As we creep closer to the All-Star break, a familiar Fantasy nemesis returns to the foreground: injuries. You remember those, right? The old fashioned bone and muscle and tendon and ligament issues that used to dominate our Fantasy focus? Well, with COVID waning, injuries are returning with a vengeance.
The Bulls are down four rotation players (five, if you include Patrick Williams). The Pacers are down five (six, if you include the mythical T.J. Warren). Damian Lillard (abdomen) is out for the season out for two months (spoiler alert: he's not coming back this season). Paul George (elbow) and Dillon Brooks (ankle) are out for at least another month. These good ol' fashioned injuries are the biggest story on the waiver wire this week.
The NBA's Omicron outbreak is mostly in the rear view, and I think I speak for all of us when I say good riddance. It's not completely gone – the Grizzlies are still hit pretty hard – but, at least for waiver wire purposes, it's finally resolved to a level of background nuisance. That said, there's definitely still value available for attentive managers who use the COVID absences to inform streaming strategies.
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
Ayo Dosunmu, Bulls (34% rostered)
The Bulls keep taking hits along the wing. This past week saw Zach LaVine (knee) and Lonzo Ball (knee) both added to the injury report, joining Derrick Jones (knee), Javonte Green (groin). LaVine could return next week, but the rest of those players are likely to miss at least another week, and in most cases much more than that.
Dosunmu is one of the biggest beneficiaries of all these absences. He's started the last 3 games, averaging 18-6-8 with 2.3 3s and 2.0 steals. Even if we only get a few more games out of him, that production is so absurdly good that he's an all leagues must-add. And, given the number and severity of the injuries around him, I wouldn't be surprised if this run lasts for more than just one more week. Coby White (63% rostered), is also a solid pickup.
Amir Coffey, Clippers (45% rostered)
Back-to-back weeks as the No. 2 pickup in this column for Coffey. In seven starts, he's averaging 14-5-4 with 2.6 3s. Arguably more importantly, the rumor mill surrounding Paul George (elbow) is growing increasingly pessimistic. It's important not to overvalue completely unsubstantiated scuttlebutt, but we already know George is out at least a month. Whether or not they actually do it, the idea that the Clippers might lean into the injuries, shut down their stars, and tank for half a season makes sense. Regardless, we're looking at a minimum of a month – and possibly much longer – of Coffey putting up undeniably rosterable production.
Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors (41% rostered)
With shocking speed, Kuminga transitioned from "interesting long-term piece" to "current impact player". He scored double-digits twice in his first 27 appearances, and put up basically nothing in all of the other categories. Then, literally overnight, it flipped. Kuminga is now on a five-game streak with at least 12 points per game – a streak that started with his 28th appearance, which came on the second night of a back-to-back. In this five-game run, he's averaging 17-7-1 with 1.2 3s, 0.8 blocks, and 0.6 steals.
This run coincides with Draymond Green's (calf) absence, so it's unlikely that Kuminga maintains his value once Green returns. But with Green out at least another 10 days, Kuminga could be looking at a decent run of Fantasy value.
Herbert Jones, Pelicans (65% rostered)
We're getting so close to him graduating out of this article. Keep going, team! We can do it! Add That Jones! Add That Jones! If this is your first time reading this column, some background:
I like Herb Jones
He's a rookie second-round pick who has started 32 of his 41 games, including every game since Thanksgiving
He's scored in double-digits in 10 of his last 11, averaging 14-4-2 to go with some excellent defensive stats – 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks
You should add him.
Kevin Huerter, Hawks (40% rostered)
Don't act surprised. You knew he was going to be here. Just a reminder that with Cam Reddish now in New York, the return of De'Andre Hunter is much less concerning for Huerter's value. Speaking of Hunter (68% rostered), he'd be this week's top pickup if he qualified for this article.
Goga Bitadze, Pacers (11% rostered)
Bitadza, a 22-year-old third-year former first-round pick, has struggled to earn minutes in Indiana. A lot of that has to do with roster construction – he's a good center, but so are the team's two best players. His per-36 numbers are very good, and on the rare occasions when he gets meaningful minutes, he usually provides solid Fantasy lines. Now with Domantas Sabonis (ankle) joining Myles Turner (foot) on the sidelines, we might finally get an extended look at Bitadze. In his first start this season Thursday, he put up 13 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in 31 minutes.
Kelly Olynyk, Pistons (52% rostered)
The Fantasy analyst community is, generally speaking, much more excited about Olynyk than I am. He's certainly a fine pickup, as he proved by putting up 22 points, nine rebounds, and five assists in just 22 minutes Wednesday. He was great down the stretch for the Rockets last season, averaging 19-8-4 across a meaningfully large sample of 27 games. Especially when a team doesn't care about winning, Olynyk has the ability to put up stats – as long as he is getting enough minutes.
That last part is where the Fantasy Intelligentsia and I disagree. Before last season, Olynyk had never averaged more than 23.4 minutes per game. He's 30 years old and has exactly one Fantasy top 100 season. And, unlike the 2020-21 Rockets, the 2021-22 Pistons have promising young players they want to develop at both PF and C – Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart were both 2020 first-round picks.
For the next few games, Olynyk is worth a pickup. Just don't go overboard with your expectations or who you drop for him.
Other recommendations: Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies (43% rostered); Alex Caruso, Bulls (47% rostered); Justin Holiday, Pacers (28% rostered); Devin Vassell, Spurs (38% rostered); Kevon Looney, Warriors (21% rostered)
In terms of total number of games, the Week 15 schedule is back to normal. The Rockets, Thunder, and Wizards play just twice, and their players have less Fantasy value because of that. The rest of the league is basically split, with 13 teams playing four times and 14 playing 3 times.
Day-to-day, however, Week 15 again requires some careful attention. Monday has only four games, and Thursday is a super-light two-game slate. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are busy but not overwhelming with nine, 10, and 11 games, respectively.
The Timberwolves, Lakers, Warriors, and 76ers play Thursday. They carry a ton of added value for daily lineup leagues due to the quiet slate. Of additional benefit: the Timberwolves and Lakers also have four-game weeks.
It's a tough week for managers in leagues with strict acquisition limits. No team starts the week with 3 games in four nights, and the only teams to end the week with one are the Lakers and Timberwolves.
To maximize starts, managers may want to add members of the Knicks, Bulls, or Jazz before their Week 14 Sunday game – these teams also play on Monday's quiet slate, and then managers can target a Tuesday pickup to take advantage of one of the many midweek 3-in-4s that Week 15 has to offer. The Lakers, Nuggets, Spurs, Timberwolves, Hornets, Clippers, and Trail Blazers each have a Tuesday-through-Friday 3-in-4. The Pacers, Grizzlies, and Heat have Wednesday-through-Saturday 3-in-4s.