Fantasy Basketball Week 15 Waiver Wire: Trevor Ariza, Daniel Theis, Jerami Grant among potential targets
Alex Rikleen breaks down waiver options who might be available in your league for Week 15.
It's a sad day for the NBA community. The shocking news of Kobe Bryant's death at age 41 overwhelms anything else going on in the basketball world.
I'm not sure how to transition from that to Fantasy Basketball, so I'll let the transition be abrupt and awkward.
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.
Adds for all leagues
Trevor Ariza, Trail Blazers (39 percent rostered)
Ariza was one of my top targets last week, following his trade from the Kings to the Trail Blazers in exchange for Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver. That trade has now officially processed, and his first game in Portland panned out pretty much as anticipated. Ariza started, played 36 minutes, and put up a well-rounded box score highlighted by four 3s and two steals. He also scored 21 points, but that's more than we should expect, so I view that more as bonus production. The key details here are the start and the large workload, both of which we should expect going forward. He's a must-add in nine-category leagues, and a solid pickup in 8-cat.
Daniel Theis, Celtics (29 percent rostered)
I've been a bit slow to warm to Theis, and I apologize for that, dear readers. Theis is already insight the top-100 for the season, and he's inside the top-55 since the start of 2020. If we cherry pick out start date, Theis is inside the top-40 since January 7th. Most of his value comes on defense, as he's averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals over his past 10 game, but he's helpful across the board. He gets good assists and decent 3s for a center – 2.4 and 0.8 over his last 10 – he's great in FG% and good in FT%. His biggest flaws are that he's merely mediocre in points and rebounds. That hurts a bit in roto, but for a lot of head-to-head managers, those weaknesses make Theis a perfect big for a punt-rebounds build.
Jerami Grant, Nuggets (34 percent rostered)
Paul Millsap (knee) has missed the last nine games, giving Grant the opportunity to remind us all that he was one of the best breakouts of 2018-19, and that Denver was one of the worst-case options in terms of his Fantasy value. With Millsap out, Grant is starting and averaging 13.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.1 steals and 0.9 3s in 32.1 minutes. We already knew Grant was capable of that kind of well-rounded production, he just needed more minutes.
Unfortunately for us, however, Grant's value is likely to once again disappear whenever Millsap comes back. Millsap has been great all season, and the Nuggets' defense has fallen off a cliff since his injury. We have no idea when Millsap will return, because NBA injury reporting is a pathetic farce, so we don't know if Grant will keep this going for several more weeks, or if his Fantasy usefulness will dry up in a couple of days.
Thaddeus Young, Bulls (45 percent rostered)
The ghost of Tom Thibodeau apparently still haunts the Bulls. That's the only explanation I can come up with for why their top three centers are all sidelined (in addition to three wings and their starting PG), even though none of the injured players were ever coached by Thibs. Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that Young is the only currently-healthy frontcourt player who is a part of the Bulls' full-strength rotation.
It should be at least another week, if not more, before either Daniel Gafford (thumb) or Wendell Carter (ankle) returns, and Lauri Markkanen (hip) is out even longer. As is the case for most of this week's top adds, Young isn't much of a scorer, but he provides solid well-rounded production, and he should see a ton of minutes for the time being. Luke Kornet (12 percent rostered) is addable in deep leagues, but I don't think he's good enough to bother with for most managers.
Derrick White, Spurs (40 percent rostered)
Another player I've been slow to come around on, but I don't feel nearly as bad about my reluctance here. The Spurs still refuse to play White and Dejounte Murray at the same time – they have played just 32 minutes together all season (there have been 38 games where both were active) – and I think Murray is the better player. There is some evidence that they believe that, too, as Murray is still the starter, though White has played more minutes recently. I'll never understand why the Spurs don't play them together, but as long as that remains true, I'm going to be skeptical of both, and especially of the guy I think is worse, i.e. White.
But I also have to acknowledge the current reality, which is that White is lighting up the box scores. He has double-digit points in seven of his last nine, and he's averaging 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals during that time – absolutely absurd defensive production for a 6'4" point guard who weighs less than 200 lbs. His low minutes load remains a concern, but he's done enough this month to warrant rostering in all-leagues, especially for teams with a punt-assists build.
Other recommendations: Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers (58 percent rostered); Eric Gordon, Rockets (53 percent rostered); Shabazz Napier, Timberwolves (45 percent rostered); Omari Spellman, Warriors (17 percent rostered); Landry Shamet, Clippers (12 percent rostered); Matisse Thybulle, 76ers (17 percent rostered); Cedi Osman, Cavaliers (30 percent rostered); Furkan Korkmaz, 76ers (9 percent rostered); Reggie Jackson, Pistons (58 percent rostered); Ian Mahinmi, Wizards (9 percent rostered)
Dwight Powell injury fallout
I've spent a lot of time promoting Dwight Powell in this space. Needless to say, I believe his Achilles tear last week will have a major Fantasy impact. He was averaging 28.0 minutes since the start of December, and his production was trending up. Following his injury, the Mavericks traded for Cauley-Stein, an acknowledgment of their need for an athletic center with more size and rim protection than Kleber can provide.
Cauley-Stein's game is incredibly Fantasy-friendly, as his per-36 numbers demonstrate: 12.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.7 steals. The problem with Cauley-Stein is that he usually fails the eye-test – as good as his numbers are, he often looks like a below-average player, which causes his coaches to limit his minutes. If he takes over all or most of Powell's vacated minutes, he'd be a must-add in all formats. The problem is that's a massive "if", and Mavericks' coach Rick Carslisle isn't known for being particularly forgiving – the last time Carlisle coached an athletic, defense-first, Fantasy-friendly big man with a checkered reputation, Nerlens Noel fell behind Salah Mejri in the rotation.
If you doubt Cauley-Stein's ability to stay in Carlisle's good graces, then you should target Kleber. Regardless of what happens with Cauley-Stein, Kleber is probably going to see extra work now that Powell is gone. Kleber isn't quite the per-minute machine that Cauley-Stein is, but he provides a ton of value as a sharp-shooting big man who can still block shots and get some points and rebounds.
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