Fantasy Hoops Week 20 Waiver Wire: Stretch run adds and schedule analysis

Welcome back. I missed you last week. Hope you enjoyed your All-Star break, and are feeling refreshed and ready for the stretch run.

I'm being serious! We may not be running the floor every night, but the Fantasy season is long, and staying on top of lineups and waivers can feel arduous at times. It's good to get a few days off. But seasons are won and lost over the next few weeks, both rhetorically and literally. The roster and rotation shifts surrounding the All-Star break open up new sources of value that might be the championship-defining difference. Also, by definition, the champion will be crowned in seven weeks.

So let's get to it. The Spurs play only two games this week, but for the rest of the league the schedule is pretty balanced and doesn't demand a ton of attention. What matters most right now are the prospects. Other than Wayne Ellington, you'll find a lot of new names below.

Adds for all leagues

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Alex Len ATL • C •
PPG8.6
RPG7.9
BPG.9
(56 percent owned)

Tyson Chandler has missed two games due to "injury." I don't doubt that Chandler is hurt, but we've seen this movie before. The Suns shut down all but two players over the age of 24 after the All-Star break last season, and with another stacked draft and a competitive tankathon, we should probably expect a similar approach this season.

Len's biggest anchor this season has been the Suns' overstocked depth chart and a lack of consistent minutes. Over the final stretch, those problems are minimized, and it's likely Len will finally see a bigger role. He averages a double-double in games in which he's played at least 24 minutes. Len is an old-school Fantasy big man: points, rebounds, blocks, and a good field-goal percentage are his calling cards. Quietly, he's also a pretty decent passer.

David Nwaba, Bulls (39 percent owned)

In Fantasy, minutes are king. The Bulls promoted Nwaba to the starting five after the All-Star break, and he's averaged 33.5 minutes over the past two games. He's been excellent in both, posting 21 and 14 points, while adding nine rebounds in both. Some regression is likely, but he's averaged 7.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per-36 minutes this season, so he's likely to maintain 12-team value, even if his scoring falls off. Nwaba is also shooting 53.0 percent from the field, an incredibly helpful figure for a guard.

Other suggestions: Marcus Smart, Celtics (60 percent owned); John Henson, Bucks (56 percent owned); Skal Labissiere, Kings (22 percent owned)

Deep-league special

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Nemanja Bjelica SAC • PF • 88
FG%48.1
3P%42.3
FT%82.8
3P/G.979
(20 percent owned)

With Jimmy Butler (knee) now out, potentially for the rest of the regular season, Bjelica demands attention. Given coach Tom Thibodeau's penchant for playing his starters more than 30 minutes per night, Bjelica will probably see plenty of action as the Timberwolves' new starting small forward. Bjelica is a well-rounded player who contributes in almost every category. He should be added instantly and without hesitation in leagues with at least 14 teams, and managers in competitive 12-teamers should also give Bjelica strong consideration. The reason he isn't a no-brainer add in all leagues, however, is a combination of two factors. First, while Bjelica got the start in the first game without Jimmy Butler, it's not a given that he will maintain that role. Second, even when he has played increased minutes, his field goal attempts have not always scaled up. He's a good 3-point shooter, but he is not a big scorer in general, which limits his Fantasy ceiling.

If you missed Bjelica, or if you're in need of points, Jamal Crawford (15 percent owned) is another option worth considering.

Don't believe the hype

Trey Burke, Knicks (38 percent owned) vs. Emmanuel Mudiay, Knicks (49 percent owned)

I'm not buying into the Burke renaissance. While managers rush to pick up the shiniest new toy, I'll place some longer-term investment in Mudiay. Burke's back-to-back games of 26 points out of the All-Star break warrant praise, but the fifth-year-pro has topped 14 points just six times since the start of 2016-17, so we have no reason to believe he can keep this up.

Jarrett Jack received DNP-CDs in the past two games. Even if we assume that Jack has been relegated to garbage-time-only minutes for the remainder of the season, Burke would still be third in the Knicks' point guard hierarchy. New York is 7.5 games out of the playoffs, and all the teams above the Knicks are simply better. It's never safe to assume the Knicks will make the obvious decision, but they should be prioritizing the development of Mudiay and Frank Ntilikina (24 percent owned), both of whom the Knicks control next season, unlike Burke.

The Knicks are still in an experimental phase, trying different combinations of two-point-guard lineups over the past few contests. Mudiay has been a Knick for five games. Mudiay played alongside Ntilikina for 100 percent of the former's court time in one game, 75 percent in another, and less than half in a third. When they're done experimenting, expect coach Jeff Hornacek to settle in on whatever works best for Mudiay and Ntilikina, while Burke gets whatever is left over.

Burke has earned a speculative add in deeper leagues. But in leagues with 12 teams or fewer, Mudiay still seems like the better prospect for the final stretch. Ntilikina has some appeal as a steals specialist in deeper leagues.

Drop candidate

Robin Lopez, Bulls (59 percent owned)

For the time being, Lopez has been benched in favor of Cristiano Felicio. Frankly, there isn't much more to say. Outside of the Felicio family, no one thinks Felicio is a better player than Lopez. But we're in the home stretch, and the Bulls would rather rack up ping-pong balls than wins. Lopez may not be a DNP-CD every night, as he was in each of the last two games, but he's unlikely to ever resume his previous role in the rotation. There are too many promising options available to hold on to Lopez. Felicio is not worth adding outside of very deep (think 20-plus teams) leagues.

Ellington Corner

Wayne Ellington, Heat (27 percent owned)

You thought I forgot? You went through all that above and actually believed that I'm really going to go a week without mentioning Ellington? Fat chance. I was just making sure you were paying attention. Yes, you should still add/own Wayne Ellington, who ranks fifth in the league in made 3s (174) this season.

Schedule notes

The Pacers, Grizzlies and Magic each play four games this week and next week, and should be targeted for potential adds. Meanwhile, the Kings play a whopping five games this week, marking the only time this season that a team has a five-game week.

But the Raptors play four games in each of the next four weeks, and then again in the sixth week. If you are in a league without a games max, then you should be targeting the Raptors like crazy. Unfortunately, they don't have much in terms of waiver-caliber options, but should you find yourself thinking about adding a Raptor, let their schedule serve as a massive tie-breaker in their favor. Consider Fred VanVleet for assists and 3s, or Delon Wright if VanVleet is unavailable. Jakob Poeltl is a solid source of blocks, though not much else. Finally, Pascal Siakam is an option for teams that need more scoring and rebounding.

Though less immediately appealing than the Raptors, here are the other teams with attractive schedules down the stretch: The Pacers play four games in three of the next four weeks. The Clippers and Grizzlies play four games in four of their next five weeks.

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