Fantasy Hoops: Week 23 Waiver Wire for changed landscape
Roughly half the NBA’s teams are locked into their final positions in the standings. Alex Rikleen helps you tailor your waiver priorities to the changed realities.
We're getting close to the end of the grind. Just three full weeks, plus a handful of games, remain until the conclusion of the NBA regular season.
The best Fantasy players have to modify their strategy month to month, as different points in the season call for emphasizing different approaches. Over the last few weeks I've hammered on the importance of fit, recommending owners accept a dropoff in overall value of a player and instead focus on players who help in specific categories of need.
We've now reached the final stage of the season, and we need to modify our approach once again. From here on out, our waiver strategy is similar to the recent fit-over-total-value model, but we need to add an important twist. More than half of NBA teams are now effectively locked into their spot in the final standings. Two major battlegrounds remain. There is an eight-team clash for six playoff spots in the West, while six Eastern Conference teams fight for two home-court advantage slots in the first round.
Winning is not the top priority for the league's other 16 teams. As such, minor injuries are more likely to result in multiple games off, and widely-available players who had been Fantasy afterthoughts could be thrust into significant (and temporary) roles, leading to significant (and temporary) boosts in Fantasy value.
In most leagues, it will be difficult to remain competitive without getting in on some of that value. Managers still need to keep fit in the forefront of any add/drop decision, but they now have to balance that with adding some of these injury replacements.
One more important note: the Pelicans play back-to-back-to-back games Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before playing again on Saturday. In most daily lineup leagues, those four-games-in-five-nights situations are too juicy to ignore. Conversely, in weekly lineup leagues, Pelicans' players deserve a downgrade, at least compared to other teams with four games this week – fatigue is almost certain to become a factor. I'd still prioritize a Pelican over a player with three games, but the margin is less than usual.
As always, players included below must be owned 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.
Double-check your waiver wire
A few names who are too widely owned for this article, but not by much.
With Marcus Smart (thumb) expected to miss the rest of the regular season, Rozier should be universally owned. I used this stat last week, but during Smart's last lengthy absence, Rozier averaged 15.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.5 3s and 1.1 steals in 29.6 minutes per game.
A short shooting slump has some trigger-happy managers dropping Bogdanovic. Profit off their mistakes. The Pacers are clearly not deterred, as Bogdanovic's role has been barely impacted by the slump. In his past 15 games before the slump, he averaged 18.9 points and 2.6 3's in 32.9 minutes per game.
Adds for all leagues
This section excludes players who are only attractive as fill-ins for injuries that are likely to last only one or two games -- the landscape of such players is likely to change dramatically over the course of the week. This section focuses on players whose value is likely to extend at least two or three games, if not through the rest of the season.
Nothing has changed since last week, when Bjelica was listed second in this article behind Rozier. Jimmy Butler (knee) remains without a timeline to return, so Bjelica remains the starting small forward in a Tom Thibodeau rotation. Bjelica's production has been steady since Butler's injury, with averages of 13.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 threes in 37.4 minutes per game. He adds value in every category except blocks.
It took two games for Brewer to get going, but he's become a major player in the Thunder's rotation. Since replacing a healthy Josh Huestis in the starting lineup, Brewer has averaged 14.0 points, 2.7 steals and 1.7 threes in 30.8 minutes per game. Steals have always been Brewer's Fantasy specialty, and his per-minute steals rate during this stretch aren't that far off of his career per-minute numbers. Some regression in his steals and threes are likely, but he's found a home in Oklahoma City -- even after a little regression, his current role should continue to yield Fantasy dividends.
If your league permits streaming, Cook or Young should be your first or second priority add right now, ahead of Brewer (toss-up with Bjelica). Since Brewer's role is the result of an apparently-permanent rotation shift, while Cook's and Young's is the result of short-term injuries, Brewer is ahead of Cook and Young for managers who can't stream.
Technically, it's not yet mathematically official, but the Warriors are functionally locked in as the two-seed in the West. As such, they are (wisely) prioritizing health over what would probably be an unsuccessful effort to catch the Rockets for the top seed. Their Monday injury report was so long it exceeded Twitter's character limit.
As long as Steph Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson are out (thumb), Cook and Young have immense appeal. Cook's put up at least 25 points in 40 minutes in consecutive games, and he's scored in double-digits in every game Thompson has missed (Curry has been out longer). Young has scored at least 16 and played at least 31 minutes since Thompson went down. Patrick McCaw(2 percent owned) is set to return Monday night, and he could also have some value with Curry and Thompson out. As soon as the Warrior's original Splash Brothers return, however, it's hard to see any of Cook, Young, or McCaw providing much Fantasy utility.
Other recommendations: Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies (46 percent owned); Denzel Valentine, Bulls (60 percent owned); John Henson, Bucks (51 percent owned); Greg Monroe, Celtics (49 percent owned); Jonathon Simmons, Magic (60 percent owned); Jarell Martin, Grizzlies (19 percent owned)
Below are two players who are probably not worth adding, but we still need more information. I'm not expecting it, but it is possible that these two are top adds by this time next week.
Jennings is on a 10-day contract helping the Bucks survive a series of injuries to their backcourt. By this time next week, it's possible that Jennings will not receive a second contract and not even be on an NBA team. But after putting up 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in his debut, it's also possible the Bucks decide to keep Jennings and incorporate him into the regular rotation. It's worth noting that since his impressive debut, Jennings has produced a pair of duds against Orlando and Atlanta in limited minutes.
Derrick Rose, Timberwolves (12 percent owned)
It's obvious that Rose is nowhere near the star he was from 2009 to 2011. But, when healthy, he was able to provide Fantasy value as recently as last season. The Timberwolves have already signed Rose for the rest of the season, so the biggest question going forward is the size of his role in the rotation. His minutes have increased in each of his first four games. By the fourth game, he put up a Fantasy-noteworthy 14 points and three assists in 19 minutes. I'm not expecting anything, but if he can keep that up or improve upon it, he'll warrant Fantasy attention in deeper formats.
Add now, drop soon
These players have short-term appeal based on known injury reports at time of publication.
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