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Playing the Waiver Wire for Week 15

Fantasy Writer
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Though injuries have dominated the NBA landscape all season long, they have not been evenly distributed throughout the league's 30 franchises. Some teams, like the Mavericks and 76ers have mostly managed to avoid crippling injuries, while others have been blindsided by a new one seemingly every other game.

The hardest hit of all has been the Lakers, and we can point to a variety of reasons why. Some of it is just bad luck, sure, but the Lakers also rely on an aging roster that has already proven to be injury-prone. If you accept that a team is going to have to deal with injuries at some point, tossing guys like Steve Nash and Pau Gasol on top is only going to exacerbate the issue, leaving the training staff stretched thin and potentially leading to even more problems.

At this point, the Lakers simply seem to have a treatment and prevention problem as much as anything else. Even with Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Nash coming back from injuries this week, it is fair to wonder just how long the team will be able to keep them healthy.

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All three of the Lakers' returning point guards are among the most-added in CBSSports.com leagues over the last week, and their returns have also led to a drop in Kendall Marshall's ownership. Steve Blake leads the way, up to 57 percent owned from 30, with Nash (48 percent from 32) and Farmar (19 percent from 10) close behind.

The problem with running out to grab any of this trio is, minutes are limited and the chance for another injury looms large. Nash is already sitting out back-to-backs, Farmar is still complaining of pain in the elbow when he shoots and Farmar was forced to leave his first game back due to conditioning issues.

Blake is the closest thing to a must-add player given his breakout season thus far, as he seems to have taken to Mike D'Antoni's offense exceptionally well. Farmar should continue to see plenty of playing time and could end up being a primary scorer for the Lakers with Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Gasol all dealing with their own injuries. He should see his ownership climb up close to the 50 percent mark if he stays healthy.

Of the four Lakers mentioned here, I would probably rank Nash last in Fantasy value moving forward. He is done as a full-time player, and the occasional flashes of brilliance won't be worth the frustration of dealing with his frequent days off. Marshall has had trouble finding consistent minutes since everyone came back from injury, but the likelihood of more injuries to come makes it difficult to drop him, especially since he is averaging 10.3 points and 9.2 assists per game for the season.

In a perfect world, I would just steer clear of this Lakers team down the stretch. They are going to be a constant headache for the final two months, but most Fantasy owners aren't in an ideal situation at this point. In an imperfect world, however, the allure of big numbers in the D'Antoni offense will prove too much to keep away. Just choose your Lakers carefully.

Most Added

Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Knicks: Coming out of the University of Michigan, Hardaway had a reputation as a scorer who could bring little else to the table. He averaging between 13.9 and 14.5 points per game in his three college seasons, but never put up more than 4.7 rebounds or 2.4 assists per game. Hardaway has been one of the most productive rookies in the league all season, and especially lately, as he is averaging 13.2 points per game over the last 10 games. Unfortunately, the same limitations that were evident in college have followed him to the NBA, as he is a minimal contributor everywhere except scoring. Despite moving up in the team's offensive hierarchy, Hardaway is averaging just 16.9 Fantasy points over the last 10. Hardaway still has value in category-based Fantasy formats for his three-point shooting, but he brings so little to the table otherwise, there is hardly a reason to justify dropping someone with any long-term value to pick up Hardaway. (36 percent owned; +21 percent)

Shaun Livingston, G, Nets: The Nets have been rolling with some funky lineups that feature lots of interchangeable pieces, and Livingston has been key to them. He might be the worst perimeter shooter in the team's starting lineup, but he is versatile enough to fit in otherwise. His limitations have not stopped him from enjoying plenty of success recently, though I'm still not sure there is much of a reason to rush out to grab him. Livingston is averaging just 20.8 Fantasy points per game as a starter this season, making him very much a fringe option at a deep guard position. He can contribute in a few more categories than Hardaway can, but he is limited enough across the board that he won't really be much help outside of deeper leagues. He and Hardaway Jr. are owned in the same percentage of leagues, but I would rather have Livingston at this point -- he has a more consistent role. But that doesn't mean I am running out to grab Livingston at all costs, as he is very much a fringe option. Even if you add Livingston this week, there is no guarantee he'll still be on your roster in two weeks. (36 percent owned; +20 percent)

Nick Calathes, G, Grizzlies: When Mike Conley went down, Calathes hardly seemed equipped to handle any aspects of running an NBA offense. Through the first 37 games of his NBA career, Calathes had failed to distinguish himself, tossing up just 3.0 points and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting barely over 40-percent from the field and recording less than two assists for every turnover. And while he hasn't been a star since joining the starting lineup, he has acquitted himself well enough over the course of three games since Mike Conley went down with an elbow injury. He still isn't much of a playmaker, but Calathes has proven reasonably useful for Fantasy purposes, averaging 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game. Calathes is obviously just a short-term fix while Conley remains out, but as a streaming option, he seems like someone who at the very least won't hurt if you've been hit hard by injuries. (20 percent owned; +20 percent)

Randy Foye, G, Nuggets: Foye has flirted with Fantasy respectability for stretches this season, but his recent play represents the most serious display of his upside. Foye has been expanding his all-around game recently, taking on backup point guard duties in Nate Robinson's absence while still maintaining his solid scoring touch. He is averaging 16.9 points and 5.3 assists per game over the last 10, a figure only slightly inflated by his 16-assists performance last weekend. Nuggets coach Brian Shaw has been notoriously quick to change his rotations based on which players he is trusting the most at any given moment, but Foye seems to be squarely in his circle of trust, averaging 30-plus minutes per game since the start of January. Foye is averaging 28.4 Fantasy points per game since the start of January, and is squarely in starting territory at this point. His ownership rate has perhaps climbed too slowly given his play over the last month, and he remains worth adding wherever he's available. (73 percent owned; +16 percent)

Most Dropped

Kris Humphries, F, Celtics: Humphries was on the most-added list as recently as three weeks, when he actually made consecutive appearances and saw his ownership rise from the 20s to peaks in the 60s. Even when he was surging, however, I referred to Humphries as "waiver-wire fodder," and he has lived up to that designation. The Celtics, like so many lottery-bound teams, will experiment with different looks on a game-by-game basis as the coach searches for answers, and Humphries has been left out of the most recent lineup machinations. Humphries has seen his role fluctuate wildly, so his value is going to be entirely dependent on how many minutes Brad Stevens feels like scrounging up for him. Humphries will get back to posting double-doubles at some point, but I don't think those fleeting moments are worth the dead weight on your roster when times are bad. (43 percent owned; -13 percent)

Derrick Williams, F, Kings: Williams missed his last game with a strained foot, but don't think his presence on the most-dropped list is the result of his injury. Fantasy owners were jumping ship well before Williams sat out Wednesday's game, and for good reason. Williams was a hot commodity when injuries to Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins seemed to open up big holes in the team's rotation, but Williams was simply unable to take advantage. He has scored in double figures just four times in the last 10 games, continuing a career-long theme of disappointment from Williams. Williams appears to have plenty of upside, but at this point, it is more than fair to wonder if he will ever live up to it. Fantasy owners still holding on to Williams are doing so based on his upside, but you'll have to cut bait at some point; this injury might be just the impetus the rest of his owners need to pull the trigger. (44 percent owned; -12 percent)

Flavors of Next Week

-- by Joe Polito (@JoePo89)

Drop these guys now!
Player Own %
1. Nick Young, Lakers 75
2. Ramon Sessions, Bobcats 46
3. Shawn Marion, Mavericks 84
4. Terrence Ross, Raptors 58
5. Andrew Bynum, Pacers 50

You might have said to yourself a few weeks ago: "That's it, I officially ban myself from adding members of the Milwaukee Bucks to my Fantasy team." Listen, I don't blame you. They've been beyond frustrating and a lot of it centers around ... well ... their centers. The Bucks agreed to pay Larry Sanders $44 million over four years to be their new franchise big man, and what did he do to celebrate? Went ahead and got himself injured in a bar fight. Smooth move, Larry. Backup John Henson took that as his opportunity to make some noise, playing well enough to earn must-own status at the beginning of the season. But now Sanders is back, and many Fantasy owners who own one or both have been scratching their heads over what to do next.

So here's my advice for the 14 percent of leagues where Sanders is a free agent: just pick him up. "What if I already own Henson?" I hate to say it, but it's time to cut bait. The Bucks simply invested too much in Sanders not to give him the majority of minutes. A case can be made that Henson will be just as productive even with less time given his opportunistic playing style. But the way I see it, Henson's 93 percent and Sanders' 86 percent need to at the very least trade places. Henson has missed 10 of the Bucks' last 19 games dealing with minor injuries, and even in the games he's played he's only gone over 25 minutes four times. On the flipside, Sanders is coming off by far his best game of the season, going for 25 and 15 against Denver Wednesday. He's logged more than 30 minutes in five straight games and I expect that to continue for the rest of the season.

There's even been a bit of trade chatter involving Sanders, which seems unlikely given his overall lack of production and hefty contract extension. The latest reports have Milwaukee rejecting buy-low offers for Sanders, further proving their investment in him. And even if the Bucks do hope to trade him, their best hope relies on rolling him out there and giving him the ball to beef up his stats -- great news for Fantasy owners. In conclusion, with Henson there's consistency. He's been the steadier guy for blocks, so maybe if that's your weakness in a Roto league, he's the one to own. Otherwise, go with Sanders and the 44 million reasons the Bucks have to put him in the spotlight -- for better or worse.

Droppable soon?
Player Own %
1. Darren Collison, Clippers 82
2. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers 69
3. Channing Frye, Suns 73
4. Tobias Harris, Magic 93
5. John Henson, Bucks 93

Danny Green, G/F, Spurs, (41 percent): In case you haven't noticed, the Spurs are kind of decimated. Thursday night against Brooklyn, they were without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw. The good news, I guess, is they have Tiago Splitter and Green back. Hooray? Maybe. Green had been a huge disappointment to start the year before he went down with injury, so it would seem he's hungry to prove that slump was an early season fluke. He's averaging 15.3 and 7.3 with three made threes per game in his first three games back. As the Spurs get healthier, it's more likely the fringe guys like Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills and Cory Joseph lose minutes rather than Green. Parker, Duncan and Ginobili will be in and out of the lineup for the rest of the year, and Leonard is still a few weeks away, meaning there's not much in Green's way. He's young, healthy and proved to be an important piece of last year's run to the finals, so pick up Green with the hopes he continues to establish his worth.

Khris Middleton, F, Bucks, (50 percent): Caron Butler is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. I had to blurt that out right away to stop you from ignoring yet another unreliable Milwaukee player. His absence will mean extended opportunity for Middleton, who's scored 16.5 points, grabbed 4.0 rebounds and made 3.0 threes per game over the last seven days. He's getting 32.1 minutes per game over the last two weeks and that number should remain relatively high with Butler sidelined. Middleton is the only member of the lowly Bucks shooting better than 40 percent from three, at 42.6 percent. The key to his value staying on the upswing will be his activity on the boards -- the only peripheral stat he has a shot at contributing in. Almost two thirds of his games have been in the 0-4 rebound range, so you'll be praying for continued scoring and occasional steals and assists to keep his value afloat.

Courtney Lee, G, Grizzlies, (33 percent): It seems the Grizzlies' newest addition has gotten better with every game, culminating in his 22, five and four performance Wednesday night against Dallas. With Mike Conley and Tony Allen both out for Memphis, Lee has logged 40 minutes twice in the last three games. Grab him now while his value is peaking. He's shown the ability score before, but the Grizzlies might need his playmaking more to make up what they've lost in Conley. Lee has combined for 14 rebounds and 12 assists over his last three, so hopefully he can continue to do more than just score for the Grizzlies' depleted backcourt.

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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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