Fantasy Basketball: Week 16 Waiver Wire
The relative quiet schedule was the focus only until the Anthony Davis news hit the street.
The trade deadline is now less than two weeks away, but a rash of injuries dominates the Week 16 waiver wire. In some ways that's a good thing, though, since it means more quality options after a few weeks of a pretty bare cupboard.
And, of course, you won't have to read very far before a certain unibrowed superstar gets mentioned.
The schedule is interesting this week, too. This is one of the quietest weeks of the NBA year, with fewer total games than any remaining week this season (excluding the All-Star break and the abridged final week). The Trail Blazers play only once, and five teams – the Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Suns, Kings and Raptors – play just twice. With so few games, the nine teams with four games are even more valuable than usual. Those teams are the Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Hornets, Nuggets, Pacers, Clippers, Grizzlies and Knicks.
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
Monday got off to an early start this week with one of the biggest Woj-bombs in recent memory dropping at 7:09 AM EST. Anthony Davis has requested a trade and does not intend to re-sign with the Pelicans at the end of his current contract. Due to CBA contract minutiae, the Celtics cannot trade for Davis until the end of the season, unless they include Kyrie Irving in the trade. The Celtics have probably the biggest trove of tradeable assets, which gives rise to a critical question: Will the Pelicans wait until the summer to make a move?
As NBA.com's John Schuhmann pointed out, why would the Pelicans allow Anthony Davis to play a single game for them ever again? He's at constant risk of injury, and it's almost impossible for his trade value to increase – he's already being described as possibly the best player to hit the trade market in NBA history.
At bare minimum, it seems likely that the Pelicans will keep Davis (finger) sidelined as long as possible for his current injury, which never had a clear return timetable in the first place. Nikola Mirotic (calf) is expected to sit out at least a week, and Julius Randle (ankle) is also on an ambiguous timeline.
Davis has missed the past four games, while Mirotic and Randle have missed the past two. During the past four games, Okafor has averaged 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in 31.8 minutes. That alone is must-add-in-all-leagues level of production. And that's before factoring in his bizarrely high 75 percent field goal shooting and 2.8 blocks per game. While he's likely to continue to help in both, don't expect that current level to continue. Okafor could be one of the best pickups of the season.
Confession: I'm listing Trier first because I'm a total fanboy, and the mature responsible recommendation is to list Burke first. That said, at least know that I am taking my own advice, and I have rostered Trier in multiple leagues, including several where Burke is still available. Frank Ntilikina (groin) got hurt Sunday and will not travel with the team Monday, joining Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder) who is expected to miss the next two weeks. Without their top-two point guards, Burke and Trier will have to step in and fill that role.
Burke has been more consistently productive this season, most notably during a six-game November stretch when he averaged 20.8 points, 3.5 assists and 1.8 3s in 27 minutes. Burke is also probably more reliable to run the offense, providing extra stability for the rest of the young roster. But the reason I'm more interested in Trier is because his upside is much higher. We're nearing the part of the season where we start to see some young players -- especially young players on bad teams -- emerge and become key Fantasy contributors. Trier might not be one of those guys, but if he is, this is his chance to seize control of a bigger portion of the rotation.
Someday, the Timberwolves will provide us with a clear and straightforward estimate for when any number of their injured point guards will return. OK, obviously that's never going to happen, but it certainly seems like Derrick Rose (ankle), Jeff Teague (foot) and Tyus Jones (ankle) will continue to miss games, even though the team keeps acting like each one is thisclose to returning. So far, Bayless has shined brighter, averaging 15 points, 6.5 assists and 3.5 3s in 33.8 minutes over the past four games, including two starts. But Okogie has also seen an increase in minutes, and he's worth consideration, too, especially in deeper leagues.
Other suggestions: Ivica Zubac, Lakers (40 percent rostered); Josh Jackson, Suns (65 percent rostered); Cedi Osman, Cavaliers (55 percent rostered); Ante Zizic, Cavaliers (40 percent rostered); Jonathan Isaac, Magic (36 percent rostered); Terrence Ross, Magic (54 percent rostered); Shabazz Napier, Nets (24 percent rostered); Patrick Beverley, Clippers (25 percent rostered)
Caris LeVert reminder
Caris Levert is still available in more than one-fifth of leagues. He's expected to return this season, he's already back at practice, and the Nets are in the playoff hunt. He should be rostered basically everywhere by now.
We're nearing the point where we start to see the big breakouts that define Fantasy seasons. For example, over the final two months of last season, we saw the following jumps:
Jamal Murray went from outside the top 75 to inside the top 35
Buddy Hield went from outside the top 110 to inside the top 55
Mario Hezonja went from outside the top 180 to inside the top 70
Dejounte Murray went from outside the top 180 to inside the top 80
Julius Randle went from outside the top 160 to inside the top 90
Jarrett Allen went from outside the top 160 to inside the top 100
All of those players were relatively young, but benefitted from the combination of their own development and the shifting landscape of injuries, trades, buyouts, and team objectives. It's time for Fantasy managers to start keeping an eye out for who will be the big breakouts of 2018-19. All of the players to follow have much more rest-of-season potential than current value, and most of these players will not achieve their individual best-case scenarios. They are lottery tickets -- the expected payoff is low, but the value of the winning ticket is immense.
Allonzo Trier, Knicks (36 percent rostered)
I mentioned him above, but the summer-league and preseason darling could be the offensive spark the Knicks have been looking for.
Jonathan Isaac, Magic (36 percent rostered)
Despite barely averaging 25 minutes per game, Isaac is almost a 1-1-1 guy. Per-36 minutes, he averaged 2.2 steals and 2.0 blocks last season. He started this season very slow, but he's improved pretty steadily. His body is still not quite NBA-ready, but once things start clicking for him, he'll become a Fantasy staple.
Harry Giles, Kings (11 percent rostered)
It's probably still too early to pick up Giles, but the 20-year-old should be on everyone's radar. Once lauded as a potential first overall draft pick, Giles suffered a series of injuries that submarined his draft stock. Nonetheless, the rookie's per-36 averages are incredible: 16.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks. If he makes his way into the regular rotation, look out.
Other recommendations: Ivica Zubac, Lakers (40 percent rostered); Mo Bamba, Magic (44 percent rostered)
Aaron Holiday, Pacers (8 percent rostered)
Holiday is a major beneficiary of last week's season-ending injury to Victor Oladipo (quad). Tyreke Evans was -- correctly -- widely picked up as the player most likely to benefit. But while Evans may see a slight increase in minutes, he was already averaging over 20 per game, and most of his newfound value is likely to come from increased usage and offensive responsibilities. Holiday, on the other hand, is likely to soak up a large share of Oladipo's 31.9 minutes per game. Holiday doesn't do enough to warrant standard league value, but he should be an attractive option in competitive 14-team leagues or 16-team leagues.
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