Fantasy Basketball: Uneven schedule trumps all in Week 8, even Waiver Wire targets
Five NBA teams only play twice in Week 8, and that could prove to be even more important in the short term than waiver adds like surging Alec Burks.
A large number of watch-list players made the jump to recommended adds last week. Players like Kenneth Faried, J.J. Barea and Kelly Olynyk -- guys you probably checked on but decided weren't worth adding -- are finally producing enough to contribute in 10- or 12-team leagues. Yet, despite the longer-than-usual list of potential adds, Milos Teodosic remains the top recommended player, as his return now looks imminent. He's followed by a newcomer to this list, Alec Burks, who is surging as a member of the Jazz's suddenly exciting backcourt.
Managers should take note of the schedule this week. Nineteen of the NBA's 30 teams play four games, while five teams play only twice. There are 10 or more games on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, but only three on Tuesday and four on Thursday.
A schedule with so many extremes will have a lot of impact on most leagues, so you'll have to react according to your own settings. Two basic tips:
1. Managers in weekly leagues need to avoid starting players with fewer than three games -- it's very difficult to win if your opponent is playing five or six more games than you.
2. Managers in leagues that permit streaming should target teams that play Tuesday and Thursday -- in other words, the Thunder, Suns, Wizards and Jazz. Your lineups might fill with players you already own Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, so streaming players those days may not be helpful.
As always, all players listed must be owned in fewer than two-thirds of CBS leagues.
Adds for all leagues
Milos Teodosic, Clippers (62 percent)
There's nothing new to add to last week's explanation for why Teodosic (foot) was my top add, except that he is now one week healthier, and one week closer to returning to game action. He could return as soon as Saturday against the Wizards.
Alec Burks, Jazz (27 percent owned)
Burks has always had a ton of potential, but he's been hampered by injuries throughout his career. A quarter of the way into the season, his health is finally maintaining, and his role is increasing. He's played at least 23 minutes in seven of the past nine games, including 30.0 per game over his last two with Rodney Hood out of action.
He's been red-hot in those two contests, averaging 26.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 steals, and 2.5 made threes per game with a 61.8 field goal percentage. While that production may not be sustainable, Burks' previous three games were also worth owning, with 12.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 threes and a 48.0 field goal percentage. Ricky Rubio is in a prolonged slump, while Hood (ankle) and Raul Neto (hamstring) continue to deal with injuries, and coach Quin Snyder has shown that he will give minutes to players who earn them.
Ersan Ilyasova, Hawks (46 percent owned)
This add has a sell-by date on it, as we are only interested in Ilyasova while Dewayne Dedmon (leg) and John Collins (shoulder) are out. That should last for at least the next two weeks, however. Providing extra opportunity for Ilyasova in the short term is the fact that Mike Muscala (ankle) is also out, but he is likely to return sooner than Dedmon and Collins. Ilyasova can be inconsistent, but he can score, rebound and hit a ton of 3s. Of course, he doesn't provide many blocks, but he usually gets some steals as long as he's playing sufficient minutes. In the first two games without Dedmon, Ilyasova is averaging 27.0 minutes, 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.0 made 3s.
Kenneth Faried, Nuggets (62 percent owned)
Faried is another injury replacement, though his value could last through the All-Star break, or at least as long as Paul Millsap (wrist) remains out. While Faried only played 19 minutes in the first game without Millsap, and was a DNP-CD in the second, he's averaged 25.8 minutes in the four games since, contributing 13.0 points, 9.8 rebounds per game with a 67.9 field goal percentage. He only helps in those three categories, but Faried can provide substantial value there. Nikola Jokic (ankle) is also injured, but he'll likely be back well before Millsap. While Jokic is out, Mason Plumlee (43 percent owned) can also be added as a sneaky source of assists for the position.
Other recommendations: Larry Nance, Jr., Lakers (54 percent owned); J.J. Barea, Mavericks (47 percent owned); Kelly Olynyk, Heat (41 percent owned)
Stash candidate (Head-to-Head leagues)
Paul Millsap, Nuggets (82 percent owned and falling)
Millsap (wrist) is out until at least mid-March, and his ownership numbers are (understandably) plummeting. But his current timetable gives him a chance to return before the end of February, just a couple weeks ahead of the Fantasy playoffs. In Roto leagues, it might not be worth sacrificing 12 weeks of a rotation spot for 22 games at the end of the season. But in head-to-head leagues, the playoffs are the only games that matter. Millsap was playing at a top-80 level before getting hurt, and it didn't seem like he had reached his potential. He was a top-50 player last season and a top-25 player in each of the three seasons before that. Adding that kind of player for free right before the playoffs kick off is how managers win leagues. When it comes to stashing players in head-to-head leagues, I have a mantra that I repeat to myself every year: If you can't make the playoffs because you used one roster spot on a stash, you probably weren't going to win the championship anyway.
J.R. Smith, Cavaliers (17 percent owned)
Minutes are the lifeblood of Fantasy basketball, and Smith has averaged 35.0 per game over his past five contests. His overall output hasn't been great, but it's certainly enough to boost deep-league rosters. During that five-game run, Smith has contributed 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.8 made threes per game to go with a smattering of assists and steals. In recent years, we've seen Smith be more efficient, so his minutes load makes him worthy of a speculative add in standard leagues, especially for managers in need of threes. The gigantic workload probably won't last forever, as the Cavaliers' backcourt is dealing with several injuries, but none of the injured players are overly close to returning.
Tomas Satoransky, Wizards (7 percent owned)
Tim Frazier was last week's second-most-recommended add, behind only Teodosic. However, in a surprising twist, Satoransky has seen more work than Tim Frazier as the Wizards' point guard with John Wall (knee) out. There are two reasons Satoransky isn't higher on this week's list. First, he doesn't have Frazier's track record of proving that he can turn this opportunity into sustainable Fantasy production, though the early returns are promising. Second, Wall's injury is only expected to keep him sidelined for a few more games, and it is possible Wall returns as early as this weekend.
Other recommendation: Jonas Jerebko, Jazz (3 percent owned)
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