NBA Waiver Wire: Holiday Week Edition

NBA Waiver Wire: Holiday Week Edition

This article is part of our NBA Waiver Wire series.

Merry Christmas, all! Unfortunately, it seems as though many of us have been naughty, because the waiver wire is not nearly as plentiful as it has been in recent weeks. There are a few solid pickups still available in most leagues, but many managers are going to want to do more giving (dropping players to the waiver wire) than receiving.

As Fantasy basketball managers, Christmas is a particularly important holiday, as it signifies another unusual week for NBA scheduling. The NBA is off on Christmas Eve (Monday), and then there are only five games on Christmas (Tuesday), beginning with Bucks/Knicks at Noon ET. That unusual schedule creates several situations that managers must be aware of:

- MOST IMPORTANTLY: On many host sites, the weekly lineup lock is still Monday at 7 pm EST, even though there are no games! Make sure to set your lineups on Monday!

- There are far fewer NBA games this week than usual, and almost every team plays three games. Only two teams play four times (Lakers, Trail Blazers). Only two teams play twice (Pacers, Grizzlies). Regardless of format, Lakers and Trail Blazers should be targeted, while Pacers and Grizzlies should be faded.

- In weekly games max leagues, managers will have an unusually difficult time reaching the weekly max. Managers may want to start bench options in places where the normally might not.

As always, the players in this article must be rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues. Players are listed in

Merry Christmas, all! Unfortunately, it seems as though many of us have been naughty, because the waiver wire is not nearly as plentiful as it has been in recent weeks. There are a few solid pickups still available in most leagues, but many managers are going to want to do more giving (dropping players to the waiver wire) than receiving.

As Fantasy basketball managers, Christmas is a particularly important holiday, as it signifies another unusual week for NBA scheduling. The NBA is off on Christmas Eve (Monday), and then there are only five games on Christmas (Tuesday), beginning with Bucks/Knicks at Noon ET. That unusual schedule creates several situations that managers must be aware of:

- MOST IMPORTANTLY: On many host sites, the weekly lineup lock is still Monday at 7 pm EST, even though there are no games! Make sure to set your lineups on Monday!

- There are far fewer NBA games this week than usual, and almost every team plays three games. Only two teams play four times (Lakers, Trail Blazers). Only two teams play twice (Pacers, Grizzlies). Regardless of format, Lakers and Trail Blazers should be targeted, while Pacers and Grizzlies should be faded.

- In weekly games max leagues, managers will have an unusually difficult time reaching the weekly max. Managers may want to start bench options in places where the normally might not.

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

Tyler Johnson, Heat (38 percent rostered)
Goran Dragic (knee) underwent surgery last week, ending the nightly game of "will he or won't he?" He's definitely out for more than a month, and he probably won't return until after the All-Star break. The Heat's backcourt is messy, but Johnson is and should be their primary point guard in Dragic's absence. Unfortunately, because the Heat have so many similarly-talented guards and small wings, Johnson's workload might be erratic from night to night, which is why he only played 18 minutes on Saturday when he shot one for six from the field. The Heat don't need to stick with anyone when they're having an off night. But even despite two bad games since returning from a hip injury earlier this month, Johnson is still averaging 14.3 points, 2.8 threes and 2.0 assists per game during that stretch. If we only look at his four good games (ignoring the two duds), he averaged 19.0 points and 3.8 threes. His good games are much more frequent than his bad ones, and they are easily good enough to make him worth adding in all formats.

Austin Rivers, Rockets (9 percent rostered)
Rivers has been on the move over the past week, landing in Houston after a brief pit stop in Phoenix. He joins a Rockets squad that just lost Chris Paul (hamstring) for at least a couple weeks. And given Paul's injury history, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rockets exercise extreme caution in bringing him back. This is a team that enabled Gerald Green to step in and become a Fantasy dynamo when Paul was out last season, and at this stage of their respective careers, Rivers is a better player than Green. Look for Rivers to be a solid source or points, assists and threes while Paul is out.

Kelly Oubre, Suns (59 percent rostered)
Oubre has been active for the Suns for three games, which is still too small of a sample for us to know what to expect going forward. Therefore, the situation here is the same as it was last week: The Suns just traded away Trevor Ariza, one of their best trade assets, and Oubre is effectively the only thing they got in return. Ariza was averaging 34.0 minutes per game, so his absence creates a huge hole in the rotation.

Averaging only 26.0 minutes for the Wizards, Oubre was good enough to be rostered in "deepish" leagues (competitive 12-team leagues or standard 14-team leagues). Four of the Suns' six best players, including Oubre, all play the same position. If Oubre settle in averaging more than 30 minutes as a Sun, I think he'll turn out to have been a great pickup, but we have no idea where he'll land, and his first three games have not provided any clarity. Oubre is a speculative add in all leagues, but his value could tumble as easily as it could rise. Mikal Bridges (28 percent rostered) is also worth a speculative add if Oubre is not available.

Monte Morris, Nuggets (53 percent rostered)
Gary Harris' (hip) initial timeline has him slated to return sometime during the week of New Year's, so Morris' window for Fantasy usefulness in all leagues might be running out. That said, we should still get at least one more week of him, and he was a borderline add even before Harris' injury. The Nuggets are high on Morris – they use the sophomore in crunch time – so he'll maintain some value even after Harris returns. Since Harris's last game, Morris is averaging 14 points, 4.6 assists, 2.0 threes and 1.6 steals in 27 minutes. Some of Morris' increased production is the result of shifting responsibilities, not just an increase in court time, but the fact that his minutes only increased by 3.1 per game with Harris out (Morris was averaging 23.9 minutes per game before the Harris injury) shows that Morris' value could last.

Other recommendations: Jerami Grant, Thunder (50 percent rostered); Jeff Green, Wizards (30 percent rostered); Nemanja Bjelica, Kings (61 percent rostered); J.J. Barea, Mavericks (31 percent rostered); Joe Harris, Nets (50 percent rostered); Rodions Kurucs, Nets (22 percent rostered); P.J. Tucker, Rockets (35 percent rostered)

Don't Believe the Hype

These players are being widely added, but the current excitement surrounding them vastly exceeds their likely production. These players probably have value in some leagues, but in most settings, managers are better off leaving these guys on the waiver wire.

Ivica Zubac, Lakers
Zubac has been excellent over the last two games, providing 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game. Those numbers are good enough to add in any league, and many managers are probably getting flashbacks to his rookie season, when he had four double-doubles and 15 games with double-digit scoring, all in the second half of the season. But unless you're using him as a quick streamer, don't bother.

The Lakers were without JaVale McGee (illness) for both games, and without Tyson Chandler (back) for one of them. Zubac is still the third-string center in a league that increasingly makes it harder for big men to stay on the floor. If McGee and/or Chandler miss more games, then, by all means, grab Zubac as a one-night fill-in or use him in DFS. But he's not a long-term addition.

Another widely added players to avoid: Thomas Bryant, Wizards

Deep League Special

Robert Williams, Celtics (14 percent rostered)
As mentioned at the top of this article, this is not a particularly deep week for the waiver wire. When the waiver wire is shallow, my deep league strategy is usually to pickup a specialist, preferably a blocks or assists specialist (if J.J. Barea is still available, he's a perfect example of what I look for in an assists specialist). Williams has averaged 2.7 blocks per game over his last seven outings, and most of the Celtics' other big men have been in and out of the lineup dealing with injuries. Williams doesn't do much besides block shots, but he's one of the best in the league in that category. In a sparse week, you could do a lot worse.

Other suggestions:D.J. Wilson, Bucks (1 percent rostered); Greg Monroe, Raptors (5 percent rostered); OG Anunoby, Raptors (6 percent rostered); Bryn Forbes, Spurs (22 percent rostered)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.
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