Welcome back. We're approaching the end, so congratulations to everyone whose team is doing well enough that you're still here reading.
My biggest piece of advice this late in the season is to remain extra vigilant against the pernicious Endowment Effect. That is the subconscious process by which humans naturally assign more value to objects they already possess simply because they already possess them.
The classic example of this in Fantasy is when a manager keeps Player A on their roster instead of picking up Player B off waivers, even though that same manager would add Player B first if both players had been on the waiver wire in the first place.
With so much talent available on waivers – and the waiver pool is stacked this week – the Endowment Effect can be extra harmful. For example, Talen Horton-Tucker's stats over the past few weeks have been similar to Austin Reaves'. Yet, Reaves' recent production is objectively better than Horton-Tucker's in almost every category. Yet, Horton-Tucker's roster rate remains higher than Reaves'. Many managers will see Horton-Tucker's string of solid production and fear losing it, even though Reaves is available and outproducing Horton-Tucker. (For what it's worth, both players should be rostered right now, but Reaves is the better pickup.)
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
Austin Reaves, Lakers (51% rostered)
The latest update on LeBron James' (foot) injury is being pitched as a positive development, but it is primarily good news for Reaves. Because while it now seems likely that James will return before the postseason, the report also appears to rule out the chance of him playing in Week 24. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said there is "increasing optimism that James could return to play 'a few games' in the final week."
Translating from PR speak, that means James will not play before the final week (Week 25), and he will not play all four of the Lakers' games in Week 25 -- if he even returns then. Apply that interpretation to the Lakers' schedule, and Reaves' elevated role should be secure for at least six more of their remaining nine games, including Friday and Sunday of Week 23 and all three games in Week 24. He's averaging 18-3-6 in 29.0 minutes over the last 12 James-less games, and his numbers look even better if you only focus on the more recent contests. Reaves is an all-leagues must-start.
Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (54% rostered)
I harped on McDaniels a few times early in the season, but as his production lagged, I downgraded him to the bottom half of the "other recommendations" list for several months. Well, the breakout we'd hoped for has finally arrived. His production began to improve around the All-Star break, but it's really jumped over his last seven games, during which he's up to 19-4-2 with 2.0 3s and 0.9 blocks per game. His shooting efficiency seems absurdly hot at first glance – 52/45/81 during this stretch – until you compare that to his season-long 52/40/76. So, yes, he's on a hot streak, but it's more of a mild fever than a rush-to-the-hospital emergency. Karl-Anthony Towns' return to the lineup should have more impact on Kyle Anderson than McDaniels, so I'm not worried about that. McDaniels could be an excellent piece during this final stretch.
T.J. McConnell, Pacers (38% rostered)
The questionable-out-questionable-out cycle without any hint of a return-to-play timeline is the bane of the Fantasy manager's existence. Unfortunately, that's what the Pacers are doing with Tyrese Haliburton (knee), who has now missed six straight. McConnell has averaged 12-3-9 with 1.8 steals during this stint. Unless you are desperate for assists, he's instantly droppable the moment Haliburton returns. On the other hand, as long as Halliburton is out, McConnell is an all-leagues must-start.
Shaedon Sharpe, Trail Blazers (25% rostered)
Three weeks ago, Portland was tied for 10th in the West -- three games behind fourth place and firmly in the playoff hunt. They've collapsed since, going 3-9 (including a six-game losing streak) and functionally becoming the third team in the West eliminated from the playoffs. That clarity comes with an advantage – they can begin tanking in earnest.
That tanking position is probably contributing to all the recent missed games from Anfernee Simons (foot) and Jerami Grant (quad). Lillard is still playing as he fights for an All-NBA spot during arguably the best season of his career. Simons' absence has opened the door for Sharpe, who put up 24-9-3 in 40 minutes as a starter Wednesday. I'm intrigued by Sharpe's talent, and I expect Portland's tanking will give him a prominent role through the final weeks.
Nick Richards, Hornets (29% rostered)
Mark Williams (thumb) remains sidelined without any indication regarding when (or whether) he might return. Richards has stepped up as a starter in the rookie's absence, averaging a solid 9-9-2 with excellent efficiency. The real value Richards provides are his blocks. He's swatted a sustainable 2.4 per game since moving into the starting lineup. If you need an infusion of blocks, or a big who won't tank your free throws (76.3 FT% for the season), Richards is your guy (until Williams returns, if Williams ever does return).
Trendon Watford, Trail Blazers (16% rostered)
Speaking of the tanking Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic (knee) is questionable Friday. The injury-prone big is another candidate to see a lot of DNPs, which would open up extra work for Watford. However, despite what happens with Nurkic, Watford has already seen a boost during Grant's absence. He is averaging 13-7-4 in 34.5 minutes while seeing three starts during the four games Grant has missed. Four dimes from a big man can have a massive impact on a Fantasy roster. He's probably a safer pickup than Sharpe, though his upside is lower.
Other recommendations: Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors (32% rostered); Marvin Bagley, Pistons (57% rostered); Andrew Nembhard, Pacers (36% rostered); Malik Monk, Kings (51% rostered); Herbert Jones, Pelicans (54% rostered); Aaron Nesmith, Pacers (22% rostered); De'Anthony Melton, 76ers (49% rostered); Onyeka Okongwu, Hawks (56% rostered); Corey Kispert, Wizards (10% rostered)
Rodney McGruder, Pistons (10% rostered)
Perhaps it's unprofessional of me to admit this, but I'd lost track of the Pistons' injury situation. Like, I knew lots of people were hurt all the time, but staying on top of who was out when for this dreadful team just became tedious. Over their last four games, 10 players have sat out for one injury or another! For that reason, McGruder's rise up the Fantasy ranks snuck up on me, but it might be more than just a quick flash in the pan. Detroit is, obnoxiously, playing the Q-out-Q-out game with Bojan Bogdanovic (Achilles) and Alec Burks (foot), but it seems unlikely that either will play again this season. Since Burks joined the crowded Pistons injury report, McGruder has become a starter, averaging 13-5-1 in 30.3 minutes per game. McGruder will also sit out Friday, but assuming he returns quickly, he could be a solid Fantasy rotation filler.
Other recommendations: Ochai Agbaji, Jazz (13% rostered); Sandro Mamukelashvili, Spurs (4% rostered)
Week 24 is busy and imbalanced. No teams have two games, and 18 have four games. Thursday and Saturday have tiny two-game slates, while Friday and Sunday have bloated 13-game slates.
Also, in case it impacts your planning for Week 25, no teams play on Monday of Week 25 due to the NCAA National Championship game.
Daily lineups leagues
The weekend features more games than the first four days of the week -- a marked change from the standard allocation. Last week, I explained how and why this shift should alter our approach.
That effect is magnified by the extreme imbalance of the end-of-week schedule. Managers should strive to use all of their available waiver pickups by Thursday. Any waiver player picked up Friday or Sunday is unlikely to crack your starting lineups, and there are few (if any) worthwhile waiver prospects who play on Saturday.
The Bucks and Pelicans are the only teams to start the week with a 3-in-4, and the Pelicans are the only team that begins the week with a back-to-back.
The Pelicans also have the advantage of being the only team to play on both Thursday's and Saturday's two-game slates. That is a massive advantage in daily leagues.
The Nuggets are the only team to end the week with a 3-in-4, and the Mavericks are the only team to end the week with a back-to-back.
Three teams -- the Grizzlies, Thunder, and Heat -- have a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back. That can be especially valuable if you can use a Week 23 pickup on a team with a Sunday-Monday back-to-back: the Trail Blazers, Bulls, Timberwolves, Rockets, and Mavericks. All of those teams except the Mavericks have a Friday-Sunday-Monday 3-in-4.
Weekly lineups leagues
The worst schedules this week probably belong to the Lakers and Celtics. The Lakers have all three games on the road, while the Celtics have a 3-in-4, including two games on the road.
Several teams have four-game weeks without any back-to-backs. Among those, the Trail Blazers' is probably the most favorable, with three home games, including two against the atrocious Kings' defense. The Knicks and Pacers also have no back-to-backs and three home games.