By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Attention! Set your calendars! Week 15 starts early — at 12:30pm EST on Monday, to be exact. That means that weekly lineups are going to lock early, so make sure to set your schedules ahead of time.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day features an exciting, 11-game slate — heavier than a normal Monday, and there are some ripple effects, schedule-wise.
For daily lineups leagues, the most important impact is that the week is unusually bifurcated between busy days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday have between nine and 11 games) and slow days (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday have either four or five games).
Waiver wire acquisitions are more likely to fit into your starting lineup on the slow days, so teams with more games on those days are more valuable:
The Trail Blazers are the only team to play on all three of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The Thunder, Suns, Timberwolves, Warriors and Pelicans play on two of those three days.
For weekly lineup leagues, Week 15 is one of the busiest weeks remaining this season. Only 10 teams play three games, while 18 teams play four games. During such a busy week, the damage done by starting either a Hornet or a Pacer — both of which play only twice — is magnified.
It’s another rough week out there, when no waiver wire options are all that exciting. Some of the best pickups may be players dropped by opponents. But stay diligent, and remember — with the trade deadline around the corner, things could start to heat up at any minute.
As always, we’ll focus on players available in at least 50 percent of leagues. Players are listed in the order I’d recommend adding them.
Ante Zizic, Cavaliers (6 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: Chi, at Bos, Mia, at Chi
This one could be irrelevant by Monday, so pay attention to the news updates over the weekend. Zizic and Channing Frye are the only available Cavaliers big men Friday, but we don’t yet know when some of the other injured players will return. As of publication, Tristan Thompson (foot) is out Friday with an injury to the same foot that cost him 10 games in late December. But the team has provided no information as to whether this will be an isolated incident or if Thompson is looking at another extended absence.
Meanwhile, Larry Nance (knee) has missed a week, and the team’s announcement last Thursday provided no information beyond, “he could be sidelined up to two weeks.” If Thompson and Nance are going to miss several games, then Zizic is a must-start in all leagues. But if one or both return either Saturday or Monday, then Zizic will have been little more than a short-term streamer. Jaron Blossomgame (0 percent rostered) is probably also viable as a deep-league play as long as both Thompson and Nance are out.
Richaun Holmes, Suns (31 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: Min, Por, at Den, at LAL
Holmes was one of last week’s top recommended adds, but a lot of people are jumping ship after Thursday’s 13-minute, three-point outing. Don’t make that mistake. Holmes is a low-minute backup center; it is completely inevitable that he will throw up some stinkers. Despite Thursday’s bummer of a box score and another six-point, three-rebound game two weeks ago, Holmes is still a top-50 player in nine-category settings over the last eight games (which includes both down nights). Holmes should still be added, not dropped.
Sticking with the Suns, I really want Mikal Bridges (21 percent rostered) to be a thing, but he’s not quite at the point where I can comfortably recommend him for standard leagues. That said, keep a close eye on him, because another good game or two could shoot him up from the end of the other recommendations list to top pickup of the week. Depending on how his next two games go, he might not even be available this time next week.
Jabari Parker, Bulls (45 percent); Bobby Portis, Bulls (36 percent)
Next week’s schedule: at Cle, Atl, LAC, Cle
The waiver wire is pretty sparse this week, and the trade deadline is less than three weeks away. I suspect one of these two — if not both — may be on the move, and both players would benefit from a trade. Parker is a fairly traditional scoring-and-rebounding wing. Portis is similar, but with less scoring, more rebounds, and more defense.
Parker was a top-50 per-game player in his injury-shortened 2016-17. If we prorate Portis’ 2017-18 production to 30-minutes per game, his numbers are almost identical to what Tobias Harris did when he broke out as a top-60 option a few years ago. Neither player is likely to reach those lofty heights over the remainder of this season, but both of them have shown that they are at least theoretically capable of such output.
If none of this week’s waiver options look appealing, which will probably be true for a lot of managers, then why not add a high-upside player as the deadline nears? Added bonus: Both players are putting up borderline rosterable stats over the last few games, so you’re still getting some value while we wait for the trade deadline.
P.J. Tucker, Rockets (43 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at Phi, at NY, Tor, Orl
It’s come to this. I’ve tried to avoid writing about Tucker all season. I mean, he’s 33 years old and has never averaged double-digit points for a season. Is this really what we’ve come to? But I can avoid it no more.
If we say that the modern NBA has only three positions: point guard, wing, and big, then Rockets’ big man may be the single shallowest position in the entire league. The Clint Capela (thumb) injury, which is expected to keep him out 4-to-6 weeks, leaves the Rockets absolutely decimated.
Gary Clark and Nene Hilario are serviceable for roughly 15 minutes a game, but neither can handle a bigger load. Marquese Chriss is great for fantasy when he gets minutes, but the Rockets are terrible when he’s on the floor and have been reluctant to play him.
Tucker was already averaging 35.3 minutes per game, so it’s not like his workload can increase, but his fantasy profile may improve with him playing more as a big man. He’s never going to be a steady scorer, but if he can improve upon his 6.2 rebounds per game while maintaining his 1.9 threes, he could be an interesting pickup. Clark (1 percent rostered) is worth a look in deeper leagues.
Other recommendations: DeMarre Carroll, Nets (28 percent rostered); Rodney Hood, Cavaliers (18 percent rostered); Kyle Korver, Jazz (14 percent rostered); Jeff Green, Wizards (34 percent rostered); Josh Jackson, Suns (32 percent rostered); Kevin Huerter, Hawks (31 percent rostered); Reggie Bullock, Pistons (34 percent rostered); Alec Burks, Cavaliers (41 percent rostered); Malik Beasley, Nuggets (27 percent rostered); Marco Belinelli, Spurs (13 percent rostered); Caris LeVert, Nets (52 percent rostered)
Deep-league-only recommendations: Mikal Bridges, Suns (21 percent rostered); Gary Clark, Rockets (1 percent rostered); Harry Giles, Kings (7 percent rostered)