By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’re not even two weeks into the new NBA season, and teams have played only a handful of games. But waiver wires are already beginning to thin out, slowly but surely. Injuries and trades, among other things, will prevent stagnation and maintain change’s status as the lone constant. Still, this early stage of the campaign is a crucial one. Many managers will be hesitant to drop players they drafted in exchange for someone who might be breaking out, while many others will be too quick to move on from a quality player who’s merely off to a lackluster start. Trusting your instincts is key, as is remembering recent history.
ALREADY ON MOST RADARS
Kevin Huerter, SG, Sacramento Kings (48% rostered)
Huerter is off to a sluggish start, especially from a shooting perspective, and some fantasy managers have already hopped off his bandwagon (-4% Last Day). However, after two total duds to begin the year, he has looked a bit more like himself in the last two games, combining for 23 points, 16 boards, seven dimes, four treys, two blocks and one steal across 64 minutes.
With De’Aaron Fox (ankle) sidelined by a short-term injury, Huerter might enjoy a boost in production for the coming week, aided in part by matchups versus the defensively dismal Rockets and Trail Blazers. Considering Huerter is coming off a career season, in which he posted career highs in scoring (15.2 PPG), field-goal percentage (48.5% FG), made threes (2.7 3PG), and three-point shooting percentage (40.2% 3PT), it makes sense to scoop him up now — because by the time he’s heating up, so too will the competition for his services.
Teammates Malik Monk (45% rostered) and Davion Mitchell (5% rostered) are also worthy of consideration in points leagues and deeper formats, respectively.
Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Dallas Mavericks (48% rostered)
Hardaway is off to a scalding-hot start, boasting averages of 20.3 points (45.0% FG, 43.2% 3PT, 100.0% FT), 4.5 boards, 4.0 threes and 1.8 assists in 28.8 minutes through four contests. He is thriving in his role as the sixth man and playing some of the best ball of his career to begin the year. If he’s still being slept on in your league, go ahead and correct that now while you still can.
Jalen Suggs, SG (40% rostered) and Cole Anthony, PG (38% rostered), Orlando Magic
Depending on your needs, Suggs or Anthony should be worth a look in most formats. If you’re more in need of defensive stats, Suggs is swiping 2.0 steals per game to go along with 10.2 points, 5.4 boards, 2.0 dimes and 0.6 blocks through five contests, while the typically inefficient Anthony — a career 41.3% shooter — is averaging 15.6 points (47.3% FG, 38.9% 3PT, 76.0% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists to only 1.2 turnovers in 24.4 minutes. An injury to the oft-injured Markelle Fultz would likely turn both Suggs and Anthony into solid standard-league options. If you can afford to stash one of them, it could pay off down the road.
Dillon Brooks, SG, Houston Rockets (40% rostered)
Brooks seems to be enjoying his new digs, as he’s averaging 15.8 points (59.0% FG, 62.5% 3PT, 87.5% FT), 4.0 threes, 3.3 boards, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals in 34.5 minutes through four games. His percentages will come crashing back down to earth in due time, but the heavy minute totals and well-rounded production provide reason for long-term optimism. Based on his sterling stat line thus far, he really shouldn’t be sitting on the waiver wire in three out of every five leagues.
Christian Wood, PF, Los Angeles Lakers (39% rostered)
After seeing 15 minutes or less in two of the first three games to begin the season, Wood has been much more involved in the last two outings, combining for 19 points, 20 boards, four rejections, three treys, three dimes and one steal across 55 minutes. Jarred Vanderbilt (heel) will be re-evaluated in a week, and until he returns, Wood will presumably continue earning plenty of minutes as the team’s backup big man. Given that the Lakers have a four-game week on the horizon, Wood makes all the sense in the world as a one-week streaming option, and if you can afford to do so, an excellent stash candidate in case Vanderbilt’s ailment lingers longer or the injury-prone Anthony Davis gets banged up.
Kelly Olynyk, C, Utah Jazz (31% rostered)
Although operating in a modest reserve role, Olynyk has been providing extreme efficiency and well-rounded production on a near-nightly basis. Through six games, the 32-year-old center is averaging 8.3 points (66.7% FG, 50.0% 3PT, 81.8% FT), 5.0 boards, 3.8 dimes, 1.5 steals and 0.8 threes in 20.3 minutes. With Walker Kessler seemingly enduring the dreaded sophomore slump, having performed well in only two games thus far, Olynyk has stepped up in a significant way when called upon. While Olynyk may not be all that enticing of an option for points leagues, he’ll be a hot commodity in category leagues if he can keep this up.
Grayson Allen, SG, Phoenix Suns (31% rostered)
Small sample size alert! Through five games, Allen is averaging career highs in several departments, including scoring (11.6 PPG), rebounding (4.6 RPG), assists (3.2 APG), made threes (2.8 3PG) and minutes (31.4 MPG). It’s unclear when Bradley Beal (back) will be cleared to play, and Allen could be a key contributor until that day comes. If you’re not desperate for defensive stats, Allen is an appealing option, at least for the time being.
Talen Horton-Tucker, SG, Utah Jazz (30% rostered)
Although his shooting percentage (41.7% FG) leaves a lot to be desired, Horton-Tucker is stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 10.3 points, 6.0 assists, 2.5 boards, 1.2 threes and 1.2 steals in 24.7 minutes through six games. Given his size and strength, the rebounding numbers remain disappointing, but he has reduced his turnovers significantly, committing only 1.8 giveaways per game thus far. If he improves his shooting percentage and does a better job crashing the glass, he’ll be a must-add player. For now, though, he’s still a decent pickup in most formats, but especially in deeper points leagues.
Alex Caruso, PG, Chicago Bulls (27% rostered)
Caruso remains a modest contributor offensively even though he’s shooting a career-high 51.9 percent from the field. He’s probably never going to wow us with his scoring or assist numbers, but his well-rounded averages of 7.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 dimes, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 threes in 24.0 minutes afford him decent value in plenty of leagues. If you need someone who’s going to contribute in multiple categories and rack up stocks, Caruso can be that guy.
Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Brooklyn Nets (22% rostered)
Another small sample size alert! Through three appearances, Walker is contributing career highs of 16.7 points (48.4% FG, 47.1% 3PT), 3.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 threes, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. It’s too early to say whether the 25-year-old shooting guard is going to enjoy a breakout season, but at this point, he’s worth a speculative add in case he keeps this up.
T.J. McConnell, PG, Indiana Pacers (9% rostered)
McConnell was barely part of the rotation through the first three games this season, receiving a DNP-Coach’s Decision once while combining for 25 minutes in the other two appearances. However, with Tyrese Haliburton (ankle) sidelined for Wednesday’s matchup versus the Celtics, McConnell accumulated 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one steal in 28 minutes. Haliburton is listed as questionable heading into Friday’s contest against the Cavaliers, so McConnell could once again be called upon to play a more demanding role. Anyone already rostering Haliburton would be wise to at least consider adding McConnell, as he has been a consistent contributor over the years when the minutes have been there.
Dario Saric, PF, Golden State Warriors (8% rostered)
The Warriors have a crowded frontcourt when fully healthy, and Saric has struggled with his shot (36.8% FG) early on. Nevertheless, he has been making an impact crashing the boards (7.0 RPG) and distributing (2.2 APG) thus far. His passing ability makes him a natural fit in Golden State’s offense, as he’s adept when it comes to running dribble hand-offs, reading defenses, and finding open shooters or backdoor cutters. Though best reserved for deeper leagues, there’s some upside if any of the team’s veteran big men suffer injuries.
Christian Braun, SG, Denver Nuggets (7% rostered)
Braun saw less than 20 minutes in each of the first two games this season, but he has taken a step in the right direction over the last three outings, during which time he’s averaging 10.0 points, 8.0 boards and 3.7 assists across 23.7 minutes. The sophomore wing had his moments during last year’s championship run, and he could very well be in the process of earning a more demanding role going forward. At the very least, put Braun on your watch list.
Dereck Lively II