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Week 15 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em

Fantasy Writer
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With one big sports weekend done and another still on the way in a couple of weeks, the NBA has had to accommodate its schedule a bit. Last week featured just 94 games between the 30 teams, the fewest since the truncated opening week of the season.

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Understandably, the league avoided conflicts with Super Bowl Sunday, limiting the number of games played in Week 14. With the All-Star game looming next week, the league is packing the schedule for Week 15 (Feb. 3-9), with 108 games on the way; that is the busiest schedule yet.

The good thing about a schedule like this is it pretty much takes some of your lineup decisions out of your hands. With only two teams playing just twice this week, you don't have too many agonizing decisions to make as far as sitting stars with limited opportunities.

Of course, that analysis oversimplifies things a bit. While it is easy to say your Bobcats and Rockets (Week 15's two-game teams) can be mostly dismissed, the presence of 20 four-game teams brings its own set of issue.

For Week 15, the relative parity in playing time means matchups are more important than just playing time. The Bulls, Pacers and Kings all play the same number of times over the next seven days, only Sacramento has to go up against a slew of solid-or-better defensive teams each time out. That has to be factored into your decision making.

We are getting to the point in the season where each week could make or break your chances at a playoff run, and the margin for error is getting smaller. Don't overlook the importance of matchups when looking for every possible advantage possible.

(All stats up to date through Feb. 1 games)

Atlanta Hawks

Jeff Teague should be back in time for Week 15 after missing time last week with an ankle injury. Unfortunately for Fantasy owners hoping to just slot him back into the starting lineup, the Hawks' schedule for the upcoming period is one of the league's worst. Teague has enjoyed success in one game each against the Pacers and Grizzlies, averaging 28.0 Fantasy points per game against two of the league's three stingiest defenses. With three games on the schedule, Teague remains a decent starting option, while Shelvin Mack's brief dalliance with Fantasy relevance should be over with Teague back in the mix.

Schedule: Schedule: IND, @NO, MEM
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 28th
10-team starters: Paul Millsap
12-to-14-team starters: Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague
Deep-league fliers: DeMarre Carroll, Mike Scott, Shelvin Mack, Lou Williams, Elton Brand

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been forced to scramble for depth at the guard positions in recent weeks, with Avery Bradley's ankle injury and Rajon Rondo's limitations from knee surgery causing the primary problems. As a result, guys like Jerryd Bayless and Chris Johnson have been forced into larger-than-expected roles, averaging 10.0 and 9.4 points per game, respectively, over the last five. With Bradley nearing a return and Rondo likely to play every game this week with no back-to-backs on the way, the Celtics' rotation should solidify this week. That means it is OK to ignore Bayless, Johnson and backup point guard Phil Pressey for the time being.

Schedule: @PHI, SAC, DAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green
12-to-14-team starters: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley
Deep-league fliers: Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson, Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are sticking with their plan and bringing Deron Williams off the bench since his return from an ankle injury. Despite that, he is averaging more than 30 minutes per game over the last five, and is putting up 31.8 Fantasy points per game in that span. Last season, Williams took off after some time off to rest and receive treatment on his ankles, and it looks like a similar course of action is proving fruitful yet again. Long-term, his issues remain a serious concern, but he is back to being a starting-caliber Fantasy option in all formats at this time; especially with games against three of the worst defenses in the league on the way.

Schedule: PHI, SA, @DET, NO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 4th
10-team starters: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Andray Blatche
12-to-14-team starters: Mirza Teletovic
Deep-league fliers: Shaun Livingston, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Alan Anderson, Andrei Kirilenko

Charlotte Bobcats

I am writing this on Friday afternoon, so Kemba Walker could already be back by the time you read this. Ramon Sessions has done his usually solid job filling in for Walker, but he should return to his status as the second-to-last person on your bench as soon as Walker is ready to take his spot in the starting lineup back. That doesn't mean Walker is a must-start option in his first scoring period back, however, as the Bobcats run up against the league's toughest schedule, with just two games on the way against top-12 NBA defenses. Walker has generally been one of the more reliable Fantasy options this season, but coming off and injury and with this kind of schedule on the way, he isn't even a lock for 60 Fantasy points this week, and might be worth sitting for better matchups.

Schedule: @GS, SA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 30th
10-team starters: Al Jefferson
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker
Deep-league fliers: Josh McRoberts, Ramon Sessions, Anthony Tolliver, Jannero Pargo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Chicago Bulls

Guards we like for Week 15
Player Own/Start
1. Joe Johnson, Nets 95/66
2. J.R. Smith, Knicks 84/53
3. Darren Collison, Clippers 87/67
4. Jodie Meeks, Lakers 74/38
5. Evan Fournier, Nuggets 15/4
6. J.J. Redick, Clippers 79/56
7. D.J. Augustin, Bulls 89/70
8. Randy Foye, Nuggets 62/26
9. Raymond Felton, Trail Blazers 79/49
10. Kendall Marshall, Lakers 92/54

One of the benefits to playing the outrageous minute totals Jimmy Butler does for the Bulls is that he is a Fantasy -relevant player almost by default. Butler's per-minute production is pretty lackluster, and he is struggling mightily with his shooting recently (34.4 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from three-point range, last eight games), but still ranks ninth among guards in rotisserie scoring thanks to sheer volume of production. He doesn't shoot well, but still makes nearly a 3-pointer every game; he fills up every part of the box score well just by being around. With one of the league's best schedule on the way in Week 15, Butler has to be active in category-based formats.

Schedule: @SAC, @PHO, @GS, @LAL
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: Joakim Noah, D.J. Augustin, Jimmy Butler
12-to-14-team starters: Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson
Deep-league fliers: Tony Snell, Kirk Hinrich

Cleveland Cavaliers

So, maybe Andrew Bynum wasn't the problem. Pretty much everyone on the Cavaliers is stuck in a slump recently, with the exception of Kyrie Irving, who is still averaging 38.4 Fantasy points per game over the last five. At least Anderson Varejao has an excuse, dealing with a knee injury that has cost him two games but should allow him to return at some point this week. The Cavaliers face just one opponent who ranks among the top-10 in points per game allowed in Week 15, so this is as good a chance as any for guys like Luol Deng and Tristan Thompson to put it together. Even with how poorly the collective is playing, Varejao, Thompson and Deng remain worth the risk with four games on the schedule in most formats.

Schedule: @DAL, LAL, @WAS, MEM
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 11th
10-team starters: Kyrie Irving
12-to-14-team starters: Luol Deng, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson
Deep-league fliers: Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Jarrett Jack, Tyler Zeller

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks' center rotation remains one of the more frustration situations in Fantasy, and should probably be ignored at this point, because nobody is coming out of there a winner. Someone who is starting to merit more than a little bit of attention is Devin Harris, who is owned in just 7 percent of CBSSports.com leagues as he works his way back to full strength from offseason toe surgery. Harris has looked excellent in recent games, scoring 14 points in each of the team's last three games, while adding 14 assists in that span as well. He remains limited to 25 minutes per game or so, but Harris is starting to look like someone with at least low-end Fantasy appeal, and might be a solid Roto play for deeper leagues in Week 15 with four games on the way.

Schedule: CLE, @MEM, UTA, @BOS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis
12-to-14-team starters: Vince Carter, Jose Calderon
Deep-league fliers: Devin Harris, Shawn Marion, Brandan Wright, Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair

Denver Nuggets

With Nate Robinson out indefinitely with a sprained ACL, the Nuggets could be forced to turn to second-year guard Evan Fournier more beginning in Week 15. Fournier stepped up with Robinson and Ty Lawson out Wednesday, dropping 19 points and six assist, though he also shot just 8 of 21 from the field. Fournier might not be ready to emerge as a focal point of the offense, but he is obviously skilled and looking at a big increase in role. You won't be relying on him in Week 15 despite a solid schedule, but a big week could vault him into the next tier of Fantasy relevance.

Schedule: LAC, MIL, @NY, @DET
Strength-of-schedule ranking:13th
10-team starters: Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, Randy Foye, J.J. Hickson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Evan Fournier, Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, Anthony Randolph

Detroit Pistons

Well, Rodney Stuckey couldn't keep his 20-point scoring streak going last week, but he remains useful for Fantasy purposes against the right matchups. With four games on the way in Week 15, Stuckey remains a low-end Fantasy option, though he is still clearly a full tier below the team's top options. One player who might be falling from that tier is Greg Monroe, who averaged just 24.3 Fantasy points per game in the month of January as Josh Smith and Andre Drummond have climbed above him in the rotation. For Week 15, he is still certainly worth starting, but he is no longer a must-start player in his current role.

Schedule: @MIA, @ORL, BKN, DEN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
10-team starters: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings
12-to-14-team starters: Rodney Stuckey
Deep-league fliers: Will Bynum, Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors have been one of the league's most top-heavy teams for much of the season, and that has only grown more true as the season has gone on. A three-game schedule, featuring two against some of the league's toughest defenses, only exacerbates the construction issues at the core of this team. Beyond the top-4 players, there really isn't any reason to be looking to the Warriors for help in Week 15.

Schedule: CHA, CHI, PHO
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 29th
10-team starters: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee
12-to-14-team starters: Andrew Bogut
Deep-league fliers: Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Crawford, Marreese Speights

Houston Rockets

The Rockets play just twice this week, though at least both games represent solid matchups. You probably won't want to bench all of your Rockets this week, but it is awfully hard to justify starting anyone beyond James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons, given the fact that every other team but one plays at least three times this week. Sit your Houston-based role players.

Schedule: SA, @DAL, CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 21st
10-team starters: James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons
12-to-14-team starters: Terrence Jones
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejuanas, Aaron Brooks, Omri Casspi

Indiana Pacers

If you are sitting your Rockets role players, you might want to replace them with any Pacers you have wallowing on your bench. And, given how disappointing Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill have been this season, chances are you might have a Pacer or two in reserves. The Pacers play four times this week, and only one of their matchups ranks outside of the league's 10-worst defenses. With Hill, West and Hibbert all having shown signs of life recently, they should probably be active in all leagues 12-team or deeper.

Schedule: @LAL, PHO, BKN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 8th
10-team starters: Paul George, Lance Stephenson
12-to-14-team starters: George Hill, David West, Roy Hibbert
Deep-league fliers: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Danny Granger

Los Angeles Clippers

Darren Collison has been a solid contributor for Fantasy purposes with Chris Paul out, but that is likely coming to an end in Week 15. Paul is nearing a return from a shoulder injury, and has been able to shoot and handle the ball in non-contact sessions in recent days. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday he is aiming for a return either Feb. 7 against the Raptors or Sunday against the 76ers. Given that he might play just once this week, Paul is a risky Fantasy play; he also directly impacts Collison's value. Collison has averaged 29.1 Fantasy points per game as a starter, a mark that would rank 28th among guards for the season, so he has been a solid starting option consistently. With Paul around, however, he was barely worth a roster spot on your bench, so be prepared to part ways with him shortly. He is still worth starting this week, but not for much longer

Schedule: @DEN, MIA, TOR, PHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 10th
10-team starters: Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Chris Paul, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes

Los Angeles Lakers

Forwards we like for Week 15
Player Own/Start
1. Nick Young, Lakers 79/39
2. Tyreke Evans, Pelicans 94/63
3. Kenneth Faried, Nuggets 90/41
4. Boris Diaw, Spurs 37/19
5. Mike Dunleavy, Bulls 48/29
6. Jimmy Butler, Bulls 89/63
7. Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers 100/74
8. Jeff Green, Celtics 97/68
9. Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers 96/72
10. Wilson Chandler, Nuggets 87/46

The Lakers are once again a team in the midst of a myriad of changed, with several key contributors coming in and out of the lineup. First off, Pau Gasol is likely to miss all of Week 15 after an MRI revealed a groin strain Saturday that will require at least a week off. Even in a best-case scenario, he will play just once this week, and should definitely be left in reserve. Additionally, the possible returns of Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar during the course of week loom large over Kendall Marshall's Fantasy value. Marshall has been so good recently, he should continue playing a consistent role, even with the rotation about to get crowded. Plus, the team's trio of injured veterans isn't exactly a sure thing to come back this week. There are long-term risks with regards to Marshall's value, but he should still rack up assists easily with a strong schedule on the way.

Schedule: @MIN, @CLE, @PHI, CHI
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 9th
10-team starters: Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Ryan Kelly, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre

Memphis Grizzlies

James Johnson is one of those players whose Fantasy value is entirely dependent on what format you play in. Over the last 28 days, Johnson is averaging a pretty pedestrian 19.1 Fantasy points per game, but has been one of the league's best values for owners in category-based formats. In that same span, he ranks 25th among forwards in Rotisserie leagues, compared to just 66th in Fantasy points per game. Johnson should be considered a solid starting option for Week 15 in category-based leagues, but still has just fringe value otherwise, despite playing four times.

Schedule: @OKC, DAL, @ATL, @CLE
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 11th
10-team starters: Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
12-to-14-team starters: Courtney Lee, James Johnson
Deep-league fliers: Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis, Mike Miller

Miami Heat

Now that Dwyane Wade is back into the lineup, Fantasy owners can go back to paying attention to exactly three Heat players. How long Wade will continue to play before his next sabbatical is anyone's guess, but the Heat don't play any back-to-backs this week, so Fantasy owners have to approach him as if he will play in each of the team's three games. It is awfully tough to sit him in those circumstances, no matter how frustrating he has been.

Schedule: DET, @LAC, @UTA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 16th
10-team starters: LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen, Michael Beasley

Milwaukee Bucks

Coach Larry Drew continues to shuffle the deck chairs on this Titanic, but it probably isn't going to make any kind of impact. Another lineup change came and went Friday, and saw the Bucks fall behind by double digits in the first quarter. Khris Middleton is back to putting up solid scoring totals, but he does so little else (17.6 Fantasy points per game over the last 10), Fantasy owners are hard pressed to justify sticking him into the starting lineup. With only three games on the lineup, you don't really have any reason to consider anyone here a must-start option.

Schedule: NY, @DEN, HOU
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: None
12-to-14-team starters: Brandon Knight
Deep-league fliers: John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Luke Ridnour, Giannis Antetokounmpo, O.J. Mayo, Khris Middleton, Nate Wolters

Minnesota Timberwolves

Some teams have the depth at certain positions to at least provide a reasonable approximation of a superstar's lost production; see Charlotte and Ramon Sessions in recent weeks in place of Kemba Walker. The Timberwolves simply are not equipped to slot someone into the center position and make up for Nikola Pekovic's absence -- his skills are too unique and the Timberwolves are too shallow. With Pekovic likely to miss all of Week 15, don't expect interim starter Ronny Turiaf to be worth even a cursory glance. Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and the rest of the Wolves on hand will simply have to pick up the slack, increasing their value while Pekovic is out. Love, Martin and Ricky Rubio should be considered must-start options for Week 15.

Schedule: LAL, @OKC, @NO, POR
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 2nd
10-team starters: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Corey Brewer, Jose Barea, Alexey Shved

New Orleans Pelicans

As long as Jrue Holiday remains sidelined, the Pelicans are going to be a pretty easy team to figure out, it seems. Anthony Davis is the only absolute must-start player regardless of circumstances, while Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans can be solid options at times. Though the Pelicans face some stingy defenses this week, they also take the floor four times, making Gordon and Evans worth putting into your starting lineup, as both should be able to get to 100 Fantasy points for the week. Brian Roberts is a tier below them since the team is sharing ball handling duties so much, but he is also a solid option for the week.

Schedule: SA, ATL, MIN, @BKN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 19th
10-team starters: Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans
12-to-14-team starters: Brian Roberts
Deep-league fliers: Austin Rivers, Anthony Morrow, Jason Smith, Al-Farouq Aminu

New York Knicks

After J.R. Smith's second benching a few weeks ago, we all but wrote him off as a Fantasy contributor. Smith was averaging just 21.8 Fantasy points per game with dreadful shooting percentages through the first 31 games, but has been like a new player since Mike Woodson's dose of tough love. More accurately, he has been the guy we saw last season who impressed enough to win the Sixth Man of the Year award. Smith's Fantasy scoring has only bumped up to 22.7 points per game, but he is shooting 45.0 percent from and field and 44.2 percent from three-point range on 5.4 attempts per game in that span. Smith can be started with caution, especially with four mostly solid matchups on the way this week; he should be able to provide plenty of points and 3-pointers, at the very least.

Schedule: @MIL, POR, DEN, @OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 7th
10-team starters: Carmelo Anthony
12-to-14-team starters: Raymond Felton, J.R. Smith
Deep-league fliers: Tyson Chandler, Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert, Beno Udrih

Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder coach Scott Brooks finally listened to Twitter's cries and benched center Kendrick Perkins for his team's blowout win over the Heat. It would be very much against type for Brooks to continue rolling with small lineups, especially with how invested the Thunder have been in making Perkins work with their core. If the Thunder did embrace small-ball full time, it would probably turn Jeremy Lamb into a pretty intriguing option, but it wouldn't make sense to assume that right now. He remains just a fringe player for Week 15.

Schedule: MEM, MIN, @ORL, NY
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 20th
10-team starters: Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Jeremy Lamb

Orlando Magic

Glen Davis hasn't scored in double figures in nearly two weeks, and his slide started well before Nikola Vucevic made his return to the floor. Though Davis remains a starter, the Magic are smartly opting not to tilt their offense as much his way with so many clearly better options. One of those better options is Tobias Harris, who was pushed to the bench upon Vucevic's return, despite averaging nearly a double-double per game in the month of January. My concern with the Magic has long been that they have too many overlapping skills when healthy, and that is being proven right now. With the current shape of the rotation, Davis and Harris are both risky plays, even with four games on the way.

Schedule: @IND, DET, OKC, IND
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: Arron Afflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Jameer Nelson
12-to-14-team starters: Victor Oladipo
Deep-league fliers: Glen Davis, Tobias Harris

Philadelphia 76ers

With their key figures at full health, the 76ers are one of the league's more stable teams, even if they are hurtling toward the bottom of the standings. The starting lineup is averaging 70.6 field-goal attempts per game over the last five, leaving little room for role players to step up. James Anderson has cemented himself as the clear fifth option, and is averaging 24.4 Fantasy points per game over the last five, making him a decent option to turn to if one of your usual starters is stuck with bad matchups for Week 15.

Schedule: @BKN, BOS, LAL, @LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 14th
10-team starters: Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young
12-to-14-team starters: James Anderson
Deep-league fliers: Tony Wroten

Phoenix Suns

Gerald Green's production remains one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, but he is also putting up deceptively empty numbers. For standard scoring formats, he is averaging just 24.8 Fantasy points per game, despite continuing his solid scoring pace as the team's No. 2 option. With only three games on the way, including a pair of tough matchups, Green is by no means a must-start option, despite his lofty scoring numbers.

Schedule: CHI, @HOU, GS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 26th
10-team starters: Goran Dragic
12-to-14-team starters: Gerald Green, Markieff Morris, Channing Frye
Deep-league fliers: Miles Plumlee, Marcus Morris, Leandro Barbosa, Ish Smith, P.J. Tucker

Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard has to be happy to see January end. Though he still earned his first All-Star appearance during the month, he saw his production take a big hit, especially over the second half of the month. Since scoring 41 points Jan. 7, he has seen his production fall off badly, as his shot has abandoned him. Lillard is averaging 29.0 Fantasy points per game during his stretch, compared to 35.8 prior. His slump has instilled a sense of panic among some Fantasy owners, but Lillard isn't anywhere close to being someone you should consider benching. Lillard is talented enough to break out of his slump in an instant, and remains a must-start player with four games on the schedule.

Schedule: @WAS, @NY, @IND, @MIN
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 22nd
10-team starters: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews
12-to-14-team starters: Robin Lopez
Deep-league fliers: Mo Williams

Sacramento Kings

Centers we like for Week 15
Player Own/Start
1. Nikola Vucevic, Magic 99/60
2. JJ Hickson, Nuggets 94/56
3. Timofey Mozgov, Nuggets 36/14
4. Robin Lopez, Trail Blazers 89/54
5. Tyson Chandler, Knicks 89/60

With Gay and Cousins back, we should return to a sense of normalcy in Sacramento. That means Cousins, Gay and Isaiah Thomas are just about the only players worth your time in Week 15, even with four games on the way.

Schedule: @CHI, TOR, @BOS, @WAS
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 27th
10-team starters: DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Isaiah Thomas
12-to-14-team starters: None
Deep-league fliers: Derrick Williams, Marcus Thornton, Jason Thompson, Jimmer Fredette, Aaron Gray

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have been hit hard by injuries recently, largely leaving their wing rotation decimated. With Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and now Manu Ginobili going down in recent weeks, the Spurs are perilously thin on the perimeter, a situation that has thrust Boris Diaw into a much larger role recently. He has responded by averaging 15.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 3-pointers per game over the last five, making him a very solid contributor across the board. In category-based formats especially, Diaw makes for a solid option in Week 15.

Schedule: @NO, @WAS, @BKN, @CHA
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 18th
10-team starters: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan
12-to-14-team starters: Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli
Deep-league fliers: Patty Mills, Cory Joseph

Toronto Raptors

DeMar DeRozan returned from his foot injury Friday, bringing the Raptors' rotation back into order. Terrence Ross was a major disappointment filling in for DeRozan after his 51-point explosion, but one young Raptor stepped up in a big way without DeRozan. In the three games DeRozan missed at least part of due to his injury, Valanciunas recorded three double-doubles and averaged 17.0 points and 13.3 rebounds, providing a glimpse of what his prodigious talents can produce in an increased role. Whether he can keep that up with DeRozan back and taking up so many possessions will certainly bear watching, but he is worth starting as a No. 2 center at least for the potential of greatness.

Schedule: @UTA, @SAC, @LAC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 15th
10-team starters: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry
12-to-14-team starters: Greivis Vasquez, Terrence Ross
Deep-league fliers: Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons

Utah Jazz

Jazz center Enes Kanter remains one of the most frustrating players out there, because his talents are so obvious, even if his coach doesn't think the positive outweigh the negatives at this point in his career. Despite averaging just 22.2 minutes per game over the last five, Kanter is third on the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game in that span. His production remains just intriguing enough that Fantasy owners can't just write him off on a weekly basis, but he also doesn't produce enough consistently to start. With a subpar schedule on the way featuring just three games, Kanter's upside is not worth the risk in Week 15.

Schedule: TOR, @DAL, MIA
Strength-of-schedule ranking:12th
10-team starters: Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward
12-to-14-team starters: Derrick Favors, Alec Burks
Deep-league fliers: Enes Kanter, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans

Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal was cleared for an increase in minutes Saturday, after being limited to just about 30 per game since his return from a stress reaction. Though he is unlikely to return to the early part of the season when he was among the league leaders in minutes played, this is obviously good news for Beal's Fantasy value moving forward. Beal was already starting to find his way after struggling a bit in his initial return from injury, averaging nearly 30 Fantasy points per game over the last 10. With a tough schedule, Beal might not be a must-start option, but he should be active in the majority of leagues for Week 15.

Schedule: @GS, @LAC, OKC
Strength-of-schedule ranking: 25th
10-team starters: John Wall
12-to-14-team starters: Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene, Marcin Gortat
Deep-league fliers: Martell Webster, Trevor Booker

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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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