One of the great constants of fantasy sports is tinkering with rosters, and if you are the kind of person who is reading this article in the first place, you are likely to be one of those people doing the tinkering. Finding waiver wire gems is highly profitable for a team, as is knowing when to cut bait on an under-performing player. However, reacting too quickly leads to situations like prematurely dropping Draymond Green or holding onto an injured player out of pure stubbornness and getting nothing all season long.
To that end, just as with the weekly schedule evaluation article, I want to lay out some rules of the road that guide my thinking. After all, when I am invariably wrong, it’s more fun for everyone if I lay out my rationale to be frozen in time on the internet so we can all make fun of me later.
First: pay attention to your settings. In weekly leagues where you can leave players on the bench, you should be more biased towards holding onto long-shot large payoffs than in daily setting leagues where every player matters all the time. ESPN coaches should be biased towards holding onto injured players, as they tend to have IR slots. Yahoo coaches are going to have to cut bait on the injured guys more rapidly, especially if you face the dreaded combination of a daily league with no IR spots. Roto teams are going to be more sensitive to injuries that sap overall contributions, while head to head formats where you can stash players who might provide big stats in key match-ups or in the playoffs are going to be less sensitive to injuries. For my part, I will call out situations of particular interest to one kind of format or another, but I can’t know the individual settings of every league.
Second: the crowd is not always right, and I will try to give my verdict on each situation. Just because a player is being dropped non-stop does not mean they are worthless, and a player being added non-stop doesn’t make them valuable. After all, Marcus Smart was added so violently that people were knocking over their own grandmother to get to their computers earlier this season, and now Smart is averaging 25 mpg, 8.9 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.9 3-pointers over the past 15 days. I mean, that’s not nothing, but was that guy really a must-add, or is Smart the poor man’s Eric Gordon with the added bonus of a coach that harbors a deep-seated hatred of fantasy?
Third: your team’s situation matters. If you are a nose outside of the playoffs in a daily head to head league, you probably need guys who are going to get you wins right now and should be looking for a high floor on performance. If you are way in the lead in the same league, you should be looking for high upside players who can move the needle in the playoffs. In short, the stronger your team and your record/lead, the more risk you can take.
Most Added Players
Nurkic is averaging 20 mpg, 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 1.1 steals, 54.1 percent on 8.7 field goals, and 75.0 percent on 2.9 free throws over the last 15 days. More so, Mozgov was just traded to the Cavaliers, making Nurkic the clear man in the middle for the Denver Nuggets at the moment. As a result, I think the crowd is right on this one in virtually all formats, and Nurkic is likely to produce for the remainder of the season unless somehow JaVale McGee can throw a wrench into this thing. My one word of caution is that Nurkic is fouling at a rate even Danny Fortson would find excessive, so there may not be as much upside to his minutes as one might expect. Verdict: Add in all formats.
Whiteside is averaging 22 mpg, 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, .8 steals, 73.2 percent on 6.8 field goals, and 54.5 percent on 3.7 free throws over the last 15 days. The field goal percentage is likely to regress towards the mean over time, while the free throws are likely to continue to suck. As a result, Whiteside is a touch more situational than Nurkic. He did start in the second half of Miami’s last game, posting a breakout line of 23 points, 16 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals, but if your team thrives on free throw percentages, Whiteside could be poison. Otherwise, add him with impunity, as his competition at center consists of the fossilized corpse of Chris Andersen and whoever Miami randomly picks out of the crowd to be their 12th man at home games. Verdict: Add, if you can stomach the free throws.
So I mentioned Gordon in my previously weekly article, and I don’t want to oversell him here. Since returning, he is averaging 33.8 mpg, 13.5 points, 3.8 assists, 2.3 3-pointers, .8 steals, 47.5 percent on 10 field goals, and 87.5 percent on two free throws. Those are strong numbers, though the field goal percentage is likely to regress a bit, and the minutes are there. With that said, much of that came in a game where Holiday sat with an ankle issue and Gordon ripped off 12 shots. In two of his other three games, he has had less than 10. Realistically, the Pelicans just don’t need him to do much, but he has real talent. Injuries or the occasional explosive game could be in his future if he is healthy again. Verdict: If you need threes and points, he can get them. Maybe.
I will confess that, when doing the combined most-added rankings for ESPN and Yahoo, I have noticed a trend: guys who were previously injured are added much more frequently on the Yahoo side, and guys who just got injured are dropped far more frequently on the Yahoo side. This is attributable to the lack of an injured reserve; I expect that Wes Johnson was available in far fewer ESPN leagues than Yahoo leagues, so the opportunity to add him was far more limited since he was on someone’s IR, not cut. For the Yahoo crowd, which is what drives Johnson’s most-added status, Johnson put up 17 points with three 3-pointers in his first game back, playing 31 minutes. He is flirting with averages nearing the magical one block, one steal, one three-pointer line on the season, and if Kobe gets shut down, those numbers should go up. Verdict: All-around solid if unspectacular. Roto teams probably want him, head to head teams probably don’t unless you need exactly what he gives you.
Mozgov being traded to the Cavs is responsible for three of the players covered in this article. In terms of adds, both Mozgov and Nurkic have proven they are deserving of starting spots when given the minutes, and now, both of them have them. Mozgov has averaged 30 mpg since the trade to Cleveland, and he looks like a lock to start at center for the remainder of the season with Anderson Varejao done for the year. In that role, Mozgov is probably going to average roughly a double double with more than a block per game, and he should sport decent percentages (51 FG%, 71 FT% for the season so far, with no reason to believe they fall off with the Cavs). It’s very hard to argue with this pickup if you need a serviceable big, with the only nagging doubt being the unfavorable schedule for Cleveland in most head to head playoff formats. Even so, in leagues of 10+ teams, you are unlikely to find a better big if Mozgov is on your waiver wire and Nurkic or Whiteside aren’t available. Verdict: It’s Mozgov time.
Most Dropped Players
Muhammad himself is expected to miss the next two weeks with an abdominal strain. Given his limited production is focused mostly on points, that’s probably enough in and of itself for him to be dropped in a variety of daily leagues if you don’t have an IR. Second, Kevin Martin is allegedly nearing a return, though as with all things involving the words “Kevin Martin” and “healthy”, I remain somewhat skeptical. Even so, the potential return by a player averaging 13.3 shots per game for the Timberwolves means that Martin was likely to take a chunk out of Muhammad’s value. As a result, holding Muhammad is a risky strategy. Verdict: Justified cut if you need the roster spot.
This one is being driven by the ESPN crowd, lagging the injury news, as I suspect they are finally getting tired of the fact that Deron Williams is slightly less durable than Samuel L Jackson’s character in Unbreakable. Williams had already lost his job to Jarrett Jack. With Lionel Hollins seemingly intent on leaving Jack in the starting lineup and Williams lacking any timetable for a return, I cannot fault people who aren’t able to carry dead weight for letting Williams go. However, for those who have either a free IR spot or are in a weekly league where Williams can remain on the bench, he makes for a very interesting flier in head to head leagues. Brooklyn goes four-four-four over three weeks in the most common formats of head to head playoffs, and if Williams regains the starting role, he will be the rare quality starting point guard that can be found on the waiver wire and deliver in the playoffs. Verdict: Williams is high upside, high downside. Act accordingly based on your team.
Do you remember everything good I said about Mozgov above? Thompson is basically the opposite: a big man who just returned to the bench, never played much defense to begin with, and contributed only in a handful of categories instead of the more balanced across the board production that Mozgov offers. If you want to be stubborn and make sure Thomspon is back to the same role he was in when Varejao was healthy, hold on for another week, but when push comes to shove, you are probably looking at a player who will average about 8 points and 8 rebounds with nothing else. Unexciting, to say the least, unless you are in a very, very deep league. Verdict: Cut.
The Knicks play only one game this week, and Aldrich scored two whole points in his last game. With that said, he also had 12 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists, plus the incredible advantage of being the only member of the New York Knicks frontcourt who has a working human body. Given that his competition consists of Amar’e Stoudemire (less healthy than even Deron Williams) and Andrea Bargnani (somehow less healthy than even Stoudemire, which is kind of amazing), the only other option the Knicks have at center is to actually send a literal bench into the game. Aldrich will continue to play and continue to get minutes. If you can handle the single game week, he was averaging roughly 9 points, 8 rebounds, one block, and one steal prior to that. Verdict: Do not cut.
Meeks is not the player he was with the Lakers. This should not be surprising, given that there are virtually no wing players that leave the D’Antoni system and post better fantasy stats. As a result, what you see right now is what you get with Meeks, and that means you are going to get points, three point shooting, a handful of high quality free throws, and absolutely nothing else. It’s hard to justify him in roto leagues as he is empty in too many categories, and in head to head leagues, it’s hard to roster him unless you are punting two of the big man categories. Verdict: Unless you are a small ball team that plays to all of Meeks’ strengths, cut him.