Welcome back, everyone. I'm glad to have you here, but there's some bad news. There's no sugar-coating it, folks: this week's waiver wire is rough. There is one very good pickup atop the list, but it falls off fast after that. Nonetheless, we must stay vigilant.
We should never let an uninspiring pool of candidates lead us to complacency. The rising replacement candidates may not be as good as we want, but that doesn't mean we should hold onto slumping or injured fringe guys. The players below can still improve your teams.
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
Dennis Smith Jr., Hornets (49% rostered)
LaMelo Ball (ankle) is done for the year. That should lock in Smith's floor. He's likely to see at least 28-ish minutes per game the rest of the way. In a down week for waivers, that's enough to clinch the top spot in this column. When Smith plays at least 28 minutes this season, he's averaging 12-4-7 with 2.0 steals. That may overstate his rest-of-season production, but it emphasizes that he can be an excellent source of assists and steals.
Malaki Branham, Spurs (50% rostered)
It's a down week for waivers, and I've mentioned Branham in much deeper weeks, so of course, he's near top billing here. Branham left Tuesday's game early with a hip injury, though he was back in action Thursday. However, whether due to the hip or to the return of Devin Vassell (knee), Branham had another "meh" game. Vassell's return probably cuts into Branham's minutes going forward, but Branham showed enough over the 10 games before the hip injury that I'm still interested. Over that stretch, he put up 18-4-3 with 2.2 3s in 32.7 minutes. As long as he can stay above 25 minutes per game, that production still prorates to a viable Fantasy asset.
Kyle Anderson, Timberwolves (57% rostered)
Again, down week for waivers and a player I've already recommended a few times. As I summarized here last week, the Slow-Mo decision tree is very straightforward: Is Karl-Anthony Towns playing? Do you need points? If "no" to both, Anderson is a must-start.
Matisse Thybulle, Trail Blazers (20% rostered)
After the trade deadline, I recommended Cam Reddish (25% rostered) and Shaedon Sharpe (25% rostered) as potential pickups using the rock-solid argument of "someone has to start at small forward." Well, that brilliant insight still holds, but apparently, I was prioritizing the wrong players. Two starting spots were available as Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons were sidelined. Thybulle and Reddish filled those. But in Portland's first post-deadline game with both Grant and Simons active Wednesday, Thybulle remained in the starting lineup while Reddish moved to the bench. Thybulle is averaging 30.3 minutes per game since landing in Portland, more than enough to make a Fantasy impact. He's offensively unreliable but one of the best Fantasy defenders in the league, putting up 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks for his new team. If you're punting points, Thybulle is a high-priority must-add. He's much less valuable otherwise, but that defensive production is still worthwhile for most rosters.
Marvin Bagley, Pistons (53% rostered)
The Pistons have too many centers. That hurts Bagley, but unlike most of his depth chart competitors, he can at least pretend to play power forward with some level of conviction. That opens up extra minutes for the former No. 2 overall pick, who came back from injury last week with two exceptional performances. While I doubt he'll put up back-to-back 21-point double-doubles again, those outings emphasize Bagley's ceiling. Another important caveat – those games came while Jalen Duren (ankle) was out. There's a high probability that Bagley lands back on waivers in a week or two, but his potential ceiling is much higher than almost anyone else available. Especially while the opportunity cost is low, that's worth a flier.
Tari Eason, Rockets (46% rostered)
It's a down week, and Eason has been playing well lately, so I want to put him back on our radars. The Rockets don't really have any veterans to bench with fake injuries, but the NBA's silly season could still lead to some rotation changes aimed at future development. Eason is a promising rookie who looks like a solid future building block, so finding extra court time for him makes sense as a priority (not that the Rockets always do things that "make sense"). He's averaged 12-9-2 with 2.0 steals in 26.8 minutes over his last four games. He'll probably warrant a roster spot if his minutes stay at that level.
Isaiah Joe, Thunder (16% rostered)
Are the Thunder transitioning into a tank? While the NBA's bottom four are untouchable atop the tankathon standings, the "race" for the 5th spot is wide open, and so far, no team has made an effort to claim it. As of last week, every team outside of those bottom four was trying to win games and had at least a puncher's chance at the play-in. There is meaningful incentive to tank for the fifth spot if any team chooses that route. The fifth-worst team has a 21% chance at a top-two pick, a 44% chance at the top five, and cannot fall outside the top nine. However, a team that tries to remain in the play-in race and misses quickly sees those chances fall. For example, the eighth-worst team has only a 12% chance at a top-2 pick and a 26% chance at the top four (they cannot land at five).
To be clear, the Thunder might not be tanking. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is in the covid protocols because he has covid. They're not faking that. That said, before being placed in the protocols, he had two suspicious absences due to "ankle soreness" and a "hip strain". He missed some games with hip issues early in the season, and ankle injuries are common enough, so it's possible that Gilgeous-Alexander was legitimately hurt. We can't know. But given the Thunder's recent history of aggressive tanking, their five-game losing streak, and these potentially-dodgy injuries, it's fair to have our eyebrows raised. If they do lean into a tank, Gilgeous-Alexander would quickly get shut down, Josh Giddey would likely follow, and Joe would be a major beneficiary.
Other recommendations: Malik Monk, Kings (47% rostered); Kevin Love, Heat (62% rostered); Malik Beasley, Lakers (60% rostered); Cam Reddish, Trail Blazers (25% rostered); Kris Dunn, Jazz (11% rostered); Donte DiVincenzo, Warriors (56% rostered); Jarred Vanderbilt, Lakers (63% rostered); Kevon Looney, Warriors (54% rostered)
Austin Reaves, Lakers (12% rostered)
Reaves probably isn't going to win anyone a Fantasy championship, but he can be a solid depth piece on a top-heavy roster. He's averaging 24.5 minutes since the trade deadline, playing at least 25 minutes in six of eight games. Reaves is not the biggest beneficiary when LeBron James (foot) misses games, but he does see a meaningful uptick in minutes. With James probably sidelined for the rest of the month (he won't even be reevaluated until roughly March 24), Reaves' workload should stay somewhat elevated. He's averaging 13-2-3 with 1.6 3s and excellent shooting splits over those last eight games.
Week 21 is relatively light, with only 13 teams playing four times while five play twice. It's also one of the most balanced schedules of the season – every day has between six and 10 games.
A light and balanced schedule can create many opportunities, especially in daily lineup leagues, to use the schedule to your advantage since your opponents are likely starting with fewer games on their docket.
Weekly lineups leagues
Weekly managers should target four-game weeks, as the advantage they provide is proportionally larger than during a typical week.
Among teams with four games, the Pistons are the only team to play at home all week. The Heat and Pelicans each have three consecutive home games. Everyone else plays at least two on the road.
The Lakers and Magic jump out with the most desirable schedules among teams with three-game weeks. Both stay home all week and avoid back-to-backs.
Daily lineups leagues
Daily managers should start by checking out their Saturday lineup. Saturday is the busiest day of the week, with eight games. While most managers will have some flexibility in their starting lineups Saturday, some may already have a full rotation, so they should avoid picking up players with games that day.
The 76ers and Pistons are the only teams to start the week with a back-to-back, and the Pistons are the only ones to start with a 3-in-4.
Four teams -- the Knicks, Thunder, Hornets, and Pelicans -- end the week on a back-to-back. For both the Knicks and the Hornets, that concludes a 3-in-4 and a 4-in-6 (i.e., both play Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday).
With multiple week-ending back-to-backs available, some managers can get the most out of their acquisitions by targeting a Tuesday-Friday 3-in-4 (Nets, Wizards) and swapping that player out before games start on Saturday. This strategy can work even better by using a Week 20 acquisition on a Celtic, Pacer, or Trail Blazer, as those teams have a Sunday-Monday back-to-back.