NBA Fantasy Waiver Pickups & Schedule (Week 16): James Harden and Kristaps Porzingis Injury Pivots, Josh Giddey’s Prime Opportunity, More
Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Josh Giddey #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For some teams around the league, the sun is beginning to set on their season, which means more opportunity for young players. For other teams, the grind continues, which means there’s value on squads with deep benches.
Joe Dellera and Dan Titus break down their top players to watch entering the week through the lens of injuries along with some notes on how to benefit on worthwhile players props, fantasy trends and scheduling quirks for Week 16.
Read below to see where they are finding small edges this week.
Fantasy Basketball Schedule — Week 16
- Four Games: ATL, BOS, BKN, CHI, CLE, DEN, DET, HOU, IND, MIA, NOP, OKC, ORL, PHI, POR, SAC, TOR
- Three Games: CHA, DAL, GSW, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIL, MIN, NYK, PHX, SAS, WAS
- Two Games: UTA
Fantasy Friendly Teams in Week 16
- Trail Blazers: (@OKC, @LAL, OKC, MIL)
- Cavaliers: (NOR, @HOU,@CHA, IND)
- Celtics: (MIA, CHA, @DET, @ORL)
- Pelicans: (@CLE, @DET, @DEN, @HOU)
- Thunder: (POR, @DAL, @POR, @SAC)
- Guards: Chris Duarte, Ayo Dosunmu, Patty Mills, Gabe Vincent, Luke Kennard, Davion Mitchell, Nikeil Alexander-Walker, De’Anthony Melton, Pat Connaughton, Kevin Huerter, Austin Rivers, Cory Joseph, Killian Hayes, Terence Ross, Kessler Edward
- Forwards: Herb Jones, Otto Porter, Kevin Love, Nic Batum, Chuma Okeke, Justin Holiday, KJ Martin, Cam Johnson, DeAndre Hunter, Amir Coffey, Brandon Clarke, Cedi Osman, Trey Lyles, Garrison Mathews, Cody Martin, PJ Washington, James Johnson, Darius Bazley
- Centers: Thomas Bryant, Bismack Biyombo, Chris Boucher, Hassan Whiteside, Nic Claxton,Maxi Kleber, Willy Hernangomez, Onyeka Okongwu
Players to Watch
James Harden/Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
James Harden has missed the Nets’ last two games with a right hand strain, and this is something that he apparently has been dealing with for an extended period of time, so with the Nets having higher aspirations than just securing the No. 1 seed, Harden may miss more time.
One thing to consider is that the Nets have a back-to-back set on Tuesday and Wednesday, it does not make much sense to rush Harden back if they’d prefer to hold him out for one of those games given the injury.
The Nets are fortunate in that their next five games are on the road, so Kyrie Irving will handle as much usage as he can handle, but this also means an increase in usage for Patty Mills, Kessler Edwards, James Johnson, and Cameron Thomas amongst others.
In these last two games without both Harden and Durant, Irving has averaged 39.5 minutes, 27 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.0 steals. However, the player that the books have truly struggled to account for is Mills.
Props Impact: We’ve talked about Mills in this column before, and the books continue to set his prop lines around 12.5 points and 2.5 3s when some combination of Irving, Harden, and Durant play, but he’s been excellent at hitting his 3s prop as he transitions to more of a spot up shooter when the superstar trio plays. However, when two or all of them miss, Mills is a usage monster and we see the books move his props to about 17.5 points, and 3.5 3s at plus-money.
In those spots, while Mills hits 3s, he’s also useful on his points prop. Mills just saw Usage rates of roughly 23% over these last two games, a significant uptick from his 16.3% Usage Rate on the season, and he has averaged 34.8 minutes, 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 5 3s on 10 attempts. The volume is there, and that’s something to count on when playing his props as long as Harden and Durant are both out.
Another player to watch is Cameron Thomas. He dropped 25 points against Denver on Jan. 26, then scored just two points against the Warriors on Jan 29. His prop line against the Warriors was just 7.5 points, but their next game against the Suns may be a buy-low spot given his volume — he still took seven shots in that two-point performance.
De’Aaron Fox/Davion Mitchell, Sacramento Kings
Without De’AaronFox, the Kings have seen multiple players step up. The primary beneficiary of his absence has been Tyrese Haliburton who has excelled — he averages 21.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 9.8 assists, and 1.9 steals.
However, the books have adjusted a bit for him and he’s certainly well-owned in fantasy leagues. Another player that had benefited was Terence Davis, but he’s since suffered a right wrist ECU tendon injury and will miss an indefinite period of time. This opens up an even bigger gap for this Kings team to fill.
They’ve since turned to rookie Davion Mitchell, a lockdown defender who is capable on the offensive side of the ball as well. Mitchell has started the last two games for the Kings, and he’s played over 30 minutes in each, scoring 20 and 15 points respectively.
Props Impact: The Kings are trying to develop some talent here, and it makes sense for Mitchell to see more playing time. In the seven games this season where he has played more than 30 minutes, Mitchell is averaging 14.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.
Mitchell’s prop lines against the 76ers were as follows: 12.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, all of which he cleared. Keep an eye on his prop lines this week with games against the Knicks, Nets, Warriors, and Thunder.
Kristaps Porzingis/Maxi Kleber, Dallas Mavericks
Kristaps Porzingis left Saturday night’s contest with soreness in his right knee and he has been ruled out ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.
Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) is out tonight at Orlando. Porzingis did not travel with the team after Saturday night’s win over Indiana, in which he played just 11 minutes before being shelved with the injury. Jason Kidd said he'll see how KP is doing on Monday.
— Eddie Sefko (@ESefko) January 30, 2022
Fantasy Impact: Porzingis previously tore his right meniscus in 2020, so news of renewed soreness in his surgically repaired knee will certainly have fantasy managers on edge. The Mavs have yet to schedule an MRI or provide too many details into his injury, but fantasy managers should pick up Maxi Kleber in the interim.
The Mavs play three games this week and with Porzingis’ storied injury history, the Mavs may opt to play it safe and have him rest. Kleber went for 15 points with a career-high 14 rebounds in Saturday’s outing versus the Pacers once Porzingis exited so he’ll likely be a solid fill-in should Porzingis miss any time.
Check out our free NBA odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game.
Otto Porter Jr., Golden State Warriors
The nine-year pro has rejuvenated his career in Golden State this season, due in large part to the absence of Draymond Green. The Warriors are 7-3 overall in their past 10 games and Porter has been one of the main drivers of their team success. But from a fantasy perspective, he’s been dynamic.
Porter just cracked the top-100 in Yahoo 9-category H2H formats but over the past two weeks, he’s delivered fifth-round value with the following splits: 11.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists along with 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, and 1.7 3PM in just under 26 minutes per contest.
One downside for Porter is that he is not playing in the second game of the Warriors back-to-back set on Monday, but without a concrete return date for Green, Porter should continue to be one of the better streaming options available on waivers.
Fantasy Impact: Keep him rostered as long as Green remains out of commission.
Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder
Unfortunately for Thunder fans, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is going to be out yet again with an ankle injury and he will not be reevaluated until after the All-Star break (mid-February).
Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a right ankle sprain and will be sidelined at least through the All-Star Break, the team says. Thunder say he’ll be re-evaluated after the break in mid-February.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 29, 2022
This is troublesome news for fantasy managers as SGA will likely miss a minimum of 10 games and, it’s hard not to imagine a scenario where he’s shut down like last season with the Thunder sitting a half game in front of the Rockets for last place in the Western Conference.
Fantasy Impact: So what does this mean for the rest of the Thunder team? Look for Australian rookie Josh Giddey to step up. In three games without SGA this season, Giddey is averaging 17.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 9.0 assists with 48/43/100 shooting splits in 33.7 minutes per game. His Usage Rate also went up from 21% to 26% with SGA out of the lineup.
He’s coming off a 15/10/5 performance against the lowly Pacers but if there is anyone willing to sell, he’d be a great fantasy asset in the short term and potentially even longer with Gilgeous-Alexander on crutches and in a walking boot.