Happy New Year, everyone. Welcome back.
Things are weird on the waiver wire. The top performers right now are not the top recommended pickups. "Other recommendations" like Rui Hachimura, Victor Oladipo, and Alec Burks have all out produced several of the players highlighted with blurbs below. Yet, while their recent production is objectively superior, I have less interest and/or trust in those three (and others like them) going forward than upside prospects like the various Williamses.
That contradiction feels strange, but that's a "me" problem. As far as you, the reader, are concerned, what matters is whether or not that contradiction can yield any practical advice. Good news: it does. The abundance of players putting up good numbers in the other recommendations section emphasizes that this is a good time to be streaming if your league permits it. To assist towards that aim, the schedule notes section at the bottom highlights some teams whose schedules are desirable for streaming managers (this is a recurring feature, but it is extra relevant due to this week's schedule and available players).
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
Onyeka Okongwu, Hawks (65% rostered)
Theoretically, Clint Capela (calf) will return to play at some point. The Hawks are doing that super fun thing where they don't provide any timeline -- just keep listing a player as out one game at a time. He'll miss his sixth in a row Friday, and his ninth out of their last 10, all with the same injury. Okongwu is averaging 13-10-1 with 2.4 blocks in the eight games since John Collins returned from his injury (Capela was out for seven of those). Even if Capela returns soon, it's probably worth holding Okongwu through the trade deadline in case either Capela or Collins get moved.
Cameron Johnson, Suns (61% rostered)
What good is having a schtick if I don't stick to it? Seriously, though, Johnson is an excellent pickup if he ever starts playing again, and he's overdue to return to the court. He traveled with the Suns on their recent road trip, implying that even they are surprised that he's still sidelined. I'm sure you're getting tired of me saying it, but Johnson is a well-rounded Fantasy producer who excels from behind the arc, and Devin Booker's groin injury probably means Johnson will see extra usage until Booker returns (at least three weeks away).
Mark Williams, Hornets (19% rostered)
Williams' last three games have been meaningfully worse than the three prior, and his roster rate is already dropping. But I'm still very much "in." His per-36 stats are excellent, and they are exactly what I hoped for when assessing Williams as a prospect (expectations matter because we're still dealing with a tiny sample size). He profiles as an elite Fantasy defender, capable of multiple steals and blocks per game. All he needs is to earn enough minutes. Moving into the backup center role is a key first step. Hopefully, the coaching staff will soon start giving Williams some of starter Mason Plumlee's minutes.
Jalen Williams, Thunder (52% rostered)
Williams is now a regular starter for the Thunder and quietly putting up solid and reliable numbers. He's averaging 13-4-3 in 30.2 minutes when he starts, which he's now done 21 times, including each of the last 12. The rookie guard is a slight drain in free throw percentage, but otherwise, he's helping in every category. While Williams is good, he's not good enough to be a late-season shut-down risk when Oklahoma City starts getting hit with its annual tank-inspired "injuries." Williams will likely be a rest-of-season pickup, and his workload and usage should improve with time.
Other recommendations: Rui Hachimura, Wizards (46% rostered); Quentin Grimes, Knicks (55% rostered); Daniel Gafford, Wizards (25% rostered); Alec Burks, Pistons (27% rostered); Landry Shamet, Suns (34% rostered); Marcus Morris, Clippers (59% rostered); Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (54% rostered); Herbert Jones, Pelicans (51% rostered); Naji Marshall, Pelicans (20% rostered); Victor Oladipo, Heat (37% rostered); Jeremy Sochan, Spurs (57% rostered); Jalen McDaniels, Hornets (36% rostered); Aaron Nesmith, Pacers (21% rostered); John Konchar, Grizzlies (12% rostered);
Players to monitor
Miles Bridges (38% rostered)
See last week's column for detailed information on the Miles Bridges situation and how that may relate to Fantasy this season.
Gary Payton, Trail Blazers (7% rostered)
Payton made his season debut Monday after recovering from offseason abdomen surgery. Unfortunately, he hurt his ankle in that game and was back on the shelf Wednesday. The team is listing him as questionable for Friday, implying this will be a short absence, even if he gets ruled out. I have no idea what Payton's role in the rotation will be, but he was Portland's biggest summer acquisition, so it could end up being a large one. If he gets enough minutes to be Fantasy relevant (a massive "if"), Payton could be among the best steals specialists in the league, and he's also capable of helping in points, rebounds, and 3s.
Don't worry; I'm not forgetting it
Devin Vassell's injury
Don't be surprised if Devin Vassell is out for the season. One can imagine the Spurs announcing that, coincidentally, the recovery timeline is exactly two months and 29 days, and they are super duper bummed that the season finale is two months and 28 days after the surgery.
Theoretically, Vassell's absence creates a massive hole in the Spurs' rotation, as he's second on the team in points, minutes, and usage. The problem is there is no single obvious direct beneficiary. Over time one player may emerge as the clear Fantasy winner here, but I don't think there's any reason to feel confident about predicting right now who that might be. To demonstrate that point: Vassell, the team's starting shooting guard, has missed three of the Spurs' last five games. Over that span, the players with the biggest increase in minutes when Vassell was out were forward Doug McDermott and center Jakob Poeltl.
Vassell's injury increases my interest in streaming Spurs, but none of his teammates transition into waiver wire adds – at least not yet. Jeremy Sochan is my favorite Spurs pickup, but he was already listed in the "other recommendations" section the last few weeks before the Vassell injury. The injury doesn't change my perspective on him.
The NBA is back to a balanced schedule in Week 12. It is probably the most balanced schedule I remember ever seeing. Every day has between six and nine games.
It's also a slightly light week, with the Nets playing two games, 16 teams playing three, and 13 teams playing four.
Daily lineups leagues
That combination means daily lineups managers stand to gain a ton of potential value through streaming or pseudo-streaming. Managers should have no difficulty fitting waiver pickups into their lineups.
If you have an extra acquisition to use late in Week 12, the Grizzlies are the only team with a Sunday-Monday back-to-back.
The Magic are the only team to start the week with a back-to-back. The Celtics and Bucks are the only teams that begin the week with a three-games-in-four-nights set (3-in-4).
Three teams end the week with a back-to-back – the Trail Blazers, Mavericks, and 76ers. For all three, it is a part of a Thursday-Saturday-Sunday 3-in-4. Managers with more restrictive acquisition rules should use additional acquisitions early in the week and aim to add players from these three teams before Thursday's games.
The Thunder also end the week with a 3-in-4 played on Thursday-Friday-Sunday.
The Wizards only play three games, but all are at home, and they conclude before the weekend, making for an easy drop late in the week.
Weekly lineups leagues
For managers with weekly lineups, the light-ish schedule means there is less downside to a three-game week, and the advantage to a four-game week is magnified.
The Kings stand out as having a favorable lineup in this format, as they have four games, three at home, no back-to-backs, and all of their games are against dreadful tanktastic opponents (Magic, Rockets twice, Spurs). The Nuggets have the same basic schedule, though their opponents are slightly more challenging (Lakers, Suns, Clippers, Magic). The Bulls, Knicks, and Spurs all have four games, two at home and no back-to-backs.