Fantasy Basketball: Week 15 Waiver Wire

A slew of injuries and more early action on the buyout market are the top stories on the Week 15 waiver wire. This is especially true in the Western Conference, where two contenders just lost key pieces. Lonzo Ball (ankle), who finally started living up to his lofty preseason expectations over the past few weeks, is now out for four-to-six weeks. Meanwhile, the Rockets with be without Clint Capela (thumb), for a similar period.

The trade deadline is now less than three weeks away, so managers with an extra roster spot may want to consider investing in a player whose value could go up in the case of a trade. However, be careful not to overuse this strategy – there are far more trade rumors than actual trades. Furthermore, even if we accurately anticipate which player will be traded, the team's return package can alter who the big Fantasy winners and losers are. For example, say someone picked up Mario Hezonja due to the expectation that the Knicks would trade Noah Vonleh. Even if a Vonleh trade occurs, if the Knicks bring back a power forward, Hezonja could remain a secondary bench piece.

The only players I'd recommend adding in anticipation of the trade deadline would be members of the Lakers, Knicks, or Bulls – if you have a preferred player on one of those rosters, then go for it. Otherwise, the best trade deadline strategy is to monitor the news carefully and react promptly to any actual news.

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

Rajon Rondo (68 percent rostered) and Josh Hart, Lakers (46 percent rostered)

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Rajon Rondo LAL • PG • 9

Rondo (hand) barely qualifies for this article due to his high roster rate, but the Lakers' situation demands attention. With Lonzo Ball (ankle) getting sidelined just as Rondo nears his return, there is a huge opportunity in the Lakers' backcourt. Rondo has been out since Christmas, but he was upgraded from out to doubtful ahead of Monday's game, a sign that his return is imminent. Ball hasn't missed any games yet, but he previously saw his playing time and assists increase significantly with Rondo out. Given the two players' overlapping roles and skill sets – athletic pass-first point guards with great vision and questionable jump shots – it seems likely that Rondo will similarly benefit from Ball's absence.

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Josh Hart NO • SG •

But even when both Ball and Rondo were healthy, Ball was averaging 24.9 minutes and Rondo averaged 24.4. Rondo will probably be the biggest beneficiary, but he won't be the only one. Josh Hart, who had a strong run when he entered the starting lineup when Rondo and LeBron James (groin) were out, could again see extra run with Ball out. With Hart, managers would be hoping for a repeat of his seven-game stretch of 12.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.7 threes.

Kenneth Faried, Rockets (41 percent rostered)

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Kenneth Faried HOU • PF • 35

Last week, following the news that Clint Capela (thumb) would miss four-to-six weeks, I ran an informal survey: If the modern NBA has only three positions, point guard, wing, and big, what team/position is the shallowest depth chart in the league? Rockets' big man received a huge number of votes. The next day, they added Faried through the buyout market.

It's been a minute, and it might feel like ancient history, but Faried is only 29-years old and he started his career with five straight seasons of top-100 Fantasy production (OK, technically he was just outside the top-100 in 8-category settings in two of those five, but that doesn't really take away from the point). The most recent of those came in 2015-16. That run ended not because of a decline in abilities, but because of the ascendance of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic. But in terms of per-36 production, Faried's numbers have remained mostly constant throughout. Faried is an average-scoring double-double threat who can provide both a steal and a block per game, as long as he gets enough minutes. Given the sorry state of the Rockets' frontcourt, it looks like he's about to get enough minutes.

Ante Zizic, Cavaliers (20 percent rostered)

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Ante Zizic CLE • C • 41

Because the Cavaliers are annoying, we still have no idea what the severity is of Tristan Thompson's (foot) injury. For all we know, he could return Wednesday. However, he could just as easily miss the next few weeks. All we do know is that Thompson will miss his third straight Monday, and Larry Nance (knee) is likely to miss the whole week, and possibly more. In the two games without Thompson and Nance, Zizic is averaging 19.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 32.5 minutes while starting and shooting 66.7 percent from the field. Zizic becomes a drop candidate the second either Thompson or Nance returns, but until then he is startable in all leagues.

Other recommendations: Dwyane Wade, Heat (42 percent rostered); P.J. Tucker, Rockets (42 percent rostered); Terrence Ross, Magic (51 percent rostered); Marco Belinelli, Spurs (12 percent rostered); Danny Green, Raptors (48 percent rostered); Kevin Huerter, Hawks (65 percent rostered); DeAndre' Bembry, Hawks (24 percent rostered); Taj Gibson, Timberwolves (55 percent rostered)

Big Men Worth a Flyer

I don't trust either of these players, and I can't recommend adding them yet (maybe you can add them in 16-team leagues). But their recent production has been very good, and they are worth keeping an eye on.

Other Thoughts

  • A Note on Alex Len: Every couple of weeks, I have to remind people not to add Alex Len. Don't do it. He's not good. Yes, every once in a while he has these three-game runs where he scores in double-digits, but even at his best he's only a borderline deep-league player. His best run of the season was probably a six game stretch (three games, two missed due to injury, then three more) during which he averaged 16.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. but also shot just 47.6 percent from the field, 69.6 percent from the free-throw line, and committed 1.8 turnovers per game. That's his best-case scenario. In the following six games, he put up just 7.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks with 41.5-12.5-60.0 shooting splits. His good is borderline rosterable. His bad is tragic. Don't bother.
  • A Note on Caris LeVert: With LeVert's (foot) roster rate on the rise -- it's up to 76 percent -- Fantasy managers need to take note. If you are locked into a playoff spot, don't wait any longer to pick up LeVert. We don't know when LeVert will return to the floor, but we do know the following: he's back to participating in team shootarounds, the Nets said he'd return this season, and LeVert was a top-85 player averaging 19.0 points before he got hurt. His uncertain timeline means that teams still on the playoff fringes might not be able to add him yet, but if you're postseason birth is assured, pick up LeVert now.
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