Home » Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Week 17: Walker Kessler’s value, trade deadline winners and losers, and more

Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Week 17: Walker Kessler’s value, trade deadline winners and losers, and more

Well, that was hectic. By the time Thursday’s trade deadline closed, 14 deals involving 37 players were in the books. And that’s not including Wednesday’s three deals, nor all of the other swaps that took place over the preceding three weeks.

All that turmoil inevitably leads to some waiver wire shake-ups. Add to that your regularly scheduled injuries, rotation changes, and hot streaks, and we’ve got a lot of names to get to.

Also, with the trade deadline now behind us, we quickly turn to the next major event on the Fantasy basketball calendar: The All-Star break, which begins during Week 17. The break wreaks havoc on the schedule, so we’ve broken out a Week 17 schedule analysis into its own section at the bottom of this column.

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.

Widely rostered deadline winners

Walker Kessler, Jazz (82% rostered) – Kessler should already be rostered everywhere, but the departure of Kelly Olynyk further enhances Kessler’s value.

Buddy Hield, 76ers (70% rostered) – As long as Joel Embiid (knee) is sidelined (another 6-8 weeks at least), Hield should get more usage in Philadelphia than he was seeing as a Pacer. If both rosters were fully healthy, the assessment here would be meaningfully different, but the Fantasy season will be nearly over before we have to worry about that.

Adds for all leagues

Aaron Nesmith, Pacers (67% rostered)

One of the most consequential moves of the deadline was the Pacers sending Buddy Hield to the 76ers for flotsam, jetsam, and three second-round picks. Though Hield was having a down season, he was still a Fantasy factor, averaging 12 points, 2.6 3s, 9.9 FGA, and 25.7 minutes. Someone is going to inherit those opportunities. Nesmith’s minutes had already increased recently, but now we can have confidence that this elevated workload will persist. Over his last 10 games, he’s up to 16-7-3 with 2.2 3s and 1.2 steals in 33.2 minutes. With an uptick in usage likely ahead and more security in his role, he’s reached must-add territory.

Bennedict Mathurin (73% rostered) and Andrew Nembhard (25% rostered) are both also likely to see a boost from the Heild trade. Same for Obi Toppin (30% rostered), though the impact on him is probably much smaller. Nembhard and Toppin are listed in the other recommendations section, below.

Precious Achiuwa, Knicks (41% rostered)

We covered Achiuwa last week. The Knicks are beat up, he’s playing well, and he’s playing tons of minutes. The new arrivals – Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks – are more of a problem for Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo than Achiuwa.

Ausar Thompson (69% rostered) and Simone Fontecchio (11% rostered)

Have you ever heard of the “Rational Coaching Fallacy”? The idea is that Fantasy players make decisions assuming a coach will behave rationally and predictably, when, in reality, that does not always happen. Take, for example, Pistons head coach Monty Williams’ decision to play Killian Hayes – who was waived yesterday – over Jaden Ivey for the first several weeks of the season. That particular decision is again highly relevant after Detroit made a bunch of big changes to their roster this week. As a wise former president once said, “the fool me can’t get fooled again.” I’m not going to sit here and lie to you people and pretend that we know what Williams is going to do. 

The departed Pistons accounted for a combined 3,548 minutes this season, an average of 71 per game – and, since many of those players missed games early in the year, that stat undersells how much of the rotation they accounted for recently. Fontecchio is a perfect fit for what the Pistons need – a large wing who can space the floor. Thompson should be treated as a core piece and given as many minutes as he can handle. Between the vacated minutes and that Thompson was already seeing 23.8 per game, both players should average close to 30 per game going forward. Fontecchio profiles as a 3s specialist who hurts a little in FG% and points but is between neutral and small positive everywhere else. Thompson is a defensive ace who will hurt in FT% but be unusually strong in rebounds for his position. Williams could always do something weird, but the rational move would be to give a lot of run to both of these wings.

Grayson Allen, Suns (58% rostered)

I care much more about Allen’s consistently high minutes and efficient shooting than I do that his scoring has been down for a few games. Though he’s scored 12 points or fewer in six straight, he’s still averaging 54% from the field and 47% from three during that stretch. The Suns acquired Royce O’Neale (17% rostered) and David Roddy (10% rostered), who are likely slight upgrades over the departing players, but they shouldn’t be a threat to Allen, who’s been a top-80 Fantasy producer all season. Allen remains an all-leagues must-roster guy. O’Neale and Roddy are both mentioned in the deep league section, below.

Marvin Bagley, Wizards (50% rostered)

As I’ve said before, I’m no Bagley fan. But we all must admit that he’s been solid since arriving in Washington. In just 22.8 minutes per game, he’s averaging 15-8-1 and shooting 61% from the field. Now he’s slated to take on an even bigger role after the Wizards traded Daniel Gafford for Richaun Holmes. He gets neither stocks nor 3s, which is a legitimate drawback, but the points and rebounds are good enough that many managers can overlook those faults. Bagley and Gafford combined to play basically of the available center minutes when both were healthy, and that pattern should continue with Holmes – except now Bagley is likely to step into the lead role.

Paul Reed, 76ers (61% rostered)

Joel Embiid (knee) is expected to miss at least the next 6-8 weeks. For some managers, that’s the entire rest of the Fantasy season. Reed has taken over the starting job, and Mo Bamba (8% rostered) is his only realistic competition for the role. Except, the competition from Bamba is purely theoretical, as Bamba has yet to play 20 minutes since Embiid’s injury, despite some underwhelming performances from Reed. Regardless of the clunkers, Reed has had enough good games, and his control of the starting job seems secure enough that we should stick with him. He’s averaging 10-7-2 with 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocks as a starter.

Gary Trent Jr., Raptors (34% rostered)

I’ll be honest – I have no idea what the Raptors are doing. In a vacuum, their deadline deals are fine. A late first in “a bad draft” and two players they don’t use for Kelly Olynyk and a 2021 lottery pick is between fine and good. Dennis Schroder isn’t good enough to be concerned that they traded him for nothing (they’re waiving Spencer Dinwiddie) for salary cap management. But, in the context of the currently existing Toronto Raptors basketball team, I’m perplexed. Suffice it to say, I have no idea what they’re going to do with their partially revamped roster. All I know is this: According to my own personal tastes, Trent is their third-best player remaining; he’s started the last 11 games; he’s averaging 14-2-1 with 3.4 3s during that stretch.

Richaun Holmes, Wizards (3% rostered)

The Wizards’ big man depth chart is probably the shallowest in the NBA. Holmes and Bagley are their only players taller than 6-foot-9. It’s therefore hard to imagine Holmes getting less than about 20 minutes per game – the alternative requires Bagley to play more than 28 minutes or for Washington to play without a center. It’s been two years since Holmes played that much, but he was solid for two and a half seasons before the Kings acquired Domantas Sabonis. Bagley will miss his fourth straight game Friday, and we don’t know when he’ll come back. Holmes should be very good while Bagley is out and will have the opportunity to earn a bigger role after Bagley returns. Also, if Bagley struggles as a starter, Holmes is literally the only other option to turn to.

Grant Williams, Hornets (13% rostered)

Over the first seven games of the season, Williams averaged 15-4-1 with 3.6 3s and 0.7 blocks while playing 31.7 minutes per game. Then he fell out of favor in Dallas and entered a shooting slump – it’s not clear which happened first, or if one caused the other. Either way, he now gets (another) fresh start in Charlotte, and this time with even less competition for minutes. Whatever Williams’ faults, he plays with a ton of effort and energy, especially on defense. His arrival comes just hours after head coach Steve Clifford used a postgame press conference to brutally call out the team for its lazy and inconsistent defensive effort. Between Williams’ fit with Clifford’s goals and the barren depth chart, Williams should see a ton of court time moving forward. Hopefully, that translates to a stat profile similar to what we saw from him to start the season.

Taylor Hendricks, Jazz (9% rostered)

The Jazz just traded away Ochai Agbaji (19.6 minutes per game) and Fontecchio (23.2 minutes per game) for Kira Lewis and Kevin Knox (1% rostered). So how will Utah fill the open 40-plus minutes per game at forward? Lewis is unlikely to be in the rotation. They could give extra minutes to some of their guards – Collin Sexton, Kris Dunn, Keyonte George (45% rostered) – but asking any of them to play forward is a bit of a stretch. I’m completely unimpressed by Knox. That leaves Hendricks and Talen Horton-Tucker (14% rostered). Horton-Tucker has been banished from the rotation for a while, though his game is relatively Fantasy-friendly as long as he gets minutes. If I had confidence he’d consistently play 25-plus minutes, he’d be the add. Meanwhile, Hendricks is a mystery box. A 2023 lottery pick with only 13 NBA games under his belt. In the seven games where he played at least 15 minutes, he averaged one steal, 0.9 blocks, and 1.4 3s, though his other stats were underwhelming. It’s reasonable to take a flier on any of George, Horton-Tucker, or Knox, but I don’t think the first two will see enough of a minutes boost, and I don’t think Knox is good. So I’ll take a flier on the unknown upside of Hendricks, and hope he claims enough minutes to matter.

Nick Richards, Hornets (51% rostered)

Richards has been slumping over the past week and a half, but the Hornets’ flurry of deadline moves probably means they’ll have to rely on him even more going forward. Despite the recent slump, he’s still averaging 10-9-1 with 1.3 blocks since taking over as starter for the injured Mark Williams (back). I still think he’s a low-end usable Fantasy big man going forward.

Vasilije Micic, Hornets (3% rostered)

Most managers should actually pass on Micic, but I wanted to mention him here as a way of calling attention to the weird buzz Tre Mann (3% rostered) is receiving on social media. Micic and Mann were both traded from the Thunder to Charlotte as part of the Gordon Hayward deal. Many online cited Mann as a deadline winner and possible pickup. I just don’t see it. Neither player was in Oklahoma City’s regular rotation, but between the two point guards, the Thunder clearly preferred Micic – he’s more than tripled Mann’s total minutes on the season. Neither player has any value when LaMelo Ball (ankle) is healthy. While Ball is out, Micic could carve out some value. But Mann jumping Micic would be a surprise.

Other recommendations:

Brandin Podziemski, Warriors (66% rostered); Herbert Jones, Pelicans (46% rostered); Dillon Brooks, Rockets (46% rostered); Ayo Dosunmu, Bulls (59% rostered); Trey Murphy, Pelicans (43% rostered); Al Horford, Celtics (46% rostered); Naz Reid, Timberwolves (49% rostered); Andrew Nembhard, Pacers (25% rostered); Harrison Barnes, Kings (55% rostered); Amen Thompson, Rockets (55% rostered); Jalen Suggs, Magic (56% rostered); Alex Caruso, Bulls (52% rostered); Cam Whitmore, Rockets (44% rostered); Josh Green, Mavericks (16% rostered); Obi Toppin, Pacers (30% rostered)

Quick hits – trade deadline losers

Daniel Gafford, was Wizards now Mavericks – was a top-50 Fantasy piece headlining an undermanned Wizards’ frontcourt. Now likely to be Derek Lively’s backup in a suddenly crowded Mavericks’ frontcourt. Even if he starts, minutes are likely to fall. Don’t drop yet, but I won’t be surprised if he becomes droppable soon.

Kelly Oubre, 76ers – the 76ers acquired Buddy Hield for fringe rotation pieces. Many (most?) of Hield’s minutes and shots are likely to come directly from Oubre.

Xavier Tillman, was Grizzlies now Celtics – currently injured, but theoretically set to return soon. In Memphis, he was getting plenty of minutes and occasionally starting. In Boston, he’s an eighth man or worse.

Ochai Agbaji, was Jazz now Raptors – it’s possible his new situation is actually better for him in terms of available opportunities. However, the fact that the Jazz were willing to sell so low on him (as opposed to just holding onto the sophomore lottery pick) is a devastating assessment of his abilities and potential.

Gordon Hayward, was Hornets now Thunder – went from one of the best players on his team to a likely backup. No chance he recreates his pre-injury magic from earlier this season.

Alec Burks, was Pistons now Knicks – averaged 17.4 points, 7.2 3-point attempts, and 25 minutes in January. When the Knicks are fully healthy, he’ll be lucky to average half those numbers.

Josh Hart, Knicks – the arrival of Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic will cut heavily into his workload.

Donte DiVincenzo, Knicks – ditto.

Killian Hayes, was Pistons now waived – not even on a roster anymore, so, yeah.

Deep league special

Marcus Sasser, Pistons (9% rostered)

Did you see the stat above? Between trades and cuts, the Pistons lost players who accounted for 3,548 minutes so far, 29% of their season total, for an average of 71 minutes per game. The incoming players – basically just Fontecchio, Quentin Grimes; everyone else was out of the rotation on their previous team – cannot cover all that by themselves. I’ve been really impressed with Sasser, and he’s held up well when he’s seen extended minutes. In his 15 highest-minute games, Sasser averaged 14-2-4 with one steal and 2.1 3s in 25.5 minutes. Getting to 25.5 minutes might be a stretch without some injuries, but his workload should increase following a busy deadline.

Other recommendations: Royce O’Neale, Suns (17% rostered); Jacob Gilyard, Grizzlies (10% rostered); Dennis Smith, Nets (8% rostered); David Roddy, Suns (10% rostered)

Schedule notes

Due to the All-Star break, Week 17 and Week 18 become four-day weeks: Monday through Thursday for Week 17, then six days off, then Thursday through Sunday for Week 18.

The first thing Fantasy managers must do is check their settings. On CBS, most leagues split Week 17 and Week 18 into two separate matchups (i.e., I play a four-day matchup against David in Week 17, and then a new four-day matchup against Bill in Week 18). However, on most other platforms, the two weeks are combined into one large matchup (i.e., all of the eight game days over the course of two calendar weeks count towards my “Week 17” matchup vs. David). To make matters more confusing, pretty much every host platform allows leagues to pick their preference. You have to check the settings of your own individual leagues.

Note: in weekly lineups leagues with a big two-weeks-combined “Week 17”, managers are almost always permitted to reset their lineups before the second week of games. However, sometimes lineup lock in those leagues is still set for 7 pm ET Monday, even though games don’t resume until Thursday; for this reason, make sure you have an acceptable lineup in place by Monday afternoon, just in case.

The schedule in Week 17 is very uneven. Monday’s slate is big (10 games), Tuesday’s is small (6 games), Wednesday’s is gigantic (13 games), and Friday’s is tiny (3 games).

In Week 17 almost everyone plays two games, but the exceptions are important. The Thunder play only once, while the Warriors, Grizzlies, Bucks, Timberwolves, and Jazz all play three times.

The schedule in Week 18 is crowded. There are between 10-12 games on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, with a tiny three-game Saturday squeezed into the middle.

In Week 18 there is an even split – 14 teams play two games, and 14 teams play three games. The Grizzlies and Heat, however, each play only once.

Combining the two weeks, there is an almost even split between four-game schedules and five-game schedules. The Warriors are the busiest, as the only team with six games. On the other end are the Heat, with just three games across the two-week stretch.

For daily lineup leagues

–      Remember that you have fewer days but the same number of weekly acquisitions; stream as much as you can.

–      Your starting lineup is likely full on Wednesday in Week 17, so make sure to add streamers for Thursday’s tiny slate early.

–      On Tuesday, target players on the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, and Bucks, as they play on both that night’s small slate and on Thursday’s even-smaller slate.

–      If you’re streaming on Thursday, prioritize Timberwolves, as they are the only team to play on both Thursday’s three-game slate and the three-game slate on Saturday of Week 18.

–      Notice that the Timberwolves are listed in both of the above bullets. Even though the Warriors have an extra game in Week 18, the Timberwolves have the best schedule across the next two weeks for daily lineups leagues.

–      If your league has a weekly games max, remember you are unlikely to reach it. You probably want to start every player you possibly can, even if that is unwise during normal weeks. This is true regardless of whether your league treats Weeks 17 and 18 as one matchup or two – if your league has a double-week combined matchup, it will likely double the games max.

For weekly lineups leagues

–      Other than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, managers should avoid starting any Thunderers (Thunders? Boomers? Rain Men? We need a committee to determine this.) in Week 17. In some situations, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams are ok, too. That’s it. Playing only one game when everyone else has two or three is just too big of a disadvantage to consider anyone else.

–      On the other end of it, the Warriors, Grizzlies, Bucks, Timberwolves, and Jazz all play three times. Just as the NBA has learned the massive advantage of two points vs. three points over the past decade, we need to do the same with our lineups. Two games is so much more than three games. For example, I’d be happy to start Brandin Podziemski or Jonathan Kuminga (both ranked in the 170s for the season) over someone with two games ranked in the 90s.

–      Amongst the teams with two games, the Hornets, Mavericks, Suns and Raptors have the most favorable weeks. They all get to stay at home and play two games against fast-paced teams with bad defenses. Among their eight combined opponents, seven of the matchups are against teams that are both bottom-seven in defensive rating and top-seven in pace.