Good news, everyone! After this quick little introduction, you'll be able to go through this entire article without having to hear about COVID! Consider it my New Year's gift. Are New Year's gifts a thing?
Once again, unfortunately, the dominant storyline across the NBA is COVID. But since COVID-related absences and returns occur at such a frenzy, this article will focus mostly on players whose rising values are not tied to the ongoing plague.
Even more good news – the waiver wire this week is much deeper than it was seven days ago. Last week's No. 2 recommended add, Cameron Johnson, has fallen to the fifth spot this week, even though my interest in him has increased. There are just that much more attractive players floating around. We saw a trade with potential Fantasy impact.
Multiple Pistons are surging while Jerami Grant (thumb) is sidelined. A regular, old fashioned, both-players-are-healthy-but-we're-swapping-the-depth-chart out West has turned waiver wire fodder into a top-70 player (we'll name names in a minute). We've got young players surging in expanded roles, and not always due to injuries. It's a fun week for the wire.
Of course, managers should stay on top of the latest in-out Covid news as much as possible, even though those updates change too quickly to bother with them in an article. Take, for example, last week's top recommended player, Naz Reid. Hours after the article was posted, Reid himself was added to the NBA's Health and Safety Protocols. The advice was sound, but managers didn't even get a single game out of it.
Anyone who stayed on top of the breaking news, however, probably saw that free agent Greg Monroe was signed in Reid's absence, and Monroe has put up two solid Fantasy starts while Karl-Anthony Towns remains sidelined.
As usual, 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
Adds for all leagues
Larry Nance, Trail Blazers (50% rostered)
It's been nearly three weeks since Portland swapped Nance ahead of Robert Covington on its depth chart. I highlighted Nance here that week, but it seems that I undersold him. In the two weeks since that article came out, Nance has entered Fantasy's top-70, with just the absolute Nance-iest of box scores: 10-8-3, efficient low volume shooting, 2.2 stocks, 0.8 3s, and almost no turnovers. Covington has missed the last two of those games, but that appears to have had basically no impact on Nance – Nance averaged 31.0 minutes in the previous four games with Covington active, and then 32.0 minutes in the two without Covington.
Nance, who is only 28 years old, has maintained this production level over the course of an entire season twice before, and there's no reason to believe he can't keep it going now. He's a must-add in all formats. If you are looking for someone who can help more in points or 3s, you should still add Nance now, and then start shopping him to the teams who are punting those categories.
Hamidou Diallo, Pistons (38% rostered)
I have my favorite players and I will not apologize for it! And if you've been reading this column for the past few years and you thought I'd kick this week off with someone other than Nance and Diallo then I don't even understand what our relationship is based on anymore. I thought you knew who I was and embraced me for it.
Even before Diallo exploded for 29.5 points and 3.5 steals across the last two games, he was rosterable in almost all formats. In the five starts before this recent glow-up – so we're excluding his best games here – he was averaging 12-5-2 with 1.6 steals and 1.2 3s. Diallo is a hyper-athletic 23-year-old who is finally getting some opportunities to spread his wings. The Pistons are decimated by injuries and Covid, and Diallo's production should fall back to Earth as the team gets healthier. But he should stay rosterable as a solid wing who is a great source of steals and doesn't really hurt anywhere for as long as Jerami Grant (thumb) is out.
Nicolas Claxton, Nets (29% rostered)
Another name that will be familiar to regular readers. Claxton saw his workload spike while the Nets were in the throes of a Covid outbreak. But something important happened last week. Though Brooklyn started getting healthy, Claxton's minutes remained elevated. On Thursday, he started and put up 10-9-2 to go with two blocks and one steal in 32 minutes – in a game when Joe Harris was the only inactive regular rotation player.
Claxton has a Clint Capela-lite lob synergy with James Harden, and he provides more defensive resistance than the current versions of LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin. We've seen Claxton perform well in big minutes before, and there is risk that he once again falls back to a smaller bench role. That said, there are good basketball reasons for his new role to stick. If they do, we're looking at almost a nightly double-double with excellent blocks.
Omer Yurtseven, Heat (37% rostered)
Dewayne Dedmon (knee) joined Bam Adebayo (thumb) on the injured list this week, further depleting the Heat's frontcourt. Yurtseven stepped into the void and put up 13.0 points and 14.5 rebounds in 32.5 minutes across two starts. That's a lot of rebounds. Both injured players should miss at least another week (likely much more in Adebayo's case). He's barely played any NBA minutes before the last few games, so we should take his per-36 numbers with a massive heaping of salt, but they do imply that he can provide value in both steals and blocks, too.
Cameron Johnson, Suns (54% rostered)
Nothing new to add since I wrote about Johnson last week. I think we're looking at a potential rest-of-season acquisition here. He's a classic Fantasy wing – good points and 3s, decent rebounds and steals, acceptable assists, and nearly neutral shooting impact. He's a low-end top-100 player, and might stay there for a while.
Terance Mann, Clippers (56% rostered)
I'm much less excited about Mann than many others in the Fantasy Twitterverse, but even I have to acknowledge that Mann is addable with Paul George (elbow) joining Kawhi Leonard (knee) on the sidelines for at least three more weeks. Mann is averaging 12-6-3 with 1.3 3s and a great FG% since entering the starting lineup almost 3 weeks ago. He's basically a short-term version of Cam Johnson, but with more assists and less defense - there are almost no scenarios in which I'd take Mann if Johnson is still available.
Rajon Rondo, Cavaliers (8% rostered)
Rondo was officially traded to Cleveland Friday. The 35-year-old point guard is way past his prime, and I don't love the fit on his new team. But as we saw last season when he was traded to the Clippers, Rondo still has the capacity to rank among the league leaders in assists while providing solid rebounds, steals and FG%. Excluding his first couple games in L.A. as he was ramping up his workload, Rondo averaged 6.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals in just 21.1 minutes per game. There is obviously opportunity available, as he steps in for a team that just lost Ricky Rubio's 28.5 minutes and 6.6 assists per game for the season. There's a high probability we end up dropping Rondo again shortly, but he's worth a flier, especially for assist-needy teams.
Chris Boucher, Raptors (57% rostered)
Let's be frank – I don't actually recommend adding Boucher. Fantasy is supposed to be fun, and I find absolutely nothing fun about the experience of rostering members of the Raptors' frontcourt. Boucher is a per-minute Fantasy dynamo, someone who would easily be a top-40 producer if he could be relied on for regular starter's minutes. But he can't be relied upon for regular starter's minutes. He can't be relied upon for any minutes at all. He has more games with single-digit minutes (7) than 24-plus minutes (6).
For reasons that plenty of Raptors analysts have covered in far more depth than we can get into here, coach Nick Nurse does not trust Boucher. So, sure, Boucher has started the last seven games and averaged 27.6 minutes per game, providing undeniable Fantasy value through that stretch, but I still think most of you should avoid him.
If you don't mind following all the Raptors' beat writers on Twitter and if you have the discipline to cut Boucher at the first sign of trouble, then go ahead and add him. In fact, if you can do both of those two things, he should probably be your top priority pickup this week. But most Fantasy managers will end up holding on too long, hoping that this time is different. It won't be different. And he will do real harm to your lineups when he follows up a 20-minute 11-8 game with an eight-minute 0-2 (October 23 & 25), or a 24-minute 17-6 with a 12-minute 2-1 (November 11 & 13). He's got undeniable value right now, but buyer beware.
Other recommendations: Cam Reddish, Hawks (65% rostered); Herbert Jones, Pelicans (29% rostered); Luke Kennard, Clippers (60% rostered); Gary Payton, Warriors (12% rostered); Donte DiVinvenzo, Bucks (21% rostered); R.J. Hampton, Magic (10% rostered); JaVale McGee, Suns (31% rostered); Otto Porter, Warriors (32% rostered); Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (37% rostered); Gary Harris, Magic (32% rostered); Payton Pritchard, Celtics (12% rostered)
The rare five-game week is upon us! Only twice all season does a team have five games in a calendar year week. The second (and therefore final) one of those occurs in Week 12, with the Grizzlies playing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Needless to say, this is a Fantasy bounty for most settings, and a huge boost in value to any Grizzlies you might be considering on the waiver wire.
It is also a very busy week. There are no two-game weeks, and only 11 three-game weeks. That means two things. First, the advantage gained from a four-game week is less than usual. Second, a three-game week is not nearly neutral, as is often the case, but a noticeable negative.
The schedule is also spread unevenly through the week. Wednesday has 11 games, Monday and Sunday have 10 games, Friday has nine games, and the remaining days all have six or fewer. For managers in daily lineup leagues, this makes players active on the quiet days meaningfully more attractive. The Knicks, Suns, and Grizzlies are the only teams to play on all three quiet days. Though the Knicks and Suns only have three games this week, daily leagues managers should prioritize those teams above players who have four games.
The Pelicans, Clippers, and Pistons each have four games including two on the quiet days, giving them a slight edge above other teams with four-game weeks.
One last note: The Celtics play only three games, but are attractive for a number of different types of leagues. All three of their games are part of a Wednesday-Thursday-Saturday three-games-in-four-nights set. That makes them a highly attractive mid-week pickup for managers with strict acquisition limits. Additionally, since two of those three games are on the week's quieter nights, managers will have an easier time fitting Celtics into starting lineups.