Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 20
A little over a week remains until the fantasy basketball playoffs start. Woo-hoo! Congrats to those already in, but don’t get complacent. Start planning ahead by looking at the schedules and matchups. I’ve put together a little cheat sheet to help you. If you’re on the outside looking in, it’s time to get down and dirty and do what needs to be done.
Send the scouts out to perform due diligence on your opponent. How many games do they play? Where do their weaknesses and strengths lie? As Sun Tzu said, attack where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected. If your opponent dominates in blocks, punt the category and reinforce areas where it’s even or you have an advantage. The goal is to win one more category than your opponent. That’s it.
I utilized the Yahoo database to highlight players who are owned in fewer than 50% of leagues.
Tyler Johnson (PG/SG – PHO) – 38% owned
The first four games Johnson played for Phoenix were … atrocious. That still may be too kind of a word. He shot 7-for-34 from the field (20.6%) and failed to score double-digits in any game. The last two games, though? He’s played 35 and 32 minutes and shot 10-for-16 and 6-for-12 from the field, respectively. He’s been a top-20 player, contributing 17.3 points, 2.3 three-pointers, 4.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 block. Johnson has also shot 48% from the field and 84% from the line on 4.3 attempts while only turning the ball over 0.7 times per game. He’s starting, getting plenty of playing time, and contributes across the board. What more do you want?
Maurice Harkless (SF – POR) – 9% owned
For full disclosure, I always have a soft spot in my heart for Harkless because I’d always draft him in NBA 2K. As a result, I always track and root for him, but it’s been a painful endeavor for most of this season. He missed 20 games due to injury and has struggled when healthy. However, things have turned around lately. “I’ve been feeling a lot better out there, feeling a lot more healthy,” Harkless told Blazers beat reporter Casey Holdahl. “It’s been a process, it’s been a tough year so far, but I think I’m feeling the best I’ve felt so far this year. Just feel more comfortable doing a lot of things I was able to do last year.” Over the past four games, Harkless has been a top-40 player, averaging 28.5 minutes, 13 points, 0.8 three-pointers. 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 steals, and 0.5 blocks. He has shot 56% from the field and 75% from the line, albeit on only one attempt per game. He also takes care of the ball with only one turnover per contest.
Cody Zeller (PF/C – CHA) – 42% owned
It’s crazy that Zeller is not owned in more than 50% of leagues. He’s been a top-40 player over the past five games, averaging 31.6 minutes, 15.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks. Add in 58% shooting from the field and 85% from the line on 5.6 attempts. There’s no competition on the depth chart, and Kemba Walker and the Hornets play better with him. With Zeller on the court, the Hornets have tallied 5.2 more points per 100 possessions on offense and 1.2 fewer points allowed per 100 possessions on defense. I’m angry that he’s only owned in 42% of leagues.
Joakim Noah (PF/C – MEM) – 33% owned
Yes, it’s 2019 and we are talking about Joakim Noah. Crazy. Jaren Jackson Jr. is out with no timetable to return and Ivan Rabb has been banged up as well. That’s given minutes and opportunity for Noah to … flourish? A top-50 player over the past four games, he has averaged 16.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.8 blocks. He’s shooting 58% from the field and 80% from the line on a whopping 7.5 attempts. He’s doing all of that in 24.4 minutes per game! The Grizzlies like to play slow and big, so Noah is going to continue getting playing time.
Patrick Beverley (PG/SG – LAC) – 39% owned
Beverley is a low-usage player (12.4% rate) and the shooting efficiency isn’t great (41% from the field), but he’s been a top-60 player over the past four games due to his contributions across the board. He has registered 1.8 three-pointers, 8.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per bout. Plus he’s starting and playing 33.1 minutes per game.
Dwight Powell (PF/C – DAL) – 32% owned
Having started the past two games and played 37 minutes in each contest, Powell has produced 36 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, four steals, and two blocks. He even made all three of his three-point attempts. It looks like Powell has overtaken Salah Mejri on the depth chart as the Mavericks’ starting center.
Robin Lopez (C – CHI) – 33% owned
What a time to be alive, as we are talking about Noah and Robin Lopez in the same piece. Half the battle for fantasy basketball is playing time. Well, Lopez has played 40, 33, 27, 31, 31, and 32 minutes in the past six games. He’s actually started the last 13 games, producing as a top-75 player in the process. The rebounds are light for a big man, but he has scored, provided excellent percentages, and averaged 1.8 blocks per game over this stretch.
Wesley Matthews (SG/SF – IND) – 34% owned
Need a 3-and-D player? Since arriving in Indiana six games ago, Matthews has averaged 31.9 minutes, 14.7 points, 0.8 steals, and 43% shooting from downtown on 7.3 attempts. My desktop abacus says that equates to 3.2 makes per game. For perspective, there are five players tied for sixth with 8.0 three-point attempts per game, and Walker is fifth with 3.3 three-point makes per game.
Jalen Brunson (PG – DAL) – 3% owned
Dallas’ second-round pick has been a welcome surprise for the squad. Brunson has started nine of the last 11 games and averaged 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 0.6 steals while shooting 45% from the field and 42% from downtown. Rick Carlisle deployed an interesting starting lineup on Wednesday night: Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Brunson, who replaced Dorian Finney-Smith. If Carlisle keeps running that lineup out there, that’s an obvious boon for Brunson. Regardless, he has still been receiving over 20 minutes per game off the bench recently.
Reggie Bullock (SG/SF – LAL) – 17% owned
Another 3-and-D player, Bullock has averaged 33.6 minutes, 11.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks in six games with the Lakers. He’s shooting 46% from the field and 45% from downtown on 5.5 attempts. The Lakers play at a fast pace and possess a porous defense, so there should be an elevated number of possessions as long as they are within striking distance of the playoffs and LeBron James stays engaged.