Unlike in fantasy football, the waiver wire is on fire basically every day in fantasy basketball leagues. Plus, most fantasy leagues are set where you can pick up a player just after or even during his attractive game, and waiting more than day is often too late. Hey, maybe even one minute is too late in some leagues. So shouldn’t we be talking about waivers more than once per week? I think so.
That’s what brings us to a new column in Mid-Week Waiver Wired. Every Thursday, I’ll be talking about things that have changed since Monday and focus on those in competitive leagues where you basically only have one chance to add potential assets to your team.
This column is going to try to be one step ahead for players who may see opportunity soon, or they may have an opportunity right now and it just hasn’t worked out for them yet. Sure, there are going to be some guys that already got scooped up in the first half of the column, but I'll explain how I think their value could trend based on what we've seen. Most fantasy players in leagues that matter shouldn’t need anyone to tell you to add a guy that has gone off for three-plus games, and if you do, chances are someone else already added them. Basically, it’s all about forward thinking here and we’ll try to tie in some recent injuries to figure out who gets the value. Ideally, it will mostly be about the Wednesday action because it tends to be a heavier slate. This should also help out DFS players looking for cheap options why may have lower ownership.
Injuries from this week
Jimmy Butler (personal) missed Wednesday for personal reasons, but may not be out for long. Kendrick Nunn has essentially assumed his role while the other perimeter players will have more responsibilities.
Mitchell Robinson rolled his ankle at practice this week, but is expected to play Friday. He did miss a lot of time last season for what looked like an ankle injury, so it’s possible he is out for longer. Bobby Portis and their 37 power forwards will soak up his minutes.
T.J. Warren (hip) took a spill at the end of Wednesday’s game and couldn’t return. He said he expects to play in the next game, though.
Old News (players who should’ve already been owned in standard leagues and have been better than expected): PJ Washington, Coby White, Taurean Prince, Darius Garland, Marcus Morris, OG Anunoby, Derrick Rose, Rui Hachimura
Kendrick Nunn (13%) - What a debut, scoring 24 points with two rebounds, three assists, two steals and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. He’s really good and has shown he can play on and off ball. Perhaps most importantly, after the game coach Erik Spoelstra said that Nunn was expected to start before the Heat found out Jimmy Butler (personal) was going to miss time.
No player in July's combined summer league action scored more points than Nunn did with his 132 for 22 per night over those six games, helping him earn a first-team nod from the Vegas run. You also likely heard about his 40-point gem on Friday for a Heat preseason record since those preseason stats were tracked this century. That one game was no fluke either at 27 points per 36 in the preseason on a superstar-like 63.1 TS% with his 25.8 usage rate. Nunn also had at least four minutes of overlap with every rotation player, so Spo looks to trust him in really any combination. If PJ Washington was the biggest winner from the preseason, Nunn has to be in the top five.
He’s worth adding in most leagues right now based on how he’s yet to play poorly at any level against NBA talent.
Devonte Graham (10% owned) - PJ Washington was the belle of the ball for late-round selections last week, but don’t forget about Devonte''. Was his 23-point explosion on an absurd 111.1 eFG%, adding four rebounds, one turnover and six 3-pointers over 27 minutes. Graham also closed out the win against the Bulls while Terry Rozier sat there with his brutal 2-of-10 shooting line. Perhaps the most important part of all this is that Graham had 10 minutes of overlap with Rozier, and we’ve seen coach Jame Borrego use Graham in two-PG sets with Kemba Walker before. Last season, coach James Borrego used those two together for seven minutes per game over the 37 games he opted to use them (249 total).
Graham also had a great preseason with a per-36 line of 18/6/6 with 1.2 steals and 3.0 treys over his 120-minute sample. Plus, over the last 10 games last season in the 118 minutes without Kemba, Graham was at 13/3/9 per 36 in that time. He’s a decent stats guy.
Is he going to be this good? No, but the fact that Borrego chose Graham over Rozier in the first game since the Hornets overpaid the former Celtics can’t be ignored. Graham might be one of the most valuable backups, and he may get some garbage time to finish fourths when the Hornets struggle against good team. I’d add him to any team needing a point guard.
Dwayne Bacon (24%) - He is basically old news because we probably spent like an hour talking about him this offseason on the podcast, but hey, he's under 25%. His role basically doesn’t change and he put up an eye-popping 32.9 usage rate over his 33.1 minutes on Wednesday. He put up a 25.5 usage rate in the preseason with an upward trend, and falling in the 25-30 usage-rate range seems like it could happen. He’s going to be a little empty besides that, but that’s fine for points and DFS leagues.
Elfrid Payton (21%) - This one is pretty easy with Payton starting the second half, posting 11 points, two rebounds, eight assists, five steals and one 3-pointer in 26 minutes against the Spurs. The Knicks are likely going to be a mess in the backcourt besides RJ Barrett, but Payton looks like the guy after him. That might change soon.
Luke Kennard (25%) - He's right at 25%, but he's worth talking about here. Everything broke Kennard’s way on Wednesday on his way to a career-high 30 points thanks to an unsustainable 86.2 TS% on only a 25.2 usage rate over his 28.1 minutes. Blake Griffin (hamstring, knee) didn’t play and is out for at least a couple weeks, and Reggie Jackson’s back limited him to 20 minutes. Last year without Blake on the floor, Kennard put up 19.7 points per 36 compared to just 11.3 with him with more dimes, boards, steals and blocks without him compared to with him, too. Kennard also had better splits without Reggie, as well.
The problem with Kennard is that he is so scoring dependent and doesn’t add much besides that, posting per-36 non-scoring stats of 0.7 steals, 2.9 dimes, 0.3 blocks and 4.6 boards over his 63 games last year. He only had a 20.4 usage rate in the preseason and he figures to have a heavier overlap with Derrick Rose -- 19.2 minutes and a 20.0 usage rate with Rose last night, a 20.0 usage rate with Rose in the preseason. Kennard also had knee issues over the summer and again during the preseason, so there are some durability concerns. That said, Blake Griffin is probably not getting to 55 games this year and someone besides Andre Drummond has to step up on offense, so adding Kennard makes sense. Plus, you'd think Rose eventually misses time, too. Maybe you can add him and flip him in a couple weeks.
Robert Williams (6%) - Enes Kanter is going to miss at least one game, so the Time Lord should be looking at minutes at the 20s. Given his outrageous block rate, he's someone who needs to be added in category leagues. I'd prioritize him over Daniel Theis.
Tyus Jones (8%) - He was Memphis’ best backcourt player on Wednesday, finishing with 15 points, one rebound, seven assists, two steals and two turnovers in 24 minutes. Obviously, Ja Morant has a long enough leash to go across an entire dog park, but Jones did have four minutes of overlap with Ja last night. That was more than expected after those two played together for just three minutes in the entire preseason. Morant is definitely long enough to guard most twos, so more overlap could be on the way. Dillon Brooks and Grayson Allen aren’t the biggest roadblocks for minutes, so it’s certainly possible we see Tyus climb to the 26-28 minutes neighborhood much like Devonte’. He’s worth an add if you need a point guard
Josh Hart (21%) - I’ll just say I’m not into it. Let me tell you why. Throughout the preseason, coach Alvin Gentry made it very clear he was going to be situational with most of his rotation. Lonzo Ball was too passive out there and Gentry probably didn’t trust J.J. Redick enough to put him out there on D while the Raptors were clicking. This rotation is likely going to cause a lot of headaches for guards not named Jrue Holiday, so I’d let someone else deal with the headache. I still believe in Lonzo, by the way, it just may take longer than we thought.
Markelle Fultz (18%) - He played as D.J. Augustin’s backup with no overlap in his 23 minutes, finishing with 12 points, six dimes, two steals and three turnovers. The Magic also barely used them together besides when Evan Fournier sat out in a preseason game, using a DJA-Fultz combo for just two minutes in the six games combined. Still, Fultz looked good out there and it’s not like Augustin is totally untouchable. We know the talent is there and at least he's not doing the popcorn move from Four Square anymore.
Matisse Thybulle (16%) - He’s got STOCKs like NASDAQ. He’s a bit of old news, but he didn’t disappoint in 22 minutes on Wednesday with three points, one rebound, two steals, two blocks and one 3-pointer. Given his historic output in the defensive stats last year and the 76ers style on defense, he’s certainly worth a look as a specialist. Plus, the team and coach Brett Brown love him, and I'd expect him to trend up when the 76ers rest players.
Seth Curry (12%) - He was quiet in 20 minutes with nine points, three rebounds, one assist and one trey, but after the game coach Rick Carlisle said Curry wasn’t healthy with his preseason knee issue and with an injury hand from jamming his fingers in the door. When the Mavs play better teams, Curry is probably going to be used more and have plays drawn up for him as one of the best shooters on the team. Carlisle said he likes his defense now, too.
Deeper guys under 10%
Moritz Wagner (3%) - Another kind of old news guy because we’ve talked about him for a couple weeks on the Friday pod, but he lived up to expectations on Wednesday with 13 points, two rebounds and three 3-pointers in just 17 minutes. There was some spot overlap with Thomas Bryant in the preseason, but that didn’t happen on Wednesday. This Wizards second unit is a is a wasteland and that 24.3 usage rate from last night should be legit.
Nicolo Melli (4%) - I’m not totally buying here either. Besides Melli balling out, Gentry may have leaned more on Melli to help open up the offense with more space. The Raptors were putting Pascal Siakam on Jrue Holiday while also doubling him, so why would you put a classic big in there to make it tougher inside? I’d expect Derrick Favors to be better in the near future. Side note: I have zero concerns about Jrue.
Troy Brown Jr. (4%) - This is just a deep stash in IR with Brown possibly out for another month. However, coach Scott Brooks has mentioned the lack of size in his backcourt and it’s possible Brown gets to handle the rock a bit. Once he’s healthy, he might be a hot add. Chris Chiozza and Isaac Bonga could see run until Troy and Isaiah Thomas get back, but there’s just no reason to add ‘em.
Royce O’Neale (3%) - Don’t discount O’Neale’s big 14-point, five-board, one-steal season debut. He had more ball-handling chances last night and position flexibility will work in his favor should any injuries happen. Bojan Bogdanovic did tweak an ankle and did return, so that did slightly skew it.
Tyler Johnson (2%) and Jevon Carter (0%) - Ty Jerome not playing helped these guys get a little extra run, but Carter did look to lock down the backup PG spot. Johnson was also getting minutes at multiple spots in the preseason, so maybe the Suns try to showcase him for a trade.
Hamidou Diallo (1%) - Another guy we had as a 0% guy to watch from the pod a couple weeks ago, and he did show something with 12 points, three rebounds, one steal and three turnovers. He saw some late minutes in this one and there’s been some buzz on his defense. When the Thunder thin out as they make trades, he might be the guy to grab. The minutes should be there in the short term too. Just get Dennis Schroder out of there, by the way.
Trey Lyles (1%) - He was impressive as the starter with eight points, 11 rebounds and one turnover in 24 minutes. Lyles has some offensive upside, but still coach Gregg Popovich is likely going to mix it up for his fifth starter next to LaMarcus Aldridge.
Emmanuel Mudiay (1%) - He had a fantastic debut with 12 points, two rebounds, five assists and one block in 23 minutes. He also had two minutes of overlap, so that could help him get minutes if any of the perimeter players miss time. Dante Exum is hurt again and Mike Conley has struggled to stay healthy, so you could do worse.
Treveon Graham (1%) - Coach Ryan Saunders is likely going to mix it up with his fifth starter, and perhaps there was a revenge game factor here to get him to 35 minutes, nine points, six boards, four assists, one steal and no turnovers. His usage rate is going to be tiny, so no thanks on a guy who doesn’t do much else.
Chris Silva (0%) - We know the Heat can get the most out of their bigs, and Silva was a dynamic force on Wednesday with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks in 11 minutes. Garbage time helped a bit and he’s probably not going to play next to Bam Adebayo much. Maybe he can have some value in deep leagues if he can lock up 14-16 minutes behind Bam. He’d be a great fit behind so many perimeter-heavy lineups.
Terence Davis II (0%) - He’s the eighth man in the rotation for now, and may see more minutes should any perimeter player miss time. Plus, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him eat into Norman Powell’s minutes.
De’Anthony Melton (0%) - The Grizzlies traded for him and ate Josh Jackson contract, so don’t totally dismiss a guy who can rack up steals.
Edmond Sumner (0%) - He had five minutes of overlap with Jeremy Lamb, who Sumner subbed in for in the first quarter. Sumner has shown some bright spots and perhaps he can eat into Justin Holiday’s wing minutes a bit more. Considering T.J. Warren’s injury history, he’d be the guy I’d have on my watch list. T.J. McConnell also had eight minutes of overlap with Malcolm Brogdon, so that might be something to watch with a wing injury.
It’s not really a waiver-wire thing, but the Kings frontcourt looks like a total mess. The minutes breakout at the five was 17.2 minutes for Dewayne Dedmon 14.2 minutes, Richaun Holmes 17.4, Marvin Bagley 14.4, and Caleb Swanigan 2.0. This is going to be a nightmare and why I had such a fade on Dedmon this year.