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USATSI

Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed the All-Star break. The games are back and the waiver pool is loaded, especially for managers in standard or shallow leagues. 

With the end of the Fantasy season now in sight, it's a good time to remember some important waiver guidelines.

  • Including Week 20, there are only six weeks left (and some leagues don't play in Week 25). A three-week injury is half the season – liberally drop injured players outside the top-60.

  • If you don't make the playoffs, rostering a late breakout player won't help you. Until you've clinched a playoff spot, prioritize immediate production.

  • Five to seven games streaming the best available waiver pickup is better than three or four games from your worst player in almost all situations. If your league allows streaming, do it.

  • Don't overrate the players already on your roster. Devin Vassell is a top-90 player in 8-cat (top-65 in 9-cat) this month whose value just increased. Cameron Johnson is top-90 (top-60) since December, and his value just increased. If your worst player is better than that then congratulations on your championship. 

  • Last, and certainly not least: stay active! The waiver wire is constantly changing, and there is always value available for motivated managers.

Alright. Enough preamble. Let's get to the players.

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

Devin Vassell, Spurs (71% rostered)

Including him here is cheating, but the trade deadline's biggest Fantasy winner should be rostered in much more than 71% of leagues. He's an all-leagues rest of season must-add if available. If you missed out, Lonnie Walker (18% rostered), is a decent consolation prize, though not above the next several names listed below.

Cameron Johnson, Suns (56% rostered)

Johnson should already have been rostered, especially in 9-cat leagues, where he's been a top-60 player since the start of December (he's been top-90 in 8-cat during that span). Now, Chris Paul (thumb) is out 6-8 weeks, which, as far as we're concerned, is basically the rest of the regular season. That dramatically increases Johnson's already strong value.

With Paul out, Johnson now figures to see even more minutes and usage for the remainder of the regular season. He's averaging 14-5-1 with 2.8 3s on just 17.4% usage since the start of December. All of those numbers should go up. He's a no-brainer all-leagues pickup.

Aaron Holiday, Suns (20% rostered)

Johnson is the most valuable Suns waiver prospect following the Paul injury, but he was already playing 28.1 minutes over the last three months. Most of Paul's 33.0 minutes per game are going to have to go elsewhere, and whoever claims the bulk of those minutes is immediately one of the best rest-of-season pickups. I'm firmly #TeamHoliday, but it must be noted that Cam Payne (59% rostered) could easily win the open point guard spot, making him the preferred add. And between the two, it is Payne who is the better per-minute Fantasy producer.

But two big factors work in Holiday's favor here. First, Payne is currently out with a wrist injury. He missed Thursday's game, and while the team has expressed optimism that he's close to a return, there is no guarantee that he plays Friday or Sunday. Holiday got the first crack at the lead gig (though it was Johnson, not Holiday, who replaced Paul as a starter). Thursday's game was a massive blowout in favor of the Suns, so I'm not at all discouraged by Holiday playing "only" 25 minutes – and his line of 12-2-5 with two 3s and a steal was encouraging.

Second – and this is a big one – I think Holiday is a much better player than Payne, plain and simple. Payne is wildly inconsistent, as most fans saw during the Suns' playoff run last summer. He can score and play-make, but he's an inefficient shooter who was having one of the least efficient seasons of his career before hurting his wrist. Holiday is not a special player, but he's competent, more consistent, makes fewer mistakes, and a more efficient shooter. If Holiday can lock in the lead role and close to 30 minutes per game, he should be a solid top-100-ish Fantasy player.

Cam Payne (59% rostered)

Most importantly, I could be wrong. If Payne returns to play quickly and takes the lead point guard role, then he should instantly provide at least 15 points and five assists per game, if not more. Second, unlike Holiday, Payne can have standard-league Fantasy value in an evenly split timeshare. 

Cameron Thomas, Nets (51% rostered)

The latest news out of Brooklyn is that Ben Simmons is still out for several more games while he builds up his conditioning. Though there is chatter that New York City will eliminate its vaccine mandate, opening the door for Kyrie Irving to play home games, nothing is formal yet – for now, Irving is only eligible to play in eight more regular season games.

Continued absences for Simmons and Irving means that Thomas remains an attractive short-to-middle-term option. He scored at least 14 points in eight straight games entering the All-Star break, averaging 21-4-3 in that span. I remain skeptical about his value once Simmons is active, but that's a problem for future us. For now, Thomas is an all-leagues play.

Alperen Sengun, Rockets (57% rostered)

Just fulfilling my legal obligation to mention either Sengun or Kevin Huerter in every article I publish. I remain unreasonably optimistic about Sengun's potential if/when the Rockets finally start playing him more than 25 minutes per game. If you're already locked into a playoff spot in a head-to-head league, I'd roster Sengun now in case his workload starts to rise.

Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies (57% rostered)

Clarke was one of the players I featured last week as a potential rest-of-season target. The Grizzlies have been prioritizing Clarke over Kyle Anderson lately, which implies that Clarke's recent surge might be a lasting change. Clarke was a top-80 player as a rookie, and he's up to 13-7-2 with just shy of a block and a steal in 22.4 minutes per game over his last 10 games before the break. A solid play now with great rest of season potential.

Jaxson Hayes, Pelicans (35% rostered)

Another player from last week's list of players with rest-of-season potential. Hayes replaced Devonte' Graham in the starting lineup in the last game before the All-Star break, and it sounds like the Pels plan to keep Graham in a reserve role going forward. If Hayes remains in the lineup, then he projects to see at least 25 minutes and put up roughly 12-6-1 with more than one block per game. Those predictions might even be too conservative, as Hayes typically plays better when he gets more minutes. He's also an extremely efficient field goal shooter and a basically break-even free throw shooter.

Raul Neto, Wizards (21% rostered)

Another big trade deadline winner who I went deep on last week. Short version: he should be a high-floor, low-ceiling end of roster assists guy playing big minutes after the Wizards lost roughly 85% of their backcourt rotation.

Other recommendations: Monte Morris, Nuggets (60% rostered); Derrick Rose, Knicks (32% rostered); Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (29% rostered); Isaiah Jackson, Pacers (36% rostered); Lonnie Walker, Spurs (18% rostered); Ivica Zubac, Clippers (58% rostered); Maxi Kleber, Mavericks (29% rostered); Deni Avdija, Wizards (38% rostered)

Situation to monitor

Trendon Watford and Drew Eubanks, Blazers

Jusuf Nurkic came down with an awful case of tankitis* over the All-Star break, and his prognosis is grim: six more weeks of losing. His absence, combined with Portland's deadline moves, leaves the team with only two centers: Watford (10% rostered) and Eubanks (2% rostered) – both young, small-ish bigs who never really projected as an NBA starter.

Except, now one of them is going to start out of necessity, and both are likely to top 20 minutes per game. There's nothing fancy about either player. Whoever takes the lead role is likely to average roughly a double-double with some blocks, good FG% and bad-to-OK FT%. That said, both are slightly above average passers for a center, so they could provide a small amount of assists help. 

Watford, an undrafted rookie, is the incumbent. He's spent the season on a two-way deal with Portland before transitioning to a standard deal over the break. He's averaged 16.4 minutes over the last 20 games as a regular part of the rotation. Eubanks, on the other hand, was picked up on a 10-day contract over the break after the Spurs waived him earlier in the month. There's some value available here, but I don't have any great intel on who will get it.

In Thursday's 37-point loss to Golden State, Eubanks surprisingly got the starting nod but finished with just two points and five boards in 21 minutes. Meanwhile, Watford played 23 minutes off the bench and posted nine points, one rebound, two assists and one steal.

The Trail Blazers play only two games in Week 20 and three in Week 21, so the schedule is really unappealing for this pair. With that in mind, it's OK to take a wait-and-see approach. With that said, there is enough opportunity here that if one or the other takes firm control of the starting role – consistently playing at least 28-ish minutes – then that player could become an excellent source of rebounds and blocks down the stretch.

*In actuality, Nurkic was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, an obnoxious, painful, and difficult-to-treat foot injury, so if he actually does have that, I hope the extended offseason helps him recover – I really enjoy both watching him and rostering him in Fantasy.

Schedule notes

  • Week 20 features an important Fantasy anomaly – a five game week. The Raptors have five games, including four in five days to kick off the week. That is a massive advantage in most formats, made even more dramatic by the fact that it's a relatively light week overall.

  • The Trail Blazers are the only team with a two-game week. 

  • Most teams have a three-game week. Only 11 teams play four times. 

  • The daily schedule is very balanced, with between six and nine games each day. Managers should have no difficulty fitting in waiver wire pickups any day of the week. In weeks like this, heavy day-to-day streaming can be extra valuable in formats that permit it.

  • The Kings are the only team to begin the week with three games in four days (other than the Raptors, who start with 4-in-5). The Grizzlies are the only team to end with a 3-in-4. Four teams – the 76ers, Heat, Magic, and Kings – each play a 3-in-4 from Wednesday to Saturday.