Good news everyone! The In-Season Tournament is a success! Fans and teams are getting excited about having NBA basketball worth caring about in November. It's also about to wreak havoc on Fantasy leagues.
Understanding the unusual schedule is more important than anything else this week – as you'll soon read, most waiver pickups will only get one Fantasy start this week – so we're cutting the intro short and adding a schedule breakdown to the top of the article.
As always, the players in this article must be rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues. Players are listed in the order that I recommend adding them, assuming they are equally good fits for your team.
IST Schedule Impacts
First, the tl;dr: everyone plays just two games, and most waiver pickups are only going to get one Fantasy start (since Friday lineups will be full before waivers due to a giant 13-game slate).
OK. Now for the more detailed explanation of what, why, and how it should impact our Fantasy strategies.
Week 7 is a radical departure from normal weeks. There are way fewer games. Weeks 6 and 8 demonstrate the normal range: Week 6 was unusually light with 47 games, while Week 8 will be atypically busy with 57 games. Compare that to Week 7, which will be a massive outlier with only 30 games (the IST championship on Saturday would be the 31st game, but that won't count for Fantasy).
Not only are there fewer games, but the daily distribution is wacky: 2-2-11-2-13-0-0. Everyone will play twice, but we don't know the full schedule for the eight teams that made the IST playoffs. The other 22 teams will play on Wednesday and Friday. The eight teams that advanced will all play twice, but the timing of their second game is still TBD. They'll participate in the IST quarterfinals, which make up the ultra-light two-game slates of Monday or Tuesday. Then the quarterfinal winners will face off in the IST semifinals on Thursday, which will be another ultra-light, two-game slate. But the quarterfinal losers' second game will get lumped in with the riff-raff on the overloaded 13-game Friday slate. The IST championship will take place Saturday, but there will be no Fantasy games taking place over the weekend.
It all leads to a unique Fantasy situation. Almost all waiver pickups will get just one start in your lineups. That's because waiver pickups are usually one of the worst players on your roster, and with 26 teams playing on Friday, most rosters will already be full. And every team only plays twice.
We don't yet know which waiver pickups will have the best schedules. Waiver prospects on IST playoff teams who advance to Thursday's semifinals will be the most valuable pickups of the week – both games on tiny slates when you'll have tons of open roster spots. As a result, managers should take a look at the IST quarterfinal matchups, predict the winners, and modify their waiver priorities accordingly. For example, if you think the Celtics will beat the Pacers, then you should prioritize Sam Hauser (11% rostered) over Obi Toppin (35% rostered).
Two last pointers:
- If you are in league with weekly acquisition limits, make sure to use them all quickly.
- Since most waiver pickups won't hit your starting lineups in Week 7, this is a good week to prioritize players with longer-term appeal.
Double-check your league
Players rostered in more than two-thirds of leagues, but who are still under-rostered. Double-check to make sure they aren't available in your league.
- Jalen Suggs, Magic (69% rostered)
- Tim Hardaway Jr., Mavericks (68% rostered)
- Daniel Gafford, Wizards (68% rostered)
Adds for all leagues
Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Bogdanovic could make his season debut as early as Saturday. Even if he misses Saturday, it's clear his return is close and that the Pistons are likely to have him for both games in Week 7. Bogdanovic was my top add last week, and, having seven days to mull it over, I actually think I undersold it. The Pistons are awful, and it's harming their ability to develop a potentially promising young core. They need Bogdanovic. So, sure, he's 34 years old, and 34-year-olds don't typically match their career highs. But I think he'll be closer to last year's 22-4-3 with 2.5 threes and 49-41-88 shooting than most in the Fantasy community are expecting.
Trey Murphy, Pelicans (45% rostered)
Murphy's season debut is even more imminent than Bogdanovic's – Murphy will play Friday, according to his own twitter post. Let's be clear: a fully healthy Murphy is a much better Fantasy contributor than a fully healthy Bogdanovic. Murphy averaged an incredible 20-3-2 with 1.5 steals and 3.8 threes while shooting 55-45-90 as a starter for the last 19 games of 2022-23. However, even if Murphy is fully healthy, he's not going to match the 37 minutes per game he saw during that stretch. He'll likely require some ramp-up time, and even when that's over, he'll still probably come off the bench. If you're in a head-to-head league and your team is way out in front, so you can sacrifice some short-term production to focus on building for the playoffs, then I'd recommend Murphy over Bogdanovic. For most managers, however, lingering concerns over Murphy's health and crowded depth chart cause me to slot him just behind the veteran Piston. That said, make no mistake, both of these players are all-leagues must-adds.
Low scorers are always the slowest players to get picked up off waivers, and that's what we're seeing with Hart. After being widely drafted, Hart disappointed over the first nine games, averaging 6-6-2 with 1 stock and terrible field goal shooting in 26.8 minutes. That stretch led to his getting dropped – and rightly so. But that's turned around over the last nine games. He's now up to 9-6-3 with 1.4 stocks, 1.1 3s, and excellent shooting in 30.3 minutes per game. Any team punting points should prioritize Hart, who's finally playing close to our preseason expectations.
Tyler Herro (ankle) appears likely to miss at least another week. Meanwhile, the Heat have been decimated with an array of other smaller injuries, forcing almost everyone to miss a game or two. Jaquez and Robinson have turned the turmoil into opportunities, and both have shined in expanded roles. Robinson is an elite 3s specialist, and, as long as he's getting enough minutes, he drains enough long-balls to work as a points specialist, too. He had the bigger role before the Herro injury, and I expect him to remain borderline rosterable all season. Jaquez is more of an upside swing. The rookie is averaging 16-5-3 with 1 steals and 1.6 3s since Herro went down. The problem is that he's needed 32.4 minutes to get those stats. While he's absolutely earned an expanded role in a fully healthy Heat lineup, I have difficulty imagining him getting to 25 minutes when everyone is playing at the same time. Jaquez has more breakout potential – maybe someone gets hurt again, or maybe there's a trade, or maybe they decide he's gotten so good that they have to cut down on some veterans' minutes for him. He's less likely to stick on rosters all season, but his highs are likely going to be higher than Robinson's.
A lot of managers have been adding Heat teammate Josh Richardson (18% rostered) lately, but he's barely a streaming candidate in my opinion. His numbers over the last few games have been very good, but he's shown no ability to contribute when the team is healthier.
Al Horford, Celtics (48% rostered)
Horford is having the worst season of his career. This isn't much of a surprise, as he's now the sixth-oldest player in the league. But he's still got something to contribute to Fantasy, as demonstrated by his last four games. I really recommend clicking on his player page, so you can see all four of them next to each other, and take in how simultaneously impressive and bizarre they are. Altogether, they average to 9-9-5 with 1.5 blocks and 1.8 3s on great shooting splits. Those numbers are boosted by the assortment of injuries plaguing the Celtics. However, because of how the team is constructed, Horford benefits no matter which starter is out. That means boosted minutes due to injury should come frequently.
Other recommendations: Harrison Barnes, Kings (54% rostered); Dillon Brooks, Rockets (43% rostered); Dario Saric, Warriors (44% rostered); Sam Houser, Celtics (11% rostered); Obi Toppin, Pacers (35% rostered); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Nuggets (48% rostered); Isaiah Joe, Thunder (19% rostered)
Deep league special
The whole waiver wire is down this week, and it's particularly bleak for deep leaguers. So let's take this opportunity to highlight one of the NBA's purest Fantasy "handcuff" situations. Jusuf Nurkic, the Suns' starting center, has missed at least 26 games in each of the past four seasons. He's now playing more minutes than he did in three of those seasons. It seems inevitable that Nurkic will eventually miss some time. If (when) that happens, Eubanks is the only viable option to take over. Their per-36 minutes numbers are similar – Nurkic is a slightly better rebounder and passer, Eubanks is a better shot blocker and more efficient shooter – and Nurkic is an all-leagues auto-start. Eubanks is tough to roster right now, especially since he's in the middle of a slump. But it's not like there's anyone else out there demanding deep league Fantasy attention right now.