Monday, March 20, 2023

Fantasy Basketball: Here are the best long-term waiver wire pickups in shallow leagues

Often, fantasy sports is about simply winning the week. That was especially the case earlier this NBA season when the league was ravaged by COVID-19. Putting together an entire starting lineup was often a challenge, and it required some desperate and creative measures.

However, things have settled down. The league stopped testing players with booster shots unless they show symptoms. That’s led to a massive decrease in COVID-related absences, and things are beginning to look normal again.

In turn, fantasy managers can now truly begin evaluating their rosters and looking at the waiver wire with the long-term in mind. With about two months, or less, left in most fantasy leagues, now is the time to lock in a strategy for the stretch run. That involves confirming the weaknesses of your team and making some aggressive waiver wire moves to correct inadequacies. Streaming players is always an option, but let’s target some players you can add for the remainder of the campaign with confidence.

Herb Jones, Pelicans

Rostered in 69% of CBS Leagues

Jones went undrafted in nearly every fantasy league, and he’s still just 69 percent rostered despite being the 25th-ranked player in total production since Christmas. I’m not sure what more Jones needs to do to convince fantasy managers he doesn’t belong on the waiver wire. Over his past 14 games, he’s averaging 13.6 points on 53/41/86 shooting, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.1 blocks. He’s a defensive specialist on a team that desperately needs something positive on that side of the ball, and he’s not a scrub offensively, either. His three-point volume (1.3 makes per game) isn’t exceptionally high, but he’s playing within himself on offense, keeping his general efficiency high. Jones’ role isn’t going anywhere. Pick him up.

Ayo Dosunmu, Bulls

Rostered in 68% of CBS Leagues

Though Zach LaVine has returned, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are likely both out until March at best, leaving Chicago quite shorthanded in the backcourt. Coby White is around to help pick up slack, too, but he was scooped up by more fantasy managers than Dosunmu – a relatively unproven rookie. While Dosunmu is a natural point guard, his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame allows him to play on the wing, which should keep his workload high and enable him to easily fit around White, LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. As a starter over the past six games, he’s averaging 15.0 points on 63/54/80 shooting, 6.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 38.5 minutes. Of course, the shooting will normalize, but the supplementary stats and minutes are still really encouraging.

Jarred Vanderbilt, Timberwolves

Rostered in 71% of CBS Leagues

The Wolves committed to Vanderbilt as a starter Nov. 12, and he’s started every appearance since then. He’s flown under the radar as one of the best offensive rebounders for his size, and he’s an excellent defender as well. In his 32 starts, he’s averaged 10.2 rebounds (3.6 offensive), 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks in 28.2 minutes. While his other stats – 7.5 points and 1.6 assists – are mediocre, he plays within himself and is shooting 61.7 percent from the field and committing only 1.1 turnovers. Since Christmas, Vanderbilt is the 79th-ranked player on a total production basis despite playing just 13 games compared to some players’ 17. There’s no better place to turn in a shallow league if you’re behind in rebounding and defensive numbers.

Patty Mills, Nets

Rostered in 58% of CBS Leagues

Mills’ fantasy value is greatly tied to his three-point shooting, so there’s a good amount of fluctuation over any period of time you choose to look at. Of his 11.0 shot attempts, 7.6 are three-pointers, and he takes just 0.8 free throws per contest. Combine that with just 2.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds in his 31.0 minutes, and you get someone who truly lives and dies by the three. His role was about to get murky with Kyrie Irving returning, but then Kevin Durant suffered a knee injury and is out until late February at the earliest. Even when Durant returns, he could be eased back into things, and Irving can still only play in road games. Keep Mills’ weaknesses in mind, but he’s still deadly on a four-game week in 10-team formats.

Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies

Rostered in 40% of CBS Leagues

It seemed like Clarke’s sophomore slump was going to extend through his third season, but the big man finally picked up his performance after an 11-game layoff in December due to a knee injury. Over his past 12 appearances, he’s averaged 13.4 points on 68.3 percent shooting from the field, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.4 assists in 23.2 minutes. The workload is, of course, a concern, but he proved as a rookie to put up fantasy-relevant numbers in just 22.4 minutes per game (he averaged 12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.8 blocks). While Clarke is a borderline pickup in 10-team formats, he still projects to be useful on four-game weeks, and his role isn’t going anywhere.

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