Fantasy Basketball Drop Candidates: Time for hard cuts with just a month left in the season

Jaden McDaniels #3 of the Minnesota Timberwolves
Averaging under 10 points and shooting 30% in his last 11 games, Jaden McDaniels can be cut in fantasy basketball leagues to make room for roster upgrades. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) (Harry How via Getty Images)

By Nick Whalen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Only one month remains in the NBA regular season, which means it’s officially do-or-die time in most fantasy leagues. Whether your playoffs have already started, begin next week or your league goes all the way through Game 82, it’s never too late to make tweaks to optimize your roster.

In fact, I would argue that at this point in the season, it’s more important than ever to be working the waiver wire and identifying valuable adds and streamers on a weekly — or nightly, in daily lineups leagues — basis. Of course, in order to do that, you need to maintain flexibility, which often means making difficult decisions to free up a roster spot.

Below, we’ll identify six players widely rostered in Yahoo leagues who fantasy managers can feel comfortable dropping to free up space and provide opportunity for better production when you need it most.

Jakob Poeltl, Raptors (62% rostered)

While the Raptors have not handed down an ultra-specific timetable for the big man, the writing is on the wall — to me, at least — that there’s a good chance his season is over. Poeltl underwent surgery last week and was hit with the dreaded “out indefinitely” tag — not something fantasy managers ever want to see.

With essentially a month remaining in the season and the Raptors falling out of the Play-In race, there’s little reason for Poeltl to rush his way back — especially since the Raptors are trying to hold on to the top-six-protected pick they owe the San Antonio Spurs. In my mind, it’s far more likely than not that we won’t see the veteran big man again until 2024-25.

Jalen Suggs, Magic (48% rostered)

I love Jalen Suggs and am glad he’s found his niche in the NBA, but if you’re looking to add a hot free agent or stream a spot for the playoffs, I’m OK with cutting bait on the Gonzaga product. For one, Suggs has been inconsistent offensively all season — his home/road splits are a sight to behold — but more importantly, the Magic do not have an overly advantageous upcoming schedule. Next week (March 18) is a three-game week, as is the following week.

After that, they play four games (April 1), but that’s a loaded week in which 26 of 30 teams play four games, so it’s much less of an advantage. If you really need the steals, feel free to hold on to Suggs, but chances are you’ll be better off streaming in four-game players.

Vince Williams Jr., Grizzlies (64% rostered)

Williams has been a top-70 fantasy player in cat leagues over the last month, so this is more of a “something to consider” than a “must-drop” suggestion. First, like Orlando, the Grizzlies have only three games each of the next two weeks, making Williams a difficult player to trust in a do-or-die fantasy matchup. Second, Memphis continues to insist that Desmond Bane is coming back, which would certainly trim Williams’ workload.

Bane won’t play Wednesday but could be back as soon as Saturday against OKC or Monday in Sacramento. The return of Bane wouldn’t render Williams useless, but it would give Williams both a lower floor and a lower ceiling whenever Bane is in the lineup.

Tim Hardaway, Jr., Mavericks (44% rostered)

Hardaway is always a difficult case because whenever you drop him, it feels like he inevitably pops off for a huge week. But he’s been mired in an extended slump that dates back to the beginning of February. Over his last 16 games, Hardaway is averaging just 9.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.9 made 3s while shooting 33.8% from the floor and 32.0% from downtown (6.1 3PA/G). That’s simply not going to cut it from a player who really only generates value via points and 3s. Plus, the Mavs have a two-game week coming up (March 18), so there’s almost no chance you’d be starting him anyway.

Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves (44% rostered)

Unlike most of the players listed above, McDaniels does have a decent schedule going forward (four, three and four games), but his production of late, even amid multiple injuries for the Wolves, has been underwhelming. Over the last 11 games, McDaniels is putting up just 8.9 points, 4.2 boards, 1.9 assists and 1.4 combined blocks/steals while shooting under 30% from beyond the arc. That sample even includes a 26-point, seven-rebound, five-3-pointer outburst against the Kings on March 1.

McDaniels bottomed out with zero points (0-8 FG) in 23 minutes against the Clippers on Tuesday and simply hasn’t seen the boost some expected in the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns. While the rebounds and occasional defensive eruptions are nice, most fantasy managers can probably find a better weekly streamer.

Nick Richards, Charlotte Hornets (55% rostered)

To be clear, Richards is absolutely deserving of his roster rate, and after three double-doubles in his last three games, one could argue that it should be higher. With that said, the Hornets have a two-game week coming up, so unless you have a bye (we hope that’s the case), you’ll likely be better served streaming in a big man from one of the 12 teams with a four-game week or even one of the 16 teams on a three-game week.

If you’re in a daily lineups league, consider hanging on to Richards for the Hornets matchup with Orlando on March 19, then finding a better option to maximize output for the rest of the week. Fifteen teams play three games between March 20 to 24.