If your fantasy basketball championship round either begins or continues this week, allow me to express my condolences.
With only a week-and-a-half left in the NBA regular season, this is the time of year where real-roster chicanery runs amok from playoff locks to tankers alike. Championship contenders eyeing deep playoff runs look to buy their stars rest down the stretch, while teams jostling for positioning in the draft lottery look for any excuse to shut down key players.
That sets the stage for largely anonymous reserves to emerge as difference-makers in fantasy championships.
If you’re reeling from the increasing number of recent shutdowns, fret not: Intriguing options remain on a vast majority of waiver wires in ESPN.com leagues.
At this time of year, assume the worst when it comes to injured players, particularly if their teams have playoff seeding effectively wrapped up. Some will be more forthcoming with their plans for said players than others, but there’s no reason for them to rush stars back with the postseason just around the corner.
That means owners in weekly formats particularly have to prioritize untested options over yearlong cornerstones, (much like anyone who’s played fantasy football in Week 17 of a regular season). Those in daily formats have the flexibility to change their lineups throughout the matchup, but waiting too long to dump an injured player could be a season-ending mistake.
Dwyane Wade, PG/SG, Miami Heat (35.1% owned): As Wade rounds the home stretch of his farewell tour, he’s going out with a bang. Over his past eight games, he has averaged 16.8 points on 44.1 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 triples in only 27.5 minutes. Wade isn’t a high-volume 3-point shooter, but he could give your squad some much-needed help in steals. And with the Heat in a hotly contested playoff race, he isn’t a shutdown risk by any means.
Christian Wood, PF, New Orleans Pelicans (10.7% owned): Wood is making the best of his opportunity with the Pelicans, who claimed him on waivers in mid-March after the Milwaukee Bucks released him. He erupted for 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting, nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks. He followed that up with 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds and three steals two nights later against the Sacramento Kings. If you’re in need of a replacement for one of your roster’s regulars, Wood is well worth a flier.
Seth Curry, PG/SG, Portland Trail Blazers (10.5% owned): With CJ McCollum likely out for the remainder of the regular season, Curry has received additional playing time as of late. Over his past six games, the 28-year-old has averaged 16.5 points on 52.2 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 triples, 1.3 assists and 0.8 steals in 31.0 minutes, good for top-90 value. Curry isn’t nearly as prolific from deep as his older brother, but his shooting efficiency and ability to chip in points, 3-pointers, assists and steals make him a fine pickup nevertheless.
Bruno Caboclo, SF, Memphis Grizzlies (10.2% owned): Caboclo is no longer two years away from being two years away! Foul trouble derailed his outing Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but he averaged 17.7 points on 54.5 percent shooting, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 triples, 2.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals in 36.6 minutes over his prior three games. Counting on Caboclo during championship week is not for the faint of heart, but desperate times may call for desperate measures if one of your star players is out for the season.
Dwayne Bacon, SG, Charlotte Hornets (3.7% owned): With Nicolas Batum hobbled as of late, Bacon has moved into the Hornets’ starting lineup and immediately started making a well-rounded impact. Prior to Sunday’s teamwide clunker against the Golden State Warriors, Bacon had averaged 19.0 points on 51.9 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 triples, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 34.7 minutes over his previous four games. While Batum is back in the rotation, the Hornets may decide to shut him down once the playoffs are officially out of reach, which could turn Bacon into a late-season difference-maker.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers (37.7% owned)
Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat (33.8% owned)
Mitchell Robinson, C, New York Knicks (25.2% owned)
Jalen Brunson, PG, Dallas Mavericks (18.3% owned)
Tyus Jones, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (9.0% owned)
Notable injury news
LeBron James, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers: On Saturday, the Lakers announced James will be shut down for the remainder of the season to “allow his groin to fully heal.” Owners in keeper/dynasty formats have no choice but to keep him rostered, but he’s an instant drop in redraft leagues. With Josh Hart also out for the year—joining James, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball—the Lakers are playing out the string at this point. Expect a heavy dose of Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope moving forward.
Jusuf Nurkic, C, Portland Trail Blazers: Nurkic suffered a devastating leg injury last Monday against the Brooklyn Nets that will sideline him indefinitely. Not only is he droppable in redraft leagues, but it isn’t worth spending an early- or middle-round pick to retain him in keeper formats, either. He’s likely to be sidelined for at least a portion of the 2019-20 season, and the Trail Blazers will ease him back into action once he can return. In the meantime, Enes Kanter, Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard each receive a minor boost.
Jrue Holiday, PG, New Orleans Pelicans: On Tuesday, the Pelicans announced Holiday underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury, which will sideline him for the remainder of the season. Frank Jackson will continue starting in his place, but he isn’t a must-add during this final week-and-a-half. Jackson has averaged 17.7 points on 43.7 percent shooting, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 triples since moving into the starting lineup, but that puts him outside the top 180 on a per-game basis over that span.
Lauri Markkanen, PF, Chicago Bulls: Markkanen left Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors prematurely because of what the Bulls described as “extreme fatigue.” On Wednesday, they announced he would not return this season so he could undergo more testing over the coming days. With Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., Zach LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. all sidelined, the Bulls have turned into a fantasy wasteland. Don’t put your season on the line by counting on a Chicago player moving forward.
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers: Embiid missed Saturday’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he’s set to sit out upcoming games against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday and Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Head coach Brett Brown dubbed the decision as “load management,” but with the playoffs less than two weeks away, the Sixers undoubtedly want to give Embiid’s cranky left knee some time off. His uncertain availability beyond Wednesday makes him unstartable in leagues with weekly locks.
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Monday, April 1.