This article is part of our NBA Waiver Wire series.
If you're here, congratulations. We've reached the final stretch. Simply clicking on this article means you're probably in serious contention for your league's championship. Good work.
At this point in the season, the "drop" button is your friend. Championships are being decided now. You can't wait for players to break out or come back from injury.
NBA teams have between eight and 11 games remaining – a three-game injury decreases a player's value by between 27-38%, and that's assuming they actually return for the fourth game. According to Hashtag Basketball's rating system (it's imperfect, but it's free and assigns a value score in addition to a rank), that's the difference between the 70th-ranked player and a player outside the top-110. That means a three-game injury is the difference between an all-leagues auto-start and a waiver wire pickup. At this point in the season, when the only teams left are those at the top, a three-game injury to most players makes them an instant drop.
Before we get into the pickups, a reminder of some overarching strategies to incorporate in the final two weeks of the season:
- In weekly lineup leagues, maximizing games (and, preferably early-week games when the injury report has less time to change) is critical.
- Settings vary greatly in daily lineups leagues – make sure you are very familiar with the rules in your league.
- It's still possible to do a version of streaming in daily lineups leagues with more restrictive settings, though it is harder.
- For example: add a Hawk over the weekend to take advantage of their three games in four days between Monday and Thursday. Then, swap in a player with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back (Spurs, Rockets, Nuggets, 76ers, Jazz, Trail Blazers). And finally, swap in a third player with a game on Sunday. This would net a manager six starts while only using two transactions during the week.
- I find this tool particularly helpful for this kind of streaming.
This week's schedule:
- Target the Pistons, who are the only team to play five games this week
- Avoid the Hawks, Celtics, Nets, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Bucks, Timberwolves and Raptors, who play only three games this week.
- Every other team plays four games, but not all four-game weeks are created equal:
- The Knicks and Magic play four games and play no back-to-backs. That makes them a bit more attractive than the rest of the teams with four-game weeks.
Ok, enough preamble. Let's get to the players.
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
Oshae Brissett, Pacers (36% rostered)
Brissett gets promoted this week after getting featured in the Deep League Special last week. He's started six straight, averaging 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.2 stocks (steals-plus-blocks) in 35.3 minutes. And those averages look even better if you ignore the first game of that run stretch, while he was still earning a bigger role. I'm still a little concerned about what might happen to his workload when the Pacers start getting healthy – they're currently without Domantas Sabonis (back), Myles Turner (toe), Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring), Jeremy Lamb (knee) and Goga Bitazde (ankle), and all except Turner seem likely to return at some point during the regular season – but we can cross that bridge when we get to it. Additionally, calling the Pacers' schedule this week "pillow soft" would undersell it. All four games are against bottom-10 defenses.
Khem Birch, Raptors (31% rostered)
Let's hold onto our hats here. Birch is worth an add, but his last three games are pushing the max of his potential. He's been starting for eight games, and he's only scored double-digit points in half of them.
With that said, Birch is here because he is worth adding, so maybe I should stop negging him. He's averaging 11-8-2 with 2.5 stocks over those eight starts – that's really good! Either Birch or Mo Bamba (listed below) is the best source of blocks available, which adds a strategic element here: even if you don't need blocks yourself, Birch can be worth a defensive pickup if one of your primary opponents needs blocks.
Reggie Bullock, Knicks (28% rostered)
Is double-digit points in 10 straight games good? What about 16 straight with at least two threes? In addition to his shooting, Bullock can be somewhat helpful in assists and steals, though he's completely useless in blocks. Either way, if you need a specialist, here's your guy.
Bruce Brown (25% rostered), Landry Shamet (19% rostered), Nets
As we talked about last week, this pair is worth starting in almost all leagues as long as James Harden (hamstring) is out. Brown is the all-around statistical oddball, while Shamet is the points and threes specialist. Kevin Durant's return takes out a little bit of Shamet's appeal, but he's probably still usable. Keep an eye on Brown's injury status, however, as he'll miss a third straight game Friday due to a knee issue.
Mo Bamba, Magic (37% rostered)
The last three games are what I think we can expect from Bamba going forward. In them, he played 22.7 minutes off the bench while averaging 11-7-2 with 1.7 blocks and 1.3 threes. His scoring was variable – one very good game and two meh games – while his other stats were consistent night to night. The Magic frontcourt was healthy in all three. If this is Bamba's floor going forward, there's a place for him in most leagues.
Other recommendations: Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks (47% rostered); Kendrick Nunn, Heat (51% rostered); Jalen Brunson, Mavericks (40% rostered); Isaiah Roby, Thunder (24% rostered); Edmond Sumner, Pacers (4% rostered); Dwayne Bacon, Magic (12% rostered); Gary Harris, Magic (16% rostered); Jeff Green, Nets (22% rostered)
Isaac Okoro (22% rostered)
Cedi Osman (29% rostered)
Dean Wade (5% rostered)
Isaiah Hartenstein (6% rostered)
Several Cavs players rate among the most-added players over the last week. My advice? Stay away.
It's really impressive that Okoro has been able to average 31.8 minutes as a rookie and look like a functional NBA player basically that entire time. He's 19 years old and plays one of the hardest and most important positions in the modern NBA. But, since he's played all those minutes, we know who he is. And right now, that is not a reliable fantasy producer. Three good games against some of the worst teams in the league should not be interpreted as a sign that he's finally about to jump up a level over the final stretch.
Similarly, we've all fallen for the Osman trap before. Ok, maybe you guys managed to avoid it, but I've certainly gotten caught up in it. As with Okoro, we know who Osman is. He's streamable while Collin Sexton (concussion) remains out, but he's not a priority pickup, and I'd drop Osman the moment we hear that Sexton is playing. Sexton has already been upgraded to questionable for Friday's game, so it's possible Osman's stream-worthy window has already closed.
Hartenstein is out, but even when he plays he barely registers as a super-deep option. I'm a Wade fan, and he's absolutely startable whenever he gets minutes, but his current role is too small for fantasy. His 32-minute outing on Tuesday was nice, but that came in a blowout. Even though the Cavs are dealing with a ton of injuries right now, Wade averaged just 9.5 minutes in the games before and after Tuesday. He's not addable.
Delon Wright, Kings
Speaking of players I'm not adding: In three games since De'Aaron Fox (Covid-19) went out, theoretically boosting Wright's value, Wright is averaging 7-5-2 with only 1.3 steals. Not ideal. You need more reliable players at this point in the season.
Deep League Special
Edmond Sumner, Pacers (4% rostered)
A little more than a week ago, I reached out to a Pacers writer to ask them about Aaron Holiday's long-term future with the team. A week later, his response looks like a premonition: he told me Sumner is the young guard to watch, while Holiday's days in Indiana are likely numbered. Since then, Sumner has had arguably his best week of the season, putting up 20-plus points twice, shooting 53% from the field and 50% from behind the arc, and extending his minutes lead over Holiday. With Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) potentially missing some time over the next week, Sumner's role might continue to grow.
Other recommendation: Mychal Mulder, Warriors (1% rostered)