Week 1 has come and gone and as expected, the waiver wire is brimming with talent and upside now that we know most of the rotations around the NBA. I’m slightly changing up the format to sort by ownership rates, so if you’re in a deeper or competitive league the guys at the top are likely long gone. As always, find me on Twitter here for questions!
45% to 36% Owned in Yahoo Leagues:
Kendrick Nunn (43%)- His ownership rate shot up overnight after yet another solid performance for the Heat. Nunn was on my watch list in last week’s Waiver Wired with an unknown role, but since then he’s started both games for Miami with Jimmy Butler (personal) away from the team. The interesting thing is that coach Erik Spoelstra said he was going to commit to Nunn as his starter alongside Butler before his departure, so the starting gig is his to lose going forward.
It would be foolish to expect him to keep up his pace of 21.0 points, 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.5 triples on 51.4% from the field with Butler due to return after Sunday, but he’s been dominating since the Summer League and there’s a reason the Heat have been raving about him for the past few months. “Kendrick, I’ve never seen him look like he’s under stress or pressure. He’s an experienced older young player,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. His 42 points through two games ties the Miami Heat record for a rookie, so you know what to do if he’s somehow still available…
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues
Devonte’ Graham (42%)- Here’s another red-hot PG, but unlike Nunn, he was completely off the radar for me before last week. Well, he certainly has my attention now after racking up 23.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.0 boards and 6.0(!) triples through two games, hitting a scorching 62.5% from the field. He has outplayed Terry Rozier in both games, but don’t expect a lineup change because that would be an awful look for a franchise that just gave Rozier $58M.
Instead, the Hornets plan to solve this logjam by using those two alongside each other more often. “We can play them together,” coach Borrego said. “We can play Terry off the ball some with [Devonte’] out there. We’ll look at that lineup.” There are certainly plenty of minutes to go around with Nicolas Batum (finger) out several weeks and because Malik Monk still isn’t bringing anything to the table. In a rebuilding season, the Hornets have every reason to let Graham play as many minutes as he can handle.
Recommendation: Should be owned in 10-team leagues
Josh Hart (44%)- Last week I wrote up Nickeil Alexander-Walker as an add, but it turns out that Hart is the player to add in New Orleans. He’s been the first wing off the bench for the Pelicans, he’s closing games and he even got a start for the injured Jrue Holiday (knee) on Saturday. People forget that Hart was a really good player before his 2018-19 season was derailed by a knee issue, and he’s been outstanding through three games with 18.0 points, 7.3 rebounds (there’s a reason his nickname is Josh Barkley), 0.7 dimes, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks and 3.0 triples in 29.4 minutes. There’s plenty of fantasy value to go around in New Orleans with the pace that they play at, and it’s too bad he doesn’t get fantasy points for his A+ reactions on the court (link).
Recommendation: Solid add in 12-team leagues
Darius Garland (41%)- Here’s another no-brainer add who may have even more opportunity than Nunn and Graham on a talent-starved roster. Garland is already starting alongside Collin Sexton and is averaging 10.0 points, 4.5 dimes, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.0 triples on 38.1% from the field, but the biggest surprise has been his workload (30.5) after a knee injury cut his season short at Vanderbilt and a foot issue slowed him down at camp. The Cavs aren’t wasting any time by giving Garland the keys and his 19.7% usage rate is only going to trend up. Garland was a 99th percentile shooter at Vanderbilt (small sample size of five games), and there’s a ton of upside here if you don’t mind a bumpy ride. It’s just what rookies do.
Recommendation: Should be owned in standard 12-team leagues.
Kent Bazemore (37%)- He was on last week’s Waiver Wired and delivered, ranking 60th in 9-cat through two games. The best part about it is that his shot isn’t even falling yet, but it usually doesn’t matter because he contributes to all three money categories (steals, blocks and triples). He’s getting a decent workload of 24.0 minutes so far, averaging 6.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 dimes, 2.5 steals, 1.0 blocks and 0.5 triples, and I don’t think it will be long until he starts taking minutes away from Rodney Hood. Don’t stress over his inevitable duds, but treat him like Danny Green and just let him do his thing at the end of your roster.
Recommendation: Worth owning as a glue guy in 12-team leagues.
35%-26% Owned in Yahoo Leagues:
Elfrid Payton (35%)- Coach David Fizdale is bound to give us headaches all season with his revolving door at PG, but right now Payton is clearly the player to own. Dennis Smith Jr. looks like he had his talent stolen by the Monstars, shooting 3-of-17 from the field in the preseason and 1-of-11 from the field in three regular season games. Yikes.
Payton has had some bright moments, especially against the Spurs, and he’s the PG that Fizdale always seems to rave about. As for Frank Ntilikina, it sounds like he’ll get a look as the backup PG, but Fizdale has treated him like he keyed his car in the past. His current steal rate isn’t close to being sustainable and it’s propping up his ranking as a top-60 asset, but Payton is worth deploying right now with 9.7 points, 5.0 dimes, 3.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.7 triples on 38.5% from the field.
Recommendation: Worth a flier in 12-team leagues, must-add in points formats.
Jerami Grant (34%)- I understand the production isn’t where it needs to be right now, as Grant is averaging 11.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 dimes and 1.5 triples without any steals or blocks through two games. He’s getting about 26 minutes per night right now, but one thing that stood out to me is that he was in the closing lineup of Denver’s overtime win over Paul Millsap. His defensive numbers are going to come too, as this is a guy who averaged a combined 2.1 stocks last season. His upside isn’t as high as last season when he put up a top-50 season in 9-cat, but he should be a serviceable player at the end of your bench.
Recommendation: Low-end hold in 12-team leagues
Luke Kennard (32%)- While his numbers are inflated without Blake Griffin (hamstring) in the lineup, Kennard’s production is too good to ignore right now. Bruce Brown has been quiet since his impressive Summer League, so Kennard has a clear runway to 30+ minutes. Through three games, Kennard is putting up top-60 numbers in 9-cat with 19.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.3 dimes and 3.3 triples on 47.2% from the field. This is essentially the same player we saw in the playoffs last season when he broke out against the Bucks.
He’s not going to get you many defensive stats with 0.5 steals and 0.2 blocks for his career, but he could get you a handful of dimes on top of his production in points and 3s with the Pistons using him as a secondary playmaker. And with Reggie Jackson (back) already banged up, he could have even more time on the ball — he’s averaging 41.0 touches per game compared to 31.8 last season.
Recommendation: Strong add in 12-team leagues, worth a roster spot in 10-team leagues.
Isaiah Thomas (29%)- I’m a bit skeptical here given Thomas’ injury history and his level of play the last few seasons, but that roster in Washington is a fantasy wasteland outside of Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant. Ish Smith isn’t doing anything special, and with Beal running most of the offense Smith doesn’t provide much with his shaky jumper anyways. If Thomas can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, he could easily be the No. 2 option on offense and made a strong impression in his debut Saturday with 16 points, five dimes, three boards and four triples in just 19 minutes. The Wizards don’t really have much young talent in their backcourt to develop, so if Thomas is playing well they won’t hold him back.
Recommendation: He’s a lottery-ticket flier in 12-team leagues.
25%-16% Owned in Yahoo Leagues:
Frank Kaminsky (25%)- Charlotte fans are not going to want to hear that Kaminsky is eating in Phoenix after four forgetful years with the Hornets. Someone has to step up with Deandre Ayton suspended for another 23 games, and right now it looks like Frank The Tank and Aron Baynes are the primary beneficiaries.
In his last two games without Ayton, Kaminsky averaged 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 triples in 31.0 minutes. The playmaking is the biggest surprise because I didn’t know he had that in his bag, but he did have a game with eight assists in the preseason. Apparently he’s everything the Suns hoped Dragan Bender would be. With Ayton out until Dec. 17, Kaminsky could have solid value for the next 1.5 months.
Recommendation: Solid pickup/streamer for 1.5 months
Aron Baynes (17%)- Might as well hit Baynes here as well. Baynes has never been a stat stuffer in the past, but this is legitimately his first shot at extended minutes and he’s getting the job done so far. Through two games without Ayton, Baynes is averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 triples in 26 minutes. Baynes will have 1.5 months of value in 12-team leagues, but Kaminsky is the better add since he’ll be able to maintain some of that value once Ayton gets back.
He also adds the intimidation factor to any fantasy roster as a guy who coach Gregg Popovich once called “dangerous” — Pop also joked that he never let Baynes near Tim Duncan in practice. “If he touched Tim Duncan, we sent him home.” Too funny.
Recommendation: Low-end pickup or streamer in 12-team leagues
Markelle Fultz (25%)- I had my doubts along with what seems like everybody else, but Fultz’ confidence is growing by the day even if his jumper looks miles away from being reliable, hitting 28.6% on his catch-and-shoot attempts and 37.5% on his pull-ups. The good news is that he’s feasting at the rim, averaging 9.5 drives per game and hitting 62.5% of his shots within 10 feet. He even hit a pair of triples on Saturday, and it’s not like D.J. Augustin’s job is safe. While I do have concerns about his output in FG%, FT%, turnovers and 3s, Fultz could have some serious value in punt builds if he continues to build on his momentum.
“I shot all my shots with confidence,” Fultz said Saturday night. “And it’s only a matter of time before they start falling. A few fell tonight and I’m just going to keep shooting.” He’s averaging 12.0 points, 4.5 dimes, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.0 triples in 23.5 minutes, and when the game vs. Atlanta went to the clutch it was Fultz getting the nod over D.J.
Recommendation: Worth a pickup for anyone eyeing assists and steals.
15%-0% Owned in Yahoo Leagues:
Mathise Thybulle (14%)- How does a player with three total points in two games make this list? Strictly because of his steal/block rates. He’s the definition of a defensive specialist with 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks in 23.0 minutes, but the rest of his game has been underwhelming since his terrific preseason. I think it speaks volumes about how the 76ers feel about him that he got the nod in the starting lineup with Joel Embiid (ankle) out, and if he approaches 30 minutes he would be a safe bet to lead the NBA in takeaways.
Recommendation: Strictly a specialist in category leagues.
Bryn Forbes (14%)- Despite all the offseason hype around Derrick White, Forbes doesn’t look like a player that’s ready to give up his job. Dejounte Murray and DeMar DeRozan can’t hit a triple to save their lives, so it does make sense for Forbes to be out there in the first unit. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 triples and 2.0 dimes in 32.5 minutes through two games, so I don’t see how can you let that production sit on the wire. I’m skeptical about him holding off White all season, so there are certainly other guys I’d prioritize adding.
Recommendation: He’s worth deploying in 12-team leagues until further notice.
George Hill (6%)- He has looked washed for the past few years but did find some momentum in the playoffs last season and it looks like it’s carried over. Hill has been Milwaukee’s sixth man so far and is getting nearly six minutes per game next to Eric Bledsoe too. He’ll never light up the scoring column, but his averages of 6.5 points, 5.5 dimes, 1.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.5 triples are serviceable.
Recommendation: Streamer in 12-team leagues, worth a roster spot in 14- or 16-team leagues.
Robert Williams (6%)- We don’t know the status of Enes Kanter (knee) and Daniel Theis (ankle) in the short term, but taking a flier on Williams in the meantime makes a lot of sense. He had four points with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 22 minutes in his start on Saturday, and you can count on one hand the number of players with his shot-blocking upside (5.1 swats per 36 minutes last season). Boston’s rotation isn’t set in stone right now, so if Williams can hold onto this job there’s some Mitchell Robinson-like upside here.
Recommendation: Worth owning for his upside in 12-team leagues.
Danuel House (5%)- The Rockets are playing at a breakneck pace which ranks 3rd in the NBA, so that has allowed House to make some noise early. He’s averaging 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 dimes, 1.0 blocks and 3.0 triples, and he’s going to have the green light from deep on a team that should lead the NBA in 3-point attempts. He averaged 11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 dimes and 2.2 triples in 13 starts last season, so you could do a lot worse with your last roster spot.
Recommendation: Top-notch 3-point streamer in 12-team leagues.
Marquese Chriss (5%)- Here we go again. Me and Chriss have a history after he burned me as one of my top sleepers in 2017-18, but he’s back on the radar after a solid preseason and because of the sheer amount of opportunity in front of him. It sounds like Kevon Looney (hamstring) is going to be out a while, and Willie Cauley-Stein (foot) is still on the shelf too. Chriss is going to get an audition as the starting center on Sunday, so if you have still have a move left he’s worth a flier to see what happens.
Recommendation: Streamer or desperation pickup for his upside in defensive stats.
Here are some guys from last week’s column that I missed on:
Jarrett Culver- I still think he’s going to have value later in the season for his two-way upside, but 15.0 minutes per game isn’t going to cut it. The Wolves are starting Treveon Graham for some reason, and Andrew Wiggins still has a long leash to take 20 shots on 30% shooting. Something has to give, so I’m keeping Culver on my watch list as opposed to burning a roster spot on him.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker- One of the most impressive players of the Summer League and preseason, NAW has had the high usage that fantasy owners look for, but the minutes haven’t been there and he hasn’t played well either. Once one of my favorite stashes, he’s now just a stash in deeper formats with the Pelicans off to a 0-3 start. I can promise you that he will emerge later this season because talent finds a way to get on the court.
Mo Bamba: He was outstanding in the preseason, but Nikola Vucevic has shook off his ankle injury from the preseason and is sitting at 32.5 minutes per game which only leaves scraps for Bamba. The Magic did try those two together last season, but it was one of their worst lineups. He’ll need an injury to Vooch to have any real value.
Here are some guys I’m keeping an eye on:
Richaun Holmes- Per-minute monster and Dewayne Dedmon looks awful. Foul trouble has been an issue, but there’s some minutes up for grabs with the Kings looking for a spark while Marvin Bagley (finger) is out. Once the Kings realize they need to pick up the pace, they will turn to Holmes.
Eric Paschall- How does he follow up his 14-point effort with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and one turnover in 31 minutes in the opener? The Warriors have one of the worst rotations in the NBA after their Big 3, so someone will have to step up. Is it Paschall?
Landry Shamet- We know he can shoot the lights out and he’s getting reps as a playmaker too, but the rest of his game is severely lacking for fantasy purposes.