By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The waiver wire is deep this week, but there are few true standouts. If you miss out on one of the top three prizes — all of whom should be added in all leagues, regardless of settings — then take your pick of a loaded pool of “other recommendations.”
Once those top three players are off the board, pick the players that work best for your situation. Weekly league? Try to maximize games played. Need threes? Have a look at Duncan Robinson or Landry Shamet. Willing to trade short-term value for long-term upside? Try Nerlens Noel or Troy Brown. Have a strict acquisition limit? Add a Rocket or a Trail Blazer on Tuesday morning to take advantage of their three games in four nights, including games on Tuesday and Thursday, the slowest days in Week 16.
There are a ton of reasonable pickups available, all of whom have similar overall value.
Schedule-wise, it’s an average week. Half the league plays four games, 14 teams play three times, and the Bulls play twice. That hurts the Bulls in weekly leagues, but since the Bulls games are Thursday and Sunday they will actually be a savvy mid-week pickup in a lot of daily settings. None of the days are overloaded, but Tuesday and Thursday are quiet, with just four and five games, respectively. The Trail Blazers, Spurs, Bucks, Rockets, Pelicans and Lakers play on both slow days.
The players below are listed in the order I’d recommend adding them.
As always, this article will focus on players available in at least 50 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Trevor Ariza, Portland Trail Blazers (37 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at Den, SA, at Uta, Mia
For the third week running, Ariza is the top add. If he’s still out there in your league, what are you waiting for? He’s only been with Portland for three games, but he’s putting up top-50 production: 16.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 threes, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 59% FG shooting in 35.3 minutes per game. He’s been a top-100 player for most of the decade, and he just got traded to a situation where he’s going to see a boatload of minutes. This is a no-brainer.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (9 percent)
Next week’s schedule: at Ind, Mem, at Was, at Cha
Luka Doncic (ankle) is expected to miss at least the next two weeks, and possibly more, after reinjuring his ankle last week. Doncic missed four games in December, and Brunson saw his workload effectively double: Bunson averages 15.5 minutes when Doncic is active, compared to 30.5 when Doncic is out.
During that four-game stretch without Doncic, Brunson averaged 13.8 points, 9.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 threes with limited turnovers and solid shooting. Delon Wright (46%) will probably also benefit from Doncic’s absence, but Wright’s ceiling is lower and he has a bigger role when Doncic is healthy, meaning that there is less room for improvement with Doncic out. Brunson is an all-leagues must-start as long as Doncic is out.
Jerami Grant, Denver Nuggets (56%)
Next week’s schedule: Por, at Uta, at Pho
Technically he’s rostered in too many leagues to qualify for this article, but it’s close and his roster rate is still way too low. Grant is averaging 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 threes, 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks in 32.5 minutes since Paul Millsap (knee) went down. He’s an all-leagues must-start until Millsap returns.
De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (21%)
Next week’s schedule: Bos, at Min, at Bos, NYK
It’s time to admit that Hunter is a real fantasy factor. He’s still inconsistent, but the rookie is getting steadier with time. He surged early in the season, when half the Hawks wings and guards were out, and then faded once the team got healthy. During that successful window, Hunter’s usage rate rose to 20% over a 17-game sample, helping increase his averages to 15.1 points, 2.2 assists, and 2.0 threes. In the 12 games following that run, Hunter’s usage rate fell to 16% and his fantasy value plummeted.
But over the last nine games, things are surging again — and this time without the rest of his team getting hurt. Over his last nine, his usage rate is back up to 19% and he’s putting up 14.0 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.4 threes. His workload has been stable all season, starting and averaging more than 30 minutes per game. If Hunter has turned a corner, he could be one of the better second-half breakouts.
Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons (39%)
Next week’s schedule: at Mem, Pho, at OKC, NYK
Jackson returned from injury last week, and he’s been on fire in his first four games back. Despite playing just 23.3 minutes, he’s averaging 18.8 points, 4.3 assists and 2.8 threes per game. I’m still highly skeptical of Jackson’s long-term value – I think he’ll slow down and become a borderline 12-team-leagues guy — but he’s an all-leagues guy as long as this hot streak lasts.
Other recommendations: Christian Wood, Pistons (37 percent rostered); Shabazz Napier, Timberwolves (32 percent rostered); Taurean Prince, Nets (50 percent rostered); Daniel Theis, Celtics (46 percent rostered); Nerlens Noel, Thunder (47 percent rostered); Duncan Robinson, Heat (41 percent rostered); Jordan Clarkson, Jazz (29 percent rostered); Troy Brown Jr., Wizards (28 percent rostered); Landry Shamet, Clippers (17 percent rostered); Cam Reddish, Hawks (22 percent rostered); Darius Garland, Cavaliers (29 percent rostered); Delon Wright, Mavericks (46 percent rostered); Mikal Bridges, Suns (49 percent rostered); Glenn Robinson III, Warriors (32 percent rostered); Shake Milton, 76ers (2 percent rostered).