Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Khem Birch among top options

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By Gabe Allen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The finish line is in sight. When making waiver wire moves at this late stage of the year, it’s important to keep in mind which teams have something concrete to compete for. Players on teams with limited incentive to win often offer considerable upside, but sometimes the losing teams can be tough to predict down the stretch.

Last week’s column included several players from non-playoff teams, but 12 of the 14 players featured in this week’s edition suit up for squads that are projected to reach the playoffs or play-in tournament.

NO-BRAINERS

Bobby Portis, Bucks (50% rostered)

Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) left Thursday’s loss to the lowly Rockets early in the first quarter and did not return. In his absence, Portis posted 10 points, 11 boards, four steals, and three dimes in 24 minutes. Portis provided excellent scoring and rebounding totals while the reigning two-time MVP missed time earlier in the year, and with Milwaukee virtually locked into third place in the Eastern Conference, Antetokounmpo might be rested fairly frequently down the stretch of the regular season. Milwaukee’s Week 20 matchups (Nets, Wizards, Rockets) figure to be high-scoring affairs, though the three-game schedule is a mark against Portis.

Seth Curry, 76ers (50% rostered)

If nothing else, Curry remains a consistent source of scoring and threes, and he’s not going to hurt your free-throw percentage. Philadelphia still has an outside shot of earning the East’s top seed, so there’s no reason to expect the team to take its foot off the gas. With a four-game week ahead featuring friendly matchups against the Bulls, Rockets, Pelicans, and Pistons, Curry is worth a look in most leagues. If you want a side of steals and blocks with your threes, fellow-76er Danny Green (40% rostered) might be the more appealing option, though he is in a bit of a funk of late, offensively.

Goran Dragic, Heat (50% rostered)

During the last two contests, Dragic has combined for 26 points, 14 assists, six boards, and four steals while committing only one turnover across 63 minutes of action. Even at this late stage of the regular season, everything is up in the air for the Heat. Miami could earn home-court advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs, or it might have to take part in the play-in tournament. As such, there’s no shortage of incentive for this squad to aim for a strong finish this season, which bodes well for Dragic’s fantasy outlook.

Oshae Brissett, Pacers (48% rostered)

Brissett’s per-game averages across the last five games (15.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.4 threes, 2.2 blocks, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 steals) speak for themselves. At this point, the sophomore forward should probably be held onto even after Domantas Sabonis (back) rejoins the rotation. The eventual return of Goga Bitadze (ankle) could also complicate things for Brissett, but he’s played well enough to at least earn consistent looks down the stretch.

Keldon Johnson, Spurs (44% rostered)

With Derrick White (ankle) likely out for the season, Johnson is the most obvious beneficiary. Johnson’s most productive month thus far this season was January, during which he averaged 15.1 points (50.2% FG, 34.1% 3PT, 75.4% FT), 7.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 31.2 minutes, while White appeared in only two games. For those in deeper formats, Lonnie Walker IV (6% rostered) is another young Spur who’s likely to benefit from White’s absence.

Khem Birch, Raptors (43% rostered)

Regular readers may recall Birch being recommended a couple of weeks ago when he was widely available, despite a fairly strong start to his Raptors’ tenure. Since then, he has broken out in a big way, establishing himself as the team’s best center with Chris Boucher (knee) hurt. Over the last two outings, Birch has combined for 33 points and 22 boards across 68 minutes, and he has been a quality source of boards, blocks, and steals ever since he joined the team. Given the ongoing absence of Boucher, Birch should continue to see heavy minutes.

Khem Birch, of the Toronto Raptors
Khem Birch is a top pickup option this week. (Rich Schultz/Pool Photo via AP)

Marcus Morris Sr., Clippers (38% rostered)

Kawhi Leonard (foot) is reportedly progressing toward a return. However, it’s unlikely that the team will push Leonard to play a ton of minutes before the postseason. As such, Morris — who has been pouring in 20.0 points and 3.5 threes per game across his last eight appearances — is a good bet to keep filling it up on offense over the next couple weeks.

Jeff Green, Nets (37% rostered)

Green has scored in double figures while earning 30-plus minutes in five of the last six games. He has also been a well-rounded contributor, pitching in decently across every category. Although Brooklyn boasts decent depth, Green has been relied upon pretty heavily this season. With the Nets trying to lock up the top seed in the conference, Green is likely to continue playing plenty of minutes down the stretch.

MORE WIDELY AVAILABLE

Facundo Campazzo, Nuggets (26% rostered)

With Monte Morris and Will Barton both sidelined by hamstring injuries and Jamal Murray (knee) out for the season, Campazzo has gotten a lot of burn over the last handful of games. Across the last four contests, he’s averaging 10.8 points, 8.5 dimes, 3.0 boards, 2.0 steals, and 1.0 three in 32.3 minutes. Denver’s decision to keep Austin Rivers around may result in slightly less time for Campazzo going forward, but nevertheless, he still warrants consideration in most formats.

Jalen Brunson, Mavericks (26% rostered)

Brunson’s season-long stats speak for themselves. He’s both productive and efficient offensively but doesn’t offer much defensively. Dallas is fighting to avoid the play-in tournament, so Luka Doncic (sore elbow) might play through the pain down the stretch this season. While he boasts more upside on nights that Doncic is held out, Brunson has proven himself a steady contributor.

Isaiah Roby, Thunder (25% rostered)

Even on young, injury-plagued, losing teams, someone has to stuff the stat sheet, right? Among the widely available Thunder players — including Moses Brown, Theo Maledon, Kenrich Williams, and Aleksej Pokusevsk — Roby seemingly offers the best blend of upside and consistency. During the last four games, he is managing per-game averages of 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.0 three, and 0.5 blocks in 23.3 minutes.

DEEP-LEAGUE OPTIONS

Kent Bazemore, Warriors (10% rostered)

With Kelly Oubre (wrist) still sidelined, Bazemore isn’t a bad choice in deeper leagues. He has scored in double figures while earning at least 30 minutes in three of his last four appearances. Furthermore, in his two most recent outings, Bazemore has combined for 29 points, 19 boards, nine steals, six treys, five dimes, and three blocks across 68 minutes. Golden State also has a four-game slate next week featuring friendly matchups against the Pelicans and Thunder (twice each).

Willy Hernangómez, Pelicans (5% rostered)

Steven Adams aggravated his toe injury in his last appearance and was held out of Thursday’s game against the Thunder. Meanwhile, Hernangomez has collected a double-double in three of his last four appearances. If Adams misses any more time, Hernangomez is a significantly more reliable short-term option than fellow Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes.

Bryn Forbes, Bucks (3% rostered)

Forbes finished with a career-high 30 points in Thursday’s loss to the Rockets. He has the greenest of green lights from the moment he enters games, and though he’s only helpful in two categories (scoring and threes), he’s connecting on a career-high 44.0 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season. Moreover, Milwaukee’s starting shooting guard, Donte DiVincenzo, has been struggling lately. Like Portis, Forbes is hurt by the Bucks’ three-game week, but if you’re in dire need of threes he’s an option to consider.