December 18, 2023, 1:29 am
The NBA’s Christmas day bonanza is on the horizon, and we’ll see another day with zero games next week in preparation for that holiday feast. That means we’ve got some really loaded schedule days coming up, limiting your streaming potential to a certain extent. As for reality basketball, we’re starting to see some teams switch things up, either as a result of injury or poor performance. That’s giving managers some new wrinkles to work with as well as creating some potential stash value if teams are looking ready to hit the trade phones. We haven’t had that big transaction just yet but this week brought some big changes that fantasy GMs should jump on if they haven’t already.
Caris LeVert, G, Cleveland Cavaliers
This was a brutal week for the Cavs, who lost Darius Garland (jaw) and Evan Mobley (knee) for the long term in a matter of hours. While Caris LeVert may not move into the starting lineup to take Garland or Mobley’s place directly, he is the team’s sixth man and will benefit from the extra opportunity either way. In the past we’ve seen that it generally takes one backcourt injury to make him relevant, and he’ll likely get a few weeks to find a groove with Garland out. Add in whatever he gets when the Cavs go small to replace Mobley and you’ve got a clear 12-team pickup with top-100 upside, though his FG% may be problematic from time to time.
Brandin Podziemski, G, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are forging ahead without Draymond Green, who is suspended indefinitely, and have finally benched Andrew Wiggins after months of poor play. Rookie Brandin Podziemski has shown well in his limited opportunities and has earned his promotion into the starting lineup; maybe this is enough for Steve Kerr to finally let his young players get the minutes they deserve rather than lean towards the older guys who have done well in the past but are struggling to recapture that form. Podziemski was a top-100 player last week and gave managers positive production in points, rebounds, assists, steals and 3-pointers with a passable mark from the field to boot. He won’t always meet those marks but it’s good to know that he’s got it in him, and the tape looks pretty good. Podziemski can play, and now that the Warriors aren’t looking for any excuse not to play their younger guys, he’s definitely worth an add in competitive leagues.
Collin Sexton, G, Utah Jazz
Sexton has joined the starting lineup as Jordan Clarkson (thigh) has been ruled out for a couple of weeks, and with both guards apparently available for trade it’s a good opportunity to showcase his game one way or the other. He’s definitely a volume-based guard but Sexton does have a history of scoring relatively efficiently in his back pocket — though we haven’t seen it for an extended stretch since his major knee injury a couple years ago — and if he can hit his shots at a decent rate, he’ll be a safe play in fantasy leagues. Last week he was a top-50 guy on over 25 points per game, and if that keeps up there’s no reason to second-guess yourself when it comes to plugging Sexton into all lineups.
Dante Exum, G, Dallas Mavericks
One of the most surprising names we’ll see here all season, Exum has taken off as Dallas’ new starting point guard. Kyrie Irving remains without a timetable to return from his foot problems and Exum has put his mark on the gig in the meantime. He’s looked like much more than a defensive specialist, averaging 18.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks and 2.8 3-pointers over his last four games. That’s been the result of an unsustainable .711 mark from the floor but Exum should not be on any waiver wires. Even when the shooting cools off, he’s playing a ton and generating enough stats elsewhere that he’ll maintain value, even if the odds are against him becoming a consistent producer of points.
Naz Reid, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
This one is a little dicey because the Wolves are rolling and have two All-Stars in the frontcourt, but they’re still making time for Reid. Some blowout wins helped his case last week but Reid was able to finish in the top-30 last week. He’s playing extremely well and while the Wolves don’t really have a reason to give him more minutes than he’s getting at the moment, Reid should definitely be viewed as a short-term add who would become a must-start player if Rudy Gobert or Karl-Anthony Towns got hurt.
Grayson Allen/Eric Gordon, Gs, Phoenix Suns
Bradley Beal suffered an ankle sprain that likely keeps him out for a couple weeks, as the Suns made it through one game with their Big Three before another injury struck. That should leave Allen and Gordon on the 12-team radar, though Allen is generally the higher-floor play. Gordon may not prove to be super productive with two stars healthy but he offers a little more scoring upside. Add as needed.
Donte DiVincenzo, G, New York Knicks
DiVincenzo’s top-70 finish last week was inflated by a four-steal game and the playing time is still a little tenuous at 21.7 mpg, but he’s been elevated into the starting lineup and that alone should give him enough juice for late-round value. He showed as much last year with the Warriors and although it will take some hot shooting nights for DiVincenzo to really grab your attention, he should be a pretty reliable source of assists, steals and 3-pointers between those explosive games.
Tari Eason, F, Houston Rockets
Eason totaled top-50 numbers last week, including a pair of games in which he led the Rockets in scoring. The most encouraging thing about this was that Eason was good-not-great in the steals and blocks categories, averaging a combined 2.4 in 25.4 mpg. That’s enough playing time for him to be a real difference maker on that front, which is the backbone of his fantasy value to begin with. He’s coming on strong and should see his role increase if his play continues to warrant it; Eason could be a high-upside flier that pays off big.
Norman Powell, G, LA Clippers
The Clippers are finding their groove and have shaken up the rotation; those changes appear to leave Powell with nearly 30 mpg. He’s going to be able to move the needle in points if that sticks, and comes with the benefit of potentially giving managers a strong percentage from both the field and the line. It’s not often that you can recommend a team’s fourth or fifth scoring option as a nice source of points and triples, but that’s what’s happening here.
Nick Richards, C, Charlotte Hornets
Mark Williams continues to be listed as doubtful with his ongoing back injury, and we all know that that could mean anything coming out of Charlotte. Richards is good to go for an indeterminate period if you want boards and blocks with a solid FG%.
Guys We’ve Covered Already
These are the players that we could keep talking about until they’re 100% rostered, but frankly that’s tedious and they’ve proven themselves to be worth roster consideration in just about all leagues at this point. Here’s your list, though you could just look at previous editions of Working the Wire and see the names too.
Please go out and make sure that Onyeka Okongwu, Caleb Martin, Malik Monk, Coby White, Patrick Williams, Dereck Lively, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Bojan Bogdanovic are not on waiver wires. Some of these guys are getting up high enough percentage wise that we won’t need to mention them again, but far too many managers are letting them sit on waivers when they’re better than players soaking up space on the end of the bench.
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