Welcome back. Hopefully, you make it through this intro without spraining your ankle.
Simply surviving pre-game warmups is now difficult in the NBA. Multiple different players missed games this past week after suffering pre-game ankle injuries.
The injury bug struck hard this week. Two players (Brandon Clarke, Jonathan Isaac) were added to the out-for-season list this past week, while others (Steven Adams, Mo Bamba) had their regular seasons ended. Kevin Durant kick-started the new pre-game ankle injury trend, and the latest reports on him, LeBron James, and Zion Williamson all cast doubt on any of the three superstars' chances of meaningfully contributing to our 2022-23 Fantasy stretch run.
The injuries stink, of course, but the upside is they made for a much deeper waiver pool, especially if your roster can handle some low scorers capable of contributing a ton elsewhere.
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
Tyus Jones, Grizzlies (68% rostered)
The biggest news of the past week was Ja Morant stepping away from basketball indefinitely. The Grizzlies are, understandably, taking things slowly, ruling Morant out just a couple of games at a time. He's out for their next three matchups. I'm speculating, but it is hard to imagine Morant returning soon. I'd guess that he's more likely to miss the rest of the season than he is to return by the end of Week 22.
As long as Morant is out, Jones is an all-leagues must-add and auto-start. He's averaging 19-4-8 in his 12 starts this season. This is as simple as waiver wire decisions get.
Xavier Tillman, Grizzlies (36% rostered)
Both Brandon Clarke (Achilles) and Steven Adams (knee) were ruled out for the season this past week. Adams had already been sidelined, but Clarke's injury is new. Tillman has been a regular starter since soon after the Adams injury, but Clarke's absence has led to an additional increase in his role. Tillman averaged 27.7 minutes before Clarke's injury, and that jumped to 32.0 in the first three games without Clarke (Tillman only played 22 minutes Thursday, but we should ignore that as he got into foul trouble early, and the game was a blowout late. After being benched due to the fouls in the first half, he still managed 15 minutes in the second half before all the starters were subbed out). Extrapolating his stats pre-Clarke-injury to his post-Clarke-injury workload, Tillman should average close to a double-double with solid assists and steals for the rest of the season.
Herbert Jones, Pelicans (46% rostered)
Jones' roster rate is perplexingly low. His season averages are almost identical to last year when his roster rate spent roughly half the season above this article's Mendoza line. His scoring isn't great, but he's averaging more than one and a half steals and nearly one block per game.
Dennis Smith Jr, Hornets (56% rostered)
Smith was the top recommended pickup last week, and the biggest difference between then and now is that the available talent pool is much deeper this week. I had hoped Smith would get more minutes than the 24.5 he's averaged since LaMelo Ball's (ankle) season ended, but he's still valuable due to his massive 6.0 assists per game during that span. Furthermore, between the Hornets' health history and the onset of tank season, I still expect Smith's minutes to increase down the stretch, one way or another.
Kyle Anderson, Timberwolves (60% rostered)
Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) is still out, which means Anderson is still a valuable play for managers who can handle substandard scoring. And even there, Anderson has been unusually effective lately, scoring in double-digits in six of his past nine games, averaging a respectable 11.7 PPG.
Other recommendations: Tari Eason, Rockets (61% rostered); Trey Murphy, Pelicans (61% rostered); Cole Anthony, Magic (60% rostered); Cam Reddish, Trail Blazers (43% rostered); Devonte' Graham, Spurs (32% rostered); Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors (27% rostered); Austin Reaves, Lakers (18% rostered); Kris Dunn, Jazz (21% rostered); Moe Wagner, Magic (19% rostered); Matisse Thybulle, Trail Blazers (33% rostered)
Troy Brown Jr., Lakers (8% rostered)
Since LeBron James (foot) set the scoring record, he's missed all but three games. Brown has received the vacated starting nod in each of them. And James is likely out for at least the rest of the month. His re-evaluation is still weeks away, and he's unlikely to return immediately after that update. Brown is averaging 11-5-2 with 2.3 3s per game as a starter in James' absence. He doesn't do much on defense, but his FG% is neutral, and his FT% is positive. Depending on team needs, Brown would be a solid pickup in some standard or shallow leagues. He's easily rosterable in most deep formats.
Week 22 has a balanced schedule with a standard amount of games. Three teams -- the Hornets, Knicks, and Jazz -- have two games. There are 12 teams with three games and 15 teams with four.
Day-to-day, Thursday has five games, and every other day has seven or eight.
Daily lineups leagues
A balanced schedule makes streaming easier, which also makes it more important (since your opponent is also likely to engage in some streaming or pseudo-streaming).
If you have to worry about acquisition limits, focus on Thursday's light five-game slate as a pivot point. Heading into the week, the Suns, Bucks, Pistons, and Kings each start the week with a 3-in-4. The Raptors, Magic, and Nuggets end the week with a 3-in-4. Try to time your pickups to take advantage of as many of those 3-in-4s as possible.
The Cavaliers, Bulls, and 76ers all have three-game weeks and play all their games in a four-day span – Tuesday-Friday for Cleveland, and Wednesday-Saturday for the Bulls and 76ers. That makes them good targets for a short-term mid-week hold. To take best advantage, use a pickup late in Week 21 to snag someone with early Week 22 games.
Speaking of which, no team has a Sunday-Monday back-to-back to span the end of Week 21 and the start of Week 22. But the Hawks have a Friday-Saturday-Monday 3-in-4, while the Knicks and Thunder have a Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday 3-in-4. Or, if you're in good enough shape for Week 21 to prioritize Week 22, the Pistons, Bucks, and Suns all start Week 22 with a back-to-back (as part of a Saturday-Monday-Tuesday 3-in-4).
Weekly lineups leagues
The Rockets play all four games at home and without any back-to-backs. They easily have the best schedule for weekly managers. The Spurs also play all four at home, though they have a back-to-back.
On the other hand, the Nuggets probably have the worst schedule among the teams with four games, as all are on the road and are condensed into a 4-in-6.
Two of the teams with three games get to stay home all week – the Bulls and the Trail Blazers. The Bulls' matchups are probably a little easier (though not "easy"), while the Blazers get more rest.
The 76ers probably have the worst schedule among teams with three games since they are scrunched into a 3-in-4 and all on the road.