NBA Waiver Wire: Week 17 Adds

NBA Waiver Wire: Week 17 Adds

This article is part of our NBA Waiver Wire series.

Whew. Remember when Derrick Rose's ankle injury was a top-three story in the NBA? Because, while that may feel like a remnant from years gone by, it was actually just last week. That's right, just one week ago Josh "I only average 8.8 points as a starter" Okogie was the third blurb in this article. Life moves pretty fast.

So, to recap the week so crazy that the NBA overshadowed the Super Bowl: Anthony Davis requested a trade and said he wouldn't resign with the Pelicans, the Knicks Knick'd all over themselves trading away Kristaps Porzingis, and LeBron James (groin) returned to action for the first time since Christmas. LeBron James is the third story! Last week's third story was Josh Okogie!

Alright, let's breakdown what it all means, but first, some schedule analysis:

It's another relatively light week, but this time that's because almost everyone plays three games. One team, the Jazz, plays twice. Twenty teams have three games. Nine teams play four times: Hawks, Pacers, Bucks, Pelicans, Magic, Suns, Kings, Spurs, Wizards.

There is, of course, a lot of advantage in playing someone with four games during a slow week, but the week is light enough that there is not much harm in playing a member of the Jazz.

By the daily schedule, the NBA is totally flat – every day has between five and nine games. That means two things: First, no waiver pickup should suffer by losing a game because you couldn't fit

Whew. Remember when Derrick Rose's ankle injury was a top-three story in the NBA? Because, while that may feel like a remnant from years gone by, it was actually just last week. That's right, just one week ago Josh "I only average 8.8 points as a starter" Okogie was the third blurb in this article. Life moves pretty fast.

So, to recap the week so crazy that the NBA overshadowed the Super Bowl: Anthony Davis requested a trade and said he wouldn't resign with the Pelicans, the Knicks Knick'd all over themselves trading away Kristaps Porzingis, and LeBron James (groin) returned to action for the first time since Christmas. LeBron James is the third story! Last week's third story was Josh Okogie!

Alright, let's breakdown what it all means, but first, some schedule analysis:

It's another relatively light week, but this time that's because almost everyone plays three games. One team, the Jazz, plays twice. Twenty teams have three games. Nine teams play four times: Hawks, Pacers, Bucks, Pelicans, Magic, Suns, Kings, Spurs, Wizards.

There is, of course, a lot of advantage in playing someone with four games during a slow week, but the week is light enough that there is not much harm in playing a member of the Jazz.

By the daily schedule, the NBA is totally flat – every day has between five and nine games. That means two things: First, no waiver pickup should suffer by losing a game because you couldn't fit them into your starting lineup. Second, teams will probably have space for a streamer every day, so if you're in a league where that is possible, using a spot for seven games of daily pickups is probably more valuable than any one waiver prospect.

Recommended Pickups

Kristaps Porzingis (49 percent rostered), Dwight Powell (24 percent rostered), and Maxi Kleber, Mavericks (7 percent rostered)
Next week's schedule: Cha, Mil, Por

There are tons of ramifications from Thursday's Porzingis-to-the-Mavericks trade, but the Mavericks' frontcourt is the most important for fantasy. A normal ACL recovery timetable would have Porzingis returning to action some time over the next month, but the few indications we'd received from his camp before this week have implied that he's heading for a longer-than-usual absence. Then the New York Daily News' Stefon Bondy casually slipped this bombshell into the twelfth paragraph of his trade review article, effectively undermining the last six months' worth of conventional wisdom without even a headline.

We're working with limited knowledge, but it still strikes me as unlikely that Porzingis returns to action before March. That means that Porzingis should be added wherever he's available, especially if you have an open IR spot, but that we'll probably get at least a month's worth of increased workloads for Powell and Kleber (and maybe longer).

Until Porzingis is active, the Mavericks effectively traded away DeAndre Jordan and received no frontcourt player in return. Jordan has averaged 31.1 minutes, 11.0 points and 13.7 rebounds. Those minutes, points and rebounds have to go somewhere, and Powell, Kleber and Salah Mejri are pretty much the only three players who could possibly pick them up. Mejri started Thursday's game – the first of the post-Jordan era – but accomplished little and played only 19 minutes. So far this season, Mejri has had the smallest role of the three by far. Powell was averaging 16.3 minutes, 8.4 points and 4.1 rebounds before the trade, and he's likely to see that workload increase.

Kleber is a riskier pickup, but he's the one I'm most excited about. He also started Thursday, playing 29 minutes. Of the three, he's had the biggest role in the rotation so far this season, averaging 19.0 minutes and seeing nine starts. The problem with Kleber is that many fantasy teams can't handle the downside of rostering a player who averages less than 10 points per game. In his nine starts, Kleber has averaged only 7.3. If you can handle that hit, however, Kleber's defensive production is hard to replace, averaging 1.9 blocks and 0.9 steals in those starts. 1.9 blocks per game would be good for eighth in the league this season.

Allonzo Trier (18 percent rostered) and Dennis Smith, Jr., Knicks (76 percent rostered)
Next week's schedule: Det, at Det, Tor

Smith is too widely rostered to qualify for this article, but I'm including him so that I can point out that I'd rather add Trier than Smith. Why? Because, say it with me now: "Dennis Smith Jr. isn't good." That wasn't loud enough, I know you can be louder than that. One more time, say it with me now: "Dennis Smith Jr. isn't good". Better, but still needs work. You should practice that while DSJ practices not turning the ball over.

The case for adding a Knicks guard: Tim Hardaway Jr. was averaging 32.6 minutes, 19.1 points, 2.7 assists and 15.8 field goal attempts. Trey Burke's role has been in constant flux, but he averaged 28.3 minutes, 16.5 points, 3.3 assists and 15.0 field goal attempts over his last four games, all of which Hardaway was active for. That's a boatload of minutes, points, assists and shots that will have to be replaced – and it's pretty safe to say that DeAndre Jordan's arrival isn't really going to impact that backcourt production. There is room for at least one Knicks guard to emerge as a season-defining pickup here. So I will continue to proselytize for Trier.

The case for Trier over Smith: Despite playing 29.7 minutes per game as a rookie, Smith was unable to crack fantasy's top-200, pulled down by his terrible shooting, high turnover rate, and decidedly "meh" production in every other non-assists category. In 28.4 minutes per game as a sophomore, he still hasn't cracked the top-200, and while his shooting and steals have improved (though not by much), his assists have decreased and his turnovers have increased. Looking at his monthly splits over his first season and a half, it's effectively a flat line. He is neither better nor worse than he was 18 months ago. Best case scenario, this trade results in him picking up an extra five-to-seven minutes per game, and his shooting and turnovers don't get worse while he takes on a larger role in the offense. That barely gets him into the top-150. Yuck. As least Trier has upside.

Monte Morris, Nuggets (21 percent rostered)
Next week's schedule: at Det, at Bkn, at Phi

This article is already a billion words long, and we still haven't touched on Anthony Davis or the Lakers, so I'll be brief here. Morris is a legitimately good player, and the Nuggets keep using him more and more. You want someone who has second-half breakout potential? How about a 2017 second-round pick who played only three games in 2017-18, yet has already risen to the level where a top-four team in the West is using him to close out tight games. If you're in a deeper league, Malik Beasley (26 percent rostered) also has breakout appeal.

Tyreke Evans, Pacers (45 percent rostered)
Next week's schedule: at NO, LAL, LAC, Cle

Last week's top-add, Evans' roster rate has dropped because he missed the last four games. But he's still the most attractive Pacer pickup after Victor Oladipo's (quad) season-ending injury. Take advantage of your league-mates' impatience.

[Insert available Pelicans/Lakers here]
So, this article has to acknowledge both the Anthony Davis trade request and LeBron James returning to the court – those stories are both too important to ignore – but the reality is that the players most affected here are already rostered in more than 50 percent of leagues, and biggest fantasy change following James' return is a cascade of Josh Hart drops.

There is a very real chance that Davis has played his last game for the Pelicans, in which case Jahlil Okafor (69 percent rostered) might make a case for the most important pickup of the season. Darius Miller (5 percent rostered) is the last player listed in the others recommendations section – he has some short-term appeal, but that's likely to dry up as soon as one of Julius Randle (ankle) or Nikola Mirotic (calf) returns. If the Pelicans trade away Jrue Holiday, then Frank Jackson (1 percent rostered) could emerge as an important pickup, depending on the return package.

The Lakers want to make a Davis trade now, and if they do, then Josh Hart's (37 percent rostered) value probably skyrockets, regardless of which team he ends up on. The other potential waiver implication of a Davis-to-the-Lakers trade is that any deal would decimate the Lakers depth chart. If Sviatoslav "Svi" Mykhailiuk (0 percent rostered) survives the purge, he'd become a hot pickup. Ditto for Lance Stephenson (7 percent rostered).

Nerlens Noel, Thunder (10 percent rostered)
Next week's schedule: Orl, Mem, at Hou

Noel is an auto-start in all leagues – yes, even six-team leagues, if those even exist – any time Steven Adams (ankle) misses a game. Adams missed Tuesday's game, but due to the NBA's frustratingly lax rules on injury reporting, we don't yet know if Adams will return Friday or miss the next month. Given that Adams is a super-human sea-creature whose species does not even have words to describe such mortal concepts as "pain", my guess is Adams will return soon, relegating Noel to very-deep-league-only relevance. But if Adams does miss a few games, Noel is gold.

Other recommendations: Mikal Bridges, Suns (25 percent rostered); Patrick Beverley, Clippers (42 percent rostered); Ivica Zubac, Lakers (40 percent rostered); Shabazz Napier, Nets (35 percent rostered); Bobby Portis, Bulls (46 percent rostered); Wayne Ellington, Heat (9 percent rostered); Marco Belinelli, Spurs (22 percent rostered); Jeff Green, Wizards (32 percent rostered); Darius Miller, Pelicans (5 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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