 percent)

James Johnson, F, Grizzlies: Johnson has found some success recently, with back-to-back double-figure scoring games Thursday and Saturday. Of course, the big jump in his ownership is less a result of him suddenly becoming Fantasy relevant, and more due to just how irrelevant he was before. He had been playing more with Tayshaun Prince sidelined by a knee injury, but it's not like Prince is playing well enough to leave anyone tied to the bench if they show they are worthy. My guess with Johnson is he will likely return to irrelevance soon enough, as he has never really shown an ability to perform consistently. He's worth a look in a deeper league, but don't be afraid to have a quick trigger finger when it comes to dropping him. (23 percent owned; +21 percent)

Mirza Teletovic, F, Nets: The Nets' disastrous season has been a blessing for Teletovic, who has surprisingly moved into a marquee role on what looked like one of the most talent-laden rosters in the league at the outset of the season. Teletovic's floor-spacing is what makes him so valuable to the Nets, and it will also be what endears him to Fantasy owners, as his recent run of strong play is almost entirely fueled by long-range success. Teletovic has been given the green light to chuck up threes and his success shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as this was supposed to be his main skill coming into the NBA. He likely won't continue to hit three-plus 3-pointers per game, but I like him quite a bit in category-based Fantasy formats at this point. (40 percent owned; +19 percent)

Jordan Farmar/Jodie Meeks, G, Lakers: Injuries continue to be a huge problem for the Lakers, as Farmar is the lone healthy point guard on the roster, with the exception of the un-proven -- and likely not NBA-ready -- Kendall Marshall. A bruised knee that will keep Xavier Henry out for at least a week only exacerbates the issue, as Henry was serving as a De facto point guard with Farmar off the floor. Henry's absence should push more of a playmaking role onto Meeks, who is third on the team with 2.8 assists per game over the last five games -- actually higher than Henry's. Of these two, I would much rather have Farmar, who gets to indulge in the Fantasy steroid that is the point guard role in Mike D'Antoni's offense. But Meeks makes a lot of sense as a waiver-wire addition in many 14-team-or-deeper leagues for the next few weeks.(Farmer: 47 percent owned; +18 percent; Meeks: 46 percent owned; +16 percent)

Most Dropped

Al Horford, C, Hawks: Sometimes, as with Westbrook's injury, a natural in-house replacement exists to at least step up in the absence of a star. The Hawks are not one of those teams. The guys who are going to step into larger roles at the center and, occasionally, power forward spot in Horford's absence are not at all equipped to replace any part of Horford's production for Fantasy purposes. Oh, they might be able to stitch together a simulacrum of Horford's game with Elton Brand's defense and Pero Antic's floor spreading, but neither is likely to become a Fantasy contributor for anything more than stretches. The best outcome for Fantasy owners might be snagging Lou Williams (42 percent owned) and hoping the Hawks opt to shift the scoring burden his way now that he is further removed from his initial return from knee surgery. (73 percent owned; -27 percent)

Jon Leuer, F, Grizzlies: Just two weeks ago, Leuer was featured in this space as one of the most-added players in the league. That he is now being dropped en masse doesn't come as a huge surprise, however, as he was always destined to be a fringy option, one destined to be waiver-wire fodder throughout the season. His role in the Grizzlies' plans has all but disappeared in recent days, as he is averaging just 12.2 minutes per game over the last five. Leuer's upside isn't so great that he is worth hanging on to during the bad times, so cut him without fear. 35 percent owned; -18 percent)

Andrew Bynum, C, Cavaliers: Frankly, the number of people owning Bynum all season long has been too high. The appeal was obvious: Bynum used to be one of the three best centers in Fantasy. And, at least early in the season, there was ample room for optimism as the Cavaliers quickly started him, featuring him even in a lineup that already had shot-happy guards. Unfortunately, Bynum has shown only brief flashes of NBA-level athleticism this season and he was unable to string more than a few good games together in a row -- four of his nine double-digit scoring games came in one four-game stretch in early December. The Cavaliers might have been willing to put up with Bynum's attitude issues were he producing like an All-Star, but his recent indefinite suspension is a clear sign that he hasn't been worth the trouble. Fantasy owners should follow their lead and drop him in droves. I can't think of a single Fantasy format he is worth owning in after being suspended. (68 percent owned; -17 percent)

Flavors of Next Week

-- by Joe Polito @JoePo89

"Groaaaaaan" ... "Ugghhhhhh." ... "Oh, come on ... " These are the noises you've probably made through the first 10 weeks of Fantasy Basketball, as star after star has gone down with injury. Bummers abound.

The Thunder estimate Westbrook will be out at least until the All-Star break, meaning Reggie Jackson is due for an uptick until he returns. Chris already wrote about Jackson, who should be universally owned once people realize just how good he is. The other guy to take a look at on the Thunder is Jeremy Lamb. We expected a lot from Lamb and Jackson coming into the season, and slowly but surely they're both much closer to meeting that potential. Jackson becoming a starter means Lamb will likely be tasked with running the offense for the second unit. He responded well in his first stint of increased responsibility, scoring a career-high 22 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in 26 minutes.

Lamb and Jackson have both grown into better players as the season's progressed, meaning you shouldn't value Lamb the same way you did after his slow start. At 30 percent owned, he's not quite ready for most 12-team leagues, as guard is the deepest position in Fantasy. But if you're in a league where you were counting on Westbrook and you missed out on Jackson, you might consider dropping a Danny Granger or Harrison Barnes-type bench player to add a speculative Lamb.

Lou Williams, G, Hawks, (41 percent): Just because the Hawks starting center went down doesn't mean one of their other big men will inherit his shots. Lou Williams hasn't been anything to write home about since returning from injury, but his last few games would indicate he's ready to step up and score in place of Horford. Williams scored 28 against Charlotte and 18 against Orlando, so if he gets a good chunk of the 15 field goal attempts per game Horford's absence leaves out on the floor, he's capable of Nick Young-like Fantasy production as a 20-point-a-night scorer. Because he doesn't do much else, Williams is a gamble in 12-team leagues, but his reputation as a scorer makes him worth the risk.

Kyle Korver, G, Hawks, (78 percent): Again, the Hawks will likely disperse Horford's shot attempts among their already proven role players. Korver has been brilliant from beyond the arc, hitting 50 percent of his threes, averaging three makes per game. If your best player goes down and you have a guy who converts threes with the same likelihood of a coin coming up heads, you start drawing up more plays to get him open. I expect Korver to be up around 85-90 percent owned the rest of the season, so if you want a piece of the no-Horford pie, grab him now.

Avery Bradley, G, Celtics, (59 percent): I've been avoiding Bradley in these columns for the simple fact that the man can't shoot, but he's been scoring consistently enough to warrant some waiver wire love. So here it is. Avery Bradley, you still can't shoot, but you're making it work. He's averaging 18.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game over the last two weeks, while hitting 52.6 percent of his field goals in that span. He's starting to settle in with a left corner three-pointer (53 percent from that spot on the season) -- a staple of any defense-first player. If he can be at least adequate scoring the basketball, Bradley has the athleticism to come up with rebounds and steals that will help round out his Fantasy value. I'm not sure if he'll keep this up when Rondo returns, so grab Bradley now while his value is peaking.

Andrei Kirilenko, F, Nets (12 percent): Only one thing is for certain in Brooklyn: The Nets need help. Kirilenko is older, yes, but he's also versatile, and Brooklyn has enough one-trick ponies to need even a rusty Swiss Army knife. We're not sure what to expect out of the 32-year-old Russian, but you shouldn't necessarily use his early season stats to judge him. He'll be playing more minutes out of necessity and taking more than the 3.5 field goal attempts per game he averaged in his only four games this year. He holds more value in Roto, where his efficiency (50 percent from the field last year) and defense (1.4 steals and 1.9 blocks per game for his career) carry more weight.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/22/2014) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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. 


 
 
 
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