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Playing the Waiver Wire for Week 13

Fantasy Writer
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The injury bug struck Kemba Walker last week, though fortunately he seems likely to return within a few weeks. While that isn't good news, it is practically cause for celebration given how many months-long timelines we have seen with injuries.

The Bobcats have an in-house option who should be able to give them a sizeable percentage of Walker's overall production in the form of Ramon Sessions, a veteran who has proven he can be a productive player when given the opportunity. Sessions is a score-first point guard in a similar mold to Walker, though he relies on getting into the paint and getting to the free-throw line more than Walker.

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Sessions should see a huge increase in his role, and Fantasy owners are smartly taking note. He is the most-added player in CBSSports.com over the last week, with his ownership jumping from 31 to 60 percent as of Thursday night. Given his mediocre production prior to Walker's injury (17.7 Fantasy points per game), Sessions is likely to return to irrelevance as soon as Walker is back, but he should be useful for now..

Sessions is averaging 15.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds in six games in which he has played more than 30 minutes this season. Three of those six have come since Walker's injury, so that seems like a pretty reasonable place to set baseline expectations for him as long as he remains a starter.

Walker was using up a ton of possessions prior to his injury, so Sessions has big shoes to fill. Though he isn't nearly the player Walker is, he should be able to provide a boost to Fantasy owners in his new role. As a No. 3 or 4 guard, Sessions should have a lot of value, and is worth picking up in most Fantasy formats right now.

Most Added

Ryan Kelly, F, Lakers: Ryan Kelly came into the league with a reputation as a big man with the ability to stretch the floor, so it was only a matter of time before he would crack Mike D'Antoni's rotation. Sure, he is about the ninth option, but that doesn't matter if he can stick. My guess is, he is just another in a long line of flashes in the pan for this Lakers' team. Kelly had scored in double figures in three straight games before Thursday's turn against the Heat, but we have seen this before with this Lakers team. This team's rotations remain in a state of almost constant flux, so there is no knowing when Kelly will go the way of Jordan Hill or Shawne Williams or Chris Kaman or… You see the pattern, right? Kelly might be worth a look in deeper, category-based leagues, but my expectations are not high.(27 percent owned; +26 percent)

D.J. Augustin, G, Bulls: Given how Nate Robinson worked his way into Tom Thibodeau's heart last season, Augustin's success in finding a consistent role should not come as a total surprise here. Though Thibodeau has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most defensive-minded coaches in the league, he knows his team's offensive limitations and is willing to give a long leash to anyone who provides a semblance of shot creation. Augustin has been tremendous for the Bulls, a huge surprise given how little he has shown as an NBA player through his career. Thibodeau's rigid system seems to help subpar point guards find their way without allowing them too much room to make mistakes, and right now Augustin is enjoying the best stretch of his career. In the month of January, Augustin is averaging more than 30 Fantasy points per game, while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from three-point range. Augustin has little track record indicating he can sustain this, but we're also reaching a point where his extended success with the Bulls can't just be written off as a fluke. Point guard is a deep position for Fantasy purposes, but injuries have taken their toll there as they have everywhere else. Augustin is 22nd in Fantasy scoring among guards over the last month, ahead of bigger names like Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings, Bradley Beal and Wesley Matthews. He should probably be owned in nearly all Fantasy leagues at this point. (79 percent owned; +25 percent)

Derrick Williams, F, Kings: Even getting out from Minnesota and Kevin Love's shadow has not really improved Williams' Fantasy standing. Oh sure, he has been more productive since his trade to Sacramento, averaging 10.0 points per game in that time. But, his status as a starting-caliber player remains entirely context dependent, owing largely to his role as a reserve on one of the most top-heavy teams in the league. Williams should find success for the next week or so, however, with Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins sidelined, as that duo combines for a shot nearly every other minute played. As both deal with injuries that could linger into next week, Williams could give you a few games' worth of solid production, before inevitably returning to his previous role. As long as you aren't adding Williams at the expense of a long-term piece, streaming him into your lineup as long as either Gay or Cousins remains out is a wise choice. (45 percent owned; +18 percent)

Patrick Beverley, G, Rockets: The relative value of the Rockets' point guards has been a hot topic in the Fantasy basketball community all season long. There have been Beverley supporters and Jeremy Lin partisans, a group I count myself a part of. For whatever reason, Beverley being the starter has inflated his perceived value, far more than his production has ever demanded, as he remained a pretty highly owned option even while ranking just 75th among guards in Fantasy scoring per game this season. He is back from a month-long absence due to a hand injury, but his outlook moving forward shouldn't change much. He remains a marginal Fantasy option, even if he happens to be on the floor when the ball gets tipped to start every game. (41 percent owned; +13 percent)

Most Dropped

Jordan Crawford, G, Warriors: Fantasy owners are always waiting for trades to happen because they tend to be the best way for deserving players to step into bigger roles and provide more value. More than a few Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors owners were famously disappointed by the Jazz's decision to stand pat at last season's trade deadline. Of course, there is always potential downside to any move. Crawford's trade to the Warriors is a textbook example of how that can play out, as he went from one of the season's pleasant surprises in the first half to what looks like a Fantasy afterthought moving forward. The Warriors will certainly find a way to work him into the rotation more than they have through his first three games, but it is pretty clear his time as a starting-caliber Fantasy option is all but over. Crawford was thriving as the starting point guard for Boston, averaging 27.0 Fantasy points in 39 games, but is now relegated to filling the departed Jarrett Jack's role as a second-unit captain. Unfortunately, the Warriors don't quite need a backup ballhandler as much nowadays as they did last season, thanks largely to the acquisition of Andre Iguodala in the offseason. Gone are the days of big minutes for three-guard lineups, and with them the chances of Crawford remaining a Fantasy starter. In 10- or even 12-team leagues, there probably isn't any reason to hang on to Crawford.(63 percent owned; -23 percent)

Iman Shumpert, G, Knicks: It is nice to get things right every once in a while. Just two weeks ago, Shumpert rode a pair of massive performances to the top of the most-added list, with his ownership peaking at 63 percent in early January. Even at the time of his hot streak, I guessed the majority of Fantasy owners who were running to add Shumpert would be dumping him sooner than later. In 10 games since his 53-points-in-two-nights outburst, Shumpert has scored in double figures just twice, and his ownership has tumbled in a predictable manner. Shumpert is playing 30-plus minutes pretty consistently in the month of January, but still doesn't get enough shots to make a big impact for Fantasy purposes. I don't think his ownership has hit bottom just yet. 47 percent owned; -16 percent)

Flavors of Next Week

- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)

Drop these guys now!
Player Own %
1. Jordan Crawford, Warriors 62
2. O.J. Mayo, Bucks 73
3. Danny Granger, Pacers 77
4. Brandon Bass, Celtics 61
5. Andrew Bynum, Cavaliers 52

It's almost time to start speculating on trade rumors, as we're less than a month away from the NBA deadline. There isn't much information to pounce on just yet, but it would probably be smart to familiarize yourself with NBA depth charts so you know who to add when someone leaves town. For now, we'll continue to react to injuries, and this week's unlucky teams are San Antonio and Atlanta. The Hawks are now out two starting centers, losing Horford for the year and Pero Antic for the next few weeks. So who's next up? Well, there's veteran forward Elton Brand. Meh. There's that tall Mexican guy, Gustavo Ayon. More like Gustavo I yawn, am I right? Well what about that 25-year-old athletic dude who's scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games? Go on ...

Mike Scott (14 percent) might be the Hawks' best option for playing heavy minutes in the middle. At 6-foot-8, he's not even close to center material, but when you look at the rest of the shrinking league, he plays big enough to get heavy minutes down low for Atlanta. He's averaging 23.8 minutes over his last four games and that number can only go up now that Atlanta is down another big man. He hasn't breached the 30-minute mark yet this year, but his 19.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per 36 minutes suggest he's ready to.

I'd liken Scott to Tobias Harris as a guy who can rebound and finish strong at the rim. He's a capable pick-and-roll partner for the Hawks' quick guards and should be able to play his way into a more defined role, whether that's starting or coming off the bench. Pick him up if you were counting on Andrea Bargnani or Brandon Bass and hope he meets his potential with more opportunity.

Marco Belinelli, G, Spurs, (27 percent): The Spurs are even more shorthanded now that Kawhi Leonard has been sidelined a few weeks with a fractured hand. Leonard and Danny Green's prolonged absence means more minutes and shots for Belinelli, who's proven at times to be a valuable shooter in the Spurs offense. Belinelli has stayed in double-figure scoring over his last eight games and has averaged more than 30 minutes per game over the last two weeks. His 86 Fantasy points in Week 12 put him ahead of Darren Collison, Gerald Hnederson, Arron Afflalo and Evan Turner for the scoring period. He's also shooting better than 50 percent from the field while hitting 1.7 threes per game over the last two weeks. He'll be droppable again in a few weeks, so pick up and play Belinelli now while he's receiving heavy minutes and attempting 10 field goals per game on average.

Boris Diaw, F/C, Spurs, (23 percent): Here's the other piece of the Spurs' replacement puzzle. The absence of Splitter and now Leonard has left a sizable void in the middle for San Antonio, and if there's one thing Diaw's good at, it's taking up space. In the five games Diaw's received 30 minutes or more, he's averaging 12.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.4 turnovers per game -- equating to 23.4 Fantasy points per game. Long story short: when Diaw gets enough time to do so, he has the range and ability to affect all parts of the game. His efficiency raises his value in category formats, as he's shooting 56 percent from the field, 76 percent from the free throw line and only turns the ball over 1.3 times per game on the season. Last time I touted him, Diaw disappointed us with a dud of a week. This time, the Spurs are more desperate, meaning his minutes should stay up. Pick him up for his present opportunity and positional flexibility.

Droppable soon?
Player Own %
1. Jeremy Lin, Rockets 90
2. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers 72
3. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs 93
4. Amir Johnson, Raptors 84
5. Miles Plumlee, Suns 85

Rodney Stuckey, G, Pistons, (48 percent): Rodney Stuckey is back and doing Rodney Stuckey-type things off the bench for Detroit. He's scored 20 or more in four straight games and has been picking up the slack in peripheral categories along the way. He's been the Pistons' most efficient scorer, shooting 55.4 percent from the field in that span. He's attempting 11.6 field goal attempts and four free throw attempts per game on the season, so this pace seems somewhat sustainable. The real test will come in other categories, where Stuckey has been known to flounder. His 2.2 rebounds and 2.0 assist on the year will have you relying heavily on his scoring for Fantasy, but if he continues to play 30-plus like he has the last three, the other stats will come much more easily. Go ahead and grab Stuckey if you dropped Tony Wroten or you're done with the Terrence Ross experiment.

James Johnson, F, Grizzlies, (34 percent): I'm pretty much basing this upside flier on a Jan. 15 stat line, wherein Johnson scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds, passed out five assists, snagged two steals and swatted six shots. The range of verbs I was forced to use in that sentence shows the kind of versatility he offers. I'm hard-pressed to come up with a handful of guys who can help out in any category on any given night, and on good nights, all of them at once. The problem is he's only combined for nine points, seven rebounds, five assist and four blocks in the two games since. Still, I think he's worth grabbing just in case. From what I've seen, Johnson has Terrence Jones-like potential, but with fewer rebounds because he shares the court with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Pick him up with the hopes that the Grizzlies are ready to trust an exciting athletic ‘tweener the same way the Rockets have with Jones. Johnson is averaging 12.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.2 steals, and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes this year. And as a bonus for Roto players, he's made 88.2 percent of his free throws on the season. He's not starting material right now, but when you look at the serious lack of sizzle the Grizzlies roster offers, it's not a stretch to think he'll be Fantasy relevant by the end of the year. So if you had been stashing Danilo Gallinari, or you're bored with Harrison Barnes and Danny Granger, then why not drop a known for a more exciting unknown?

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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