Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Targets: Maximizing more-even schedule; Alec Burks or E'Twaun Moore?
The schedule again bears watching even if it is more even, and Alex Rikleen helps you zero in on the best waiver targets for Week 9.
The waiver wire is loaded with talent this week. Each of the top six players listed below have potential to be permanent additions to your team. This week's top add has questionable durability but has produced at a top-30 (!) level over the past two weeks.
There are also plenty of impact players available, so here's a helpful tip for helping you let go of players already on your roster: force yourself to imagine that the Fantasy Powers On High came down and gifted you a new open roster spot; you aren't dropping anyone -- just deciding who to add between the player who happens to be currently listed on your roster, and the player who happens to currently be listed on waivers.
It may sound silly, but this mental tip can be crucial for avoiding the dreaded endowment effect, the No. 1 killer of Fantasy teams, yes, ahead of ACL tears and non-sober trade negotiating.
Once again, managers in weekly lineups leagues need to take note of the schedule. This week is more balanced than last week, though three teams play only two games (76ers, Lakers, Warriors) while 13 teams play four games.
As usual, all players listed must be owned in less than two-thirds of leagues. While Milos Teodosic and Jahlil Okafor don't qualify, they are still available in more than 20 percent of leagues, so managers should double-check their status first. If they qualified, they would rate as the second and third recommended adds this week.
Adds for all leagues
After years struggling through injuries, Burks is finally healthy enough to take advantage of the opportunity provided by someone else's missed games. Burks has been lights out with Rodney Hood (ankle) unavailable. Burks is scoring 20.1 points and adding 4.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.1 3s, all in just 26.3 minutes per game.
And he's not just putting up counting stats. Burks' shooting efficiency has been other-worldly. He's hitting 54.9 percent of his field goals, 46.9 percent of his 3s, and making 83.9 percent of his 4.4 free throw attempts per game. He's playing so well that he may keep some of his additional workload even after Hood returns. Hood technically remains day-to-day, but the Jazz have been somewhat cagey about providing useful insights on his progress. This doesn't seem like a long-term absence, but on the other hand, it's already been two weeks and Hood is still not ready to play. Regardless, over the last nine games that Hood was healthy, Burks averaged only 5.3 fewer minutes per game than during this current stretch.
I want my doctor to be the doctor other doctors go to when they're sick. Along that line of reasoning, perhaps the most convincing thing I can say about a player is "he's the guy I added in my favorite league." Well, in my 14-team money league comprised of industry experts, I added Moore ahead of Burks and several other players mentioned in this article. I chose him over Burks because I wanted someone with more long-term appeal, and I'm concerned about Hood's eventual return. In the short term, Burks is a far better option. Moore's uptick in play is a recent phenomenon, but I think it could have long-term staying power. Since the start of December (six games), he's averaging 37.5 minutes, a large boost over the 30.3 he was averaging in October and November. But the increase wasn't the result of an injury, rather a conscious rotational change by the coaching staff. Over the same period, the Pelicans have risen to fourth in points per possession, and their field goal efficiency and pace have improved while their turnover rate has decreased.
Mirotic has returned from the injuries he sustained in a preseason fight with teammate Bobby Portis. It's only been two games, but Mirotic has started taking his job back from Portis. Mirotic increased from 15 minutes of action in his debut to 20 on Saturday against the Knicks, and as he gets healthier that workload seems likely to continue rising until he reaches around 25-28 minutes per night. Portis has held steady at 15 and 16 minutes in the first two games, but that workload could shrink as Mirotic's expands. Mirotic is usually an inconsistent player, but over the long term he tends to provide value in points, rebounds and 3s, with some help in steals and blocks.
Other recommendations: Ersan Ilyasova, Hawks (51 percent owned); Caris LeVert, Nets (67 percent owned); Jonathon Simmons, Magic (68 percent owned); Tyler Johnson, Heat (42 percent owned); J.J. Barea, Mavericks (53 percent owned); David Nwaba, Bulls (18 percent owned); Richaun Holmes, 76ers (10 percent owned); Greg Monroe, Suns (60 percent owned)
Maximizing the schedule
The Thunder begin a stretch of three straight weeks with four games this week, while the Celtics enter their second week of a similar, four-week stretch. Bottom line: Adding a player from one of these teams will get you extra games for each of the next three weeks. Some players from these teams worth considering include: Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and Andre Roberson. In deeper leagues, Aron Baynes and Alex Abrines are also worth a look.
Weekend adds: Bulls, Lakers
After back-to-back weeks of only two games, the Lakers begin a three-week stretch of four-game weeks, beginning with next Monday's (Dec. 18) matchup with the Warriors. Players who only play two games in a week often go overlooked on waivers, so there may be more Lakers available than their recent production would typically warrant. By adding these players over the weekend, managers should be able to "beat the rush," as a few Lakers will probably see large jumps in ownership ahead of next week.
Like the Lakers, the Bulls also begin a three-week stretch of four-game weeks next week, though they don't have the added benefit of already being under-owned. Some players from these teams worth considering include: Larry Nance, Nikola Mirotic, David Nwaba and Justin Holiday. In deeper leagues, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis are also worth a look. A large number of players from both these teams are owned in more than two-thirds of leagues but could still potentially be available in your league.
Maxi Kleber, Mavericks (8 percent owned)
Nerlens Noel (thumb) is out until the end of the month, so while he already wasn't getting many minutes, his potential no longer looms over any Mavericks' big man we'd consider adding. Kleber has been starting for the Mavericks, and his play is finally improving to the point where Fantasy teams need to take notice. The 25-year-old rookie from Germany is up to 29.0 minutes per game over the last three contests, which he's translated to 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. That blocks total is so high that some standard-league managers will be adding him as a specialist.
It's important not to overreact to a single game, and Lyles probably doesn't get mentioned here if he didn't score 25 points in 26 minutes on Sunday. Additionally, I have to confess that I'm a big Lyles fan (I have no idea why), so I'm someone who wants to believe. With all those caveats out of the way, the Nuggets need big-man help with Paul Millsap (wrist) out until at least late-February, and Nikola Jokic (ankle) currently sidelined.
Kenneth Faried has played well since Millsap's injury, but the Nuggets have shown lots of Faried-skepticism in recent seasons, so it's very plausible that they would give extra time to bench options who have breakout or long-term potential. After experimenting with giving Juancho Hernangomez extra time, they are now testing Lyles, and the test is yielding generally positive results. In 25.0 minutes per game over the last three contests, Lyles is averaging 12.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 3s. He had a few good stretches last year in Utah, and he's worth a speculative add in deeper leagues.
In daily lineups leagues, the Cavaliers have the best schedule for streaming this week, as they are the only team that both has four games this week and does not have a game on Friday. Friday has 11 games, while every other day has nine or fewer. On Friday, almost everyone will be able to fill their starting lineup, so streaming is not an option, while most managers will have an open starter spot every other day this week.
While I'm not ready to endorse Green as a long-term add outside of deep leagues, he is averaging 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 57.5 field goal percentage since the start of December (five games) -- certainly enough production to justify streaming. Smith was already recommended as a deep-league add last week, but he warrants consideration in shallow leagues as a streamer based on this Cavaliers schedule. Since Thanksgiving (nine games), Smith is second on the Cavaliers in minutes at 32.4 per game, and he's averaging 10.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 3s, 2.3 assists and shooting 47 percent from the field. Not only does the Cavaliers schedule allow for the most possible games for a streamer, but they also face the Hawks and the Lakers this week, two of the most Fantasy-friendly defenses.
Follow Alex on Twitter @Rikleen
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