Welcome back. It’s that time of year again – replacements for injured stars dominate the pickup list this week.
With so many high impact players, each with different timelines and growth potential, I want to highlight what I say briefly every week: The players below are listed in the order I would recommend without knowing anything about your list. But everyone needs different things, and more information will drastically change who I would recommend to you. Here are a few examples: Managers looking for a solid long-term option should prioritize Cameron Johnson or Dennis Smith Jr., while teams looking to prioritize short-term production should focus on T.J. McConnell, Kyle Anderson, or Naji Marshall. Teams that can afford to be patient while waiting for a potentially dominant player should focus on Jonathan Isaac or T.J. Warren. Andrew Nembhard is one of the top names this week, but if you don’t need assists, you should avoid him.
As always, the players in this article must be registered in less than two-thirds of the CBS leagues.
Adds for all leagues
T.J. McConnell (63% roster) and Andrew Nembhard (48%), Pacers
Tyreese Haliburton (knee, elbow) is still a week away from his next “reassessment” and will probably miss at least a little more time after that. In the four games he was sidelined, McConnell shone and Nembhard saw a jump in the value of his fantasy. McConnell is 16-5-8 with massive 2.3 steals and wildly effective shots. In most categories, Nembhard’s performance is in line with what he averaged as a rookie with an active Halliburton, but with one huge exception. Without Halliburton, Nembhard’s assists doubled to 7.0 per game. McConnell is the prize here, and Nembhard is a solid consolation.
Dennis Smith Jr., Hornets (30% of members)
LaMelo Ball (ankle) left Wednesday’s game early with an ankle injury. We don’t have any useful updates on his status yet, but it’s safe to assume it will be an extended absence. Ball has already missed 24 games this season with an ankle injury, and the Hornets are on full alert. The last time Ball was injured, Smith replaced him in the starting lineup until he got injured. In that period as a starter, Smith averaged 11-4-7 with 2.1 steals in 33.3 minutes.
I’m giving Smith this high rating on the assumption that Ball will miss at least roughly three weeks, but that assumption is completely arbitrary and based on zero (0; null; none) information. If we know that Ball will only be out for two weeks or less, I would put DSJ below Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Isaac. On the other hand, if we find out that Ball is out for two months or more, I would put DSJ ahead of a pair of Pacers.
Kyle Anderson, Timberwolves (with 57%)
Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) is still out of competition and Anderson is still showing solid results. At least until Towns returns, Anderson should play in all leagues. If you’re desperate for points, you can skip him, but that only describes a small handful of teams in each league. Most lineups will benefit from a guy who is two assists away from triple-doubles in a row.
Jonathan Isaac, Magic (36% of participants)
Last week I delved into Isaac. The short version: there is a lot of risk, but the potential for growth is so high that it should be a priority everywhere. He is currently playing in the G League, which I think is a great sign that his body is ready for professional basketball. I have no idea when he will move to the NBA and how long he will play there. But I think it’s worth finding out.
Side note: On the “actions speak louder than words” front, I picked up Isaac in two of my eight leagues and now he’s registered by someone in all eight.
Cameron Johnson, Suns (66% of members)
He is back! Finally! It took longer than expected, but Johnson returned to work on Thursday and wasted no time getting to work helping Fantasy’s managers. He only played 22 minutes but still managed to go 19-6-2 with two trebles, two blocks and an interception. Johnson was a great source of triples last year, providing a balanced level of production without hurting everyone else. He may face the minute limit in a few more games, but his minutes and offensive workload are expected to increase this season. He will likely be a constant source of top 100 (or better) production for the rest of the journey.
TJ Warren, Nets (50% of participants)
Another guy you’ve already heard of me tambourine. I’m sorry. But it must be in the registry. Warren still has a limited number of minutes, which is the main reason why he still has bad games (like Thursday). But he’s also scored 18-plus in four of his last 10 games while maintaining a 52.5% FG over the season. He’s not good enough for the standard leagues right now, but he’s getting close to that and I think he’ll continue to improve as the minutes go up.
Jericho Sims (2% of participants) and Isaiah Hartenstein (17% of participants), Knicks
Mitchell Robinson (thumb) is out for at least three weeks after surgery on Thursday. Before the injury, he was averaging 10.4 rebounds in 30.2 minutes over the past two months. His minutes and rebounds are likely to be consumed by Sims and Hartenstein moving forward. Hartenstein was Robinson’s main understudy and has the same fantasy acting as Robinson. Robinson is better at blocking shots, but Hartenstein is not a freeloader in this regard, and he is a little better at stealing. If Hartenstein becomes a starter and plays approximately 28 minutes per game, he could be started in all leagues.
However, the problem is that Sims can overtake Hartenstein in the starting lineup. With Robinson leaving Wednesday’s game early, Sims’ workload increased, with Hartenstein again only playing 13 minutes. Sims, a former second-rounder from Texas, has barely played this season. However, his stats per minute are solid (10-12-1 and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes) and he is a great athlete. This season, he has played at least 22 minutes five times, averaging 8-9-1 and 1.6 blocks. Robinson has already missed eight games this season, and Sims has started two of them.
The most likely scenario is that both Knicks centers become solid pickups in the big leagues but remain marginalized in the standard leagues until Robinson returns. However, if you have a spot on the list, it’s worth picking your favorite from the pair if they’re vying for the dominant role.
Terence Mann, Clippers (23% of participants)
Despite Wednesday night’s setback, Mann still deserves attention, especially in deeper formats. He was recently promoted to the Clippers’ starting lineup, sending a healthy Reggie Jackson to the bench. The problem is that Mann lacks an outstanding fantasy skill, although he is unusually effective on the field for the point guard. He averages 12-5-3 with 1.23 seconds as a starter and his assist rate is gradually improving.
Other recommendations: Naji Marshall, Pelicans (64% of participants); Norman Powell, Clippers (56% of participants); Seth Curry, Nets (24% of participants); Bruce Brown, Nuggets (52%); Gabe Vincent, Heath (21% of participants); Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (57%); Venien Gabriel, Lakers (9% roster) Naz Reed, Timberwolves (30%); Brandon Clark, Grizzlies (40% of members)
Deep League Special Edition
Venien Gabriel, Lakers (9% roster)
Gabriel can now be added to standard leagues, but he’s so widely available that I wanted to give him some extra attention for deep league players. His minutes have increased in the last four games, while Thomas Bryant’s has decreased. Gabriel is 13-6-1 on average with 2.8 shares over that period. The possible return of Anthony Davis (leg) will likely hurt Gabriel, but we don’t know when that could happen – Lakers injury reports are unreliable. However, the latest news about Davis implies that he will be out for at least another two weeks.
The Week 15 schedule is what I imagine when I talk about a “normal” week in the NBA. Three teams play twice, 14 play three games and 13 play four. The busiest days of the week have 10 and 11 games, while the lightest days have four and five games.
The Warriors, Thunder and 76ers have only two games.
The Bucks are the only team to have a four-game week with no back-to-back games (Grizzlies also play MWF-Su, but their Monday game is the second Sunday-Monday night in a row). The Rockets, Pelicans, and Magic all have a four-game week with three home games.
Daily Squad Managers
The first thing you need to do is see how full your squad is on Wednesday (10 games) and Saturday (11 games). Most managers will have some flexibility on one or both days, but some will already have a full starting lineup. Remember: if your squad is already full on that day, then getting a waiver on that day actually has one game less for the week. Here is a good one visualizer which teams play on which days.
If you want to use an acquisition at the end of Week 14 to help out in Week 15, the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers have one Sunday-Monday after the other. For the Grizzlies, this leads into week 15 of four games.
Some teams start the week with three games over four nights (3-for-4), but the 3-for-4 Rockets stand out – all three games are at home and two are against relatively favorable opponents.
The Cavaliers and Clippers end the week 3-for-4. The Cavaliers’ 3-on-4 play is more valuable as they avoid the Saturday big roster and play on the three quietest days of the week – Thursday (6), Friday (5), and Sunday (4).
The 76ers have the worst schedule for daily lineup managers as they only play two games and both in…