Welcome back. It's that time of year again – replacements for injured stars dominate this week's list of waiver pickups.
With so many impact players available, each with different timelines and upside potential, I want to emphasize something I say briefly every week: The players below are listed in the order I'd recommend without knowing anything about your roster. But everyone's roster needs different things, and more information would dramatically change who I'd recommend for you. For a few examples, managers looking for a reliable long-term option should prioritize Cameron Johnson or Dennis Smith Jr., while teams who need 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 through the stretch run 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 rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues.
Adds for all leagues
T.J. McConnell (63% rostered) and Andrew Nembhard (48%), Pacers
Tyrese Haliburton (knee, elbow) is still one week away from his next "re-evaluation," and he's likely to miss at least a little more time beyond that. In the four games with him on the sidelines, McConnell has shined, and Nembhard has seen his Fantasy value spike. McConnell has put up 16-5-8 with a massive 2.3 steals and wildly efficient shooting splits. In most categories, Nembhard's production matches what he was averaging as a starter with Halliburton active, but with one huge exception. Without Haliburton, Nembhard's assists have doubled to 7.0 per game. McConnell is the prize here, but Nembhard is a solid consolation.
Dennis Smith Jr, Hornets (30% rostered)
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 this will be an extended absence. Ball has already missed 24 games due to his ankle this season, and the Hornets are in full-on tank mode. The last time Ball got hurt, Smith filled in as a starter until suffering his own injury. In that stint with the starting lineup, Smith averaged 11-4-7 with 2.1 steals in 33.3 minutes.
I'm putting Smith this high on the assumption that Ball will miss at least roughly three weeks, but that guess is completely arbitrary and based on zero (0; null; none) information. If we find out that Ball will only miss two weeks or less, I'd drop DSJ below Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Isaac. On the other hand, if we find out Ball is going to miss two months or more, I'd bump DSJ above the pair of Pacers.
Kyle Anderson, Timberwolves (57% rostered)
Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) is still out, and Anderson is still putting up solid numbers. At least until Towns returns, Anderson should be rostered in all leagues. If you're desperate for points, it's OK to pass on him, but that only describes a small handful of teams in each league. Most rosters would benefit from a guy who is two assists away from back-to-back triple-doubles.
Jonathan Isaac, Magic (36% rostered)
I went deep on Isaac last week. The short version: there is a lot of risk, but the upside is so high that he should be a priority add everywhere. He's currently playing in the G League, which I take as an excellent sign – his body is ready for professional basketball. I have no idea when he'll jump to the NBA or how much he'll play when he gets there. But I think it's worth it to find out.
Note: on the "actions speak louder than words" front, I picked up Isaac in two of my eight leagues, and he is now rostered by someone in all eight.
Cameron Johnson, Suns (66% rostered)
He's back! Finally! It took longer than expected, but Johnson returned to action Thursday and wasted no time getting to work to help Fantasy managers. He played just 22 minutes but still managed to put up 19-6-2 with two 3s, two blocks and a steal. Last year, Johnson was a great source of 3s who provided balanced do-no-harm levels of production everywhere else. He may face a minutes restriction for a few more games, but his minutes and offensive load are expected to increase this season. He's likely to be a steady source of top-100 (or better) production the rest of the way.
T.J. Warren, Nets (50% rostered)
Another guy you've already heard me drone on about. Sorry. But he should be rostered. Warren is still on a minutes restriction, which is a huge reason why he's still having some dud games (like he did Thursday). But he's also scored 18-plus points in four of his last 10 games while maintaining 52.5 FG% for the season. He's not quite good enough for standard leagues right now, but he's getting close, and I think he'll continue to improve while his minutes rise.
Jericho Sims (2% rostered) and Isaiah Hartenstein (17% rostered), Knicks
Mitchell Robinson (thumb) is out for at least three weeks after undergoing surgery Thursday. Before the injury, he's been averaging 10.4 rebounds in 30.2 minutes over the past two months. His minutes and rebounds will likely get soaked up by Sims and Hartenstein moving forward. Hartenstein had been Robinson's primary backup, and he's got a similar Fantasy game to Robinson. Robinson is a better shot-blocker, but Hartenstein is no schlub in that department, and he's slightly better at thievery. If Hartenstein takes over as the starter and gets roughly 28 minutes per game, he'll be startable in all leagues.
The problem with that, however, is that Sims may leapfrog Hartenstein into the starting lineup. When Robinson left Wednesday's game early, Sims' workload increased while Hartenstein played just 13 minutes again. Sims, a second-year former second-round pick out of Texas, has barely played this season. That said, his per-minute numbers are solid (10-12-1 and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes), and he's an excellent athlete. He's played at least 22 minutes five times this season, averaging 8-9-1 and 1.6 blocks. Robinson has already missed eight games this season, and Sims started two of those.
The most likely scenario is that both Knicks centers become solid deep-league pickups but remain fringe guys in standard leagues until Robinson returns. That said, if you have a roster spot available, it's worth picking your favorite of the pair on the chance they claim the dominant role.
Terance Mann, Clippers (23% rostered)
Despite Wednesday night's dud, Mann still deserves a look, especially in deeper formats. He was recently promoted to the Clippers' starting lineup, sending a healthy Reggie Jackson to the bench. The issue is that Mann lacks a standout Fantasy skill, though he is unusually efficient from the field for a point guard. He's averaging 12-5-3 with 1.2 3s as a starter, and his assist rate is gradually improving.
Other recommendations: Naji Marshall, Pelicans (64% rostered); Norman Powell, Clippers (56% rostered); Seth Curry, Nets (24% rostered); Bruce Brown, Nuggets (52% rostered); Gabe Vincent, Heat (21% rostered); Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (57% rostered); Wenyen Gabriel, Lakers (9% rostered); Naz Reid, Timberwolves (30% rostered); Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies (40% rostered)
Wenyen Gabriel, Lakers (9% rostered)
Gabriel is addable in standard leagues right now, but he's so widely available I wanted to call extra attention to him for deep leaguers. His minutes have increased over the last four games, while Thomas Bryant's have dropped. Gabriel's averaging 13-6-1 with 2.8 "stocks" over that span. Anthony Davis' (foot) eventual return will likely hurt Gabriel, but we don't know when that may be – the Lakers' injury reporting is unreliable. That said, the latest updates on Davis imply that he'll remain out for at least two more 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, and the lightest days have four and five games.
The Warriors, Thunder, and 76ers have just two games.
The Bucks are the only team with a four-game week and no back-to-backs (the Grizzlies also play M-W-F-Su, but their Monday game is the second night of a Sunday-Monday back-to-back). The Rockets, Pelicans, and Magic each have a four-game week with three home games.
Daily lineups managers
The first thing you'll have to do is look ahead to see how full your lineup is on Wednesday (10 games) and Saturday (11 games). Most managers will have some flexibility on one or both days, but some will have an already-full starting lineup. Remember – if your lineup is already full on that day, then a waiver pickup with a game that day effectively has one fewer game during the week. Here's a good visualizer of which teams play on which days.
If you want to use a late Week 14 acquisition to help in Week 15, the Grizzlies and Trail Blazers have a Sunday-Monday back-to-back. For the Grizzlies, that leads into a four-game Week 15.
Several teams start the week with a three-games-in-four-nights set (3-in-4), but the Rockets' 3-in-4 stands out – all three games are at home, and two are against relatively favorable opponents.
The Cavaliers and the Clippers each end the week on a 3-in-4. The Cavaliers' 3-in-4 is more valuable, as they avoid Saturday's big slate 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 are on the busiest days of the week.
Weekly lineups leagues
Generally speaking, managers should avoid the three teams with two-game weeks where possible. That said, both games are at home for all three teams, which alleviates the downside.
There isn't much to separate the 13 teams with four-game weeks. The Rockets and Pelicans both play three home games in a row, coincidentally sharing two opponents – they each play host to semi-favorable matchups against the Timberwolves and Wizards.
However, one team's four-game week seems notably worse than the rest. The Spurs play a Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back in Los Angeles. The Spurs are a young team. Sincerely, LA nightlife could play a meaningful role here.