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Playing the Waiver Wire for Week 23

by | Fantasy Writer
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We've come to the end. If you're reading this, it means you're one of the lucky ones who somehow avoided season-derailing injuries or value-killing trades. You've made the right starts, sits, adds and drops. You hit on the risers and avoided the fallers, so congrats.

But you're not out of the woods yet.

That's why I've taken a look ahead at Week 23 find the best free agents for your finals rounds, factoring in schedules, playoff seeding and injury concerns.

Standard league guard: Vince Carter (56 percent) GS, @LAC, @LAL, @SAC

Carter's role with the Mavericks basically boils down to a designated hitter. He jogs around firing up threes, and lately they've been going in. Over the last four weeks, he's averaged 22 Fantasy points per game and ranks in the top five for three pointers made over that span.

He doesn't do much other than score, but an upcoming slate against possession-maximizing teams should give him a boost in assists and rebounds. There are plenty of guys like him (Nick Young, Gerald Green), but none as widely available as Carter. This isn't your boom-or-bust assist guard, but he's been steadily scoring enough to make a safe play.

Upside play: Ramon Sessions (60 percent) @DET, @MIA, @CHI, TOR

What happens when a score-first guard gets placed on a tanking team and starts assisting on occasion? About 25 Fantasy points per game happens -- what Ramon Sessions has produced since being traded to Milwaukee.

He's coming off back-to-back 20-plus point, 5-plus assist games propelling him to the top of the most added list. His schedule isn't the best for Week 23, but he does play four times against eastern conference opponents. It's very hard to rely on any of the Bucks, but Sessions' abilities make him a constant double-digit scoring threat with potential for assists and rebounds to edge out the competition.

Roto guard: Shaun Livingston (30 percent) HOU, @NY, DET, @PHI

Livingston is tied for third in the league among point guards in field-goal shooting (47.1 percent), a top-20 free-throw shooter (84.8 percent) and has averaged just a hair under two steals per game over the last 30 days. So basically you can count on Livingston to play 25-plus efficient minutes, with potential for steals and assists.

The Nets have a nice schedule in Week 23, especially catching Philadelphia at the tail end. In four games against the 76ers this year, he's averaged 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 7.7 assists on 57.1 percent shooting. So at worst, he's efficient and steal-prone. At best, he can pretty much help out in any category other than three pointers.

Upside play: Mario Chalmers (64 percent) TOR, MIL, MIN, NY

A string of home games against bad teams and the possibility of Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen missing them means Mario Chalmers will have the ball in his hands a lot more down the stretch. If you know anything about Chalmers' track record, you know he's only capable of playing great and terrible -- nothing in between.

He was the latter Wednesday night against Indiana, so I'm guessing he'll be looking to get back into his teammates' and coaches' good graces for the rest of the regular season. So if you're sure about your team and just need an injury fill-in to stem the tide, you might choose someone steadier. But if you need a miracle, pick up Chalmers and hope that he doesn't morph into Wario when you need him most.

Standard league forward: Tiago Splitter (46 percent), @IND, GS, @OKC, MEM

You know how prone Popovich is to rest his stars, so why not capitalize on that tendency by picking up Splitter? He's kind of boring, but lately he's shown some passing ability, finishing with five assists in his latest outing.

He'll definitely make a good handcuff for Tim Duncan down the stretch, but even if San Antonio sends out their usual starting five, Splitter can still be productive in pick-and-rolls and on the offensive glass. He has recorded four double-doubles in his last seven games, and with the way the Spurs move the ball, low-end assists won't be hard to come by.

Upside play: Andray Blatche (65 percent), HOU, @NY, DET, @PHI

Blatche is one of the riskiest propositions in Fantasy. He hasn't done much lately, but to me that means he's about due for one of his heat-checking performances of high scoring and moderate peripheral stats. The Nets' three-game stretch against bad Eastern Conference teams increases the odds of a payout on this dice roll.

Jason Kidd hasn't had many answers for when Kevin Garnett might return to the floor, so Mason Plumlee will be the only person standing in Blatche's way for extended minutes. He averages double-figure points and about seven rebounds a game against the Knicks, Pistons and 76ers, so he'll at least get to 20 Fantasy points, and has the potential to do more.

Roto forward: Chris Andersen (13 percent) TOR, MIL, MIN, NY

Ignore his stats from Wednesday's game against Indiana, because Andersen has been historically ineffective against the staunch Pacers. Instead, take a look at his previous 30 days, specifically in the blocks department. Birdman has swatted more shots than Anthony Davis over that span despite having played 200 fewer minutes.

He's also made a ridiculous 67 percent of his field goals on the season as well as 70 percent of his free throws, which isn't too shabby for a big man. Andersen's picked it up in the scoring and rebounding departments as of late, and if Bosh or LeBron get any rest down the stretch, Birdman will be swooping in to collect those minutes.

Upside play: Jordan Hill (57 percent) POR, @SAC, DAL, @LAC

The Lakers have come full circle with Hill once again earning Fantasy relevance. With Pau Gasol dealing with vertigo, Hill has put together two 28-point double-doubles in the last three games. I call him the upside play because there's a nine-pointer shoved in between those scoring outbursts.

It's pretty simple really: If Hill gets the minutes, he'll be effective. He's a scrappy rebounder whose shots come very close to the rim, which has led to a 70 percent field-goal rate over the last week. But sometimes Mike D'antoni just ignores the fact that Hill has put up several Kevin Love-esque lines this year, and rolls with Robert Sacre, Chris Kaman or someone even smaller. A schedule that features up-tempo teams and poor defenses gives Hill a good shot at producing in Week 23.

Standard Center: Zaza Pachulia (22 percent) @DET, @MIA, @CHI, TOR

Sometimes his stats look like Zaza Pachulia's (10, two and two last game). But other times, they look like Joakim Noah's (14, six and eight two games ago). That assist number is what makes Pachulia intriguing. Typically he hovers around three or four a game, which is still great for a free agent big man, and every once in a while he doubles that.

Right now the Bucks are working with Ramon Sessions, Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo -- none of whom are known for their passing. This means that anytime Pachulia's getting heavy minutes (27.5 per game over the last two weeks), he'll be capable of good assist numbers.

Roto Center: Gorgui Dieng (58 percent) LAC, MEM, @MIA, @ORL

We thought Dieng was only good for blocks, but he's been rebounding like a mad man and scoring in bunches since getting the starting nod. He's just like a lot of the other big men on this list in that he doesn't attempt shots outside of his comfort zone.

The tail end of his Week 23 schedule should offer Dieng ample chances for high rebound numbers and block totals. His field goal percentage and even free throw percentage will also give you a boost in categories leagues.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


 
 
 
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