Two Games: Timberwolves
Three Games: Hawks, Celtics, Bulls, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Bucks, Knicks, Thunder, 76ers, Suns, Spurs, Jazz
Four Games: Nets, Hornets, Mavericks, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Pelicans, Magic, Blazers, Kings, Raptors, Wizards
Half of the league plays four games this week, creating plenty of opportunistic fantasy pickups. Whether you're looking for short-term value or a potential rest-of-season stash, there should be someone to fit the bill in today's Waiver Wired -- just don't plan on wringing much value out of the Wolves with a lousy two-game slate. If you're wondering why Dr. A isn't writing today's column, never fear -- he'll be back next week. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @Knaus_RW!
I'm following Steve's lead with this column -- I'll name a handful of players for each position, all of whom must be near or below 60% ownership in Yahoo! leagues. Let's get started.
Patrick Beverley (58% owned): Beverley doesn't get much love in fantasy circles. He's an inefficient shooter who typically doesn't get many assists from the PG spot, so already there's a big deficit to overcome. Since returning from a knee injury this season, however, he's been great with averages of 7.1 points, 1.2 threes, 5.3 boards, a career-high 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.6 blocks. He commits just 1.4 turnovers per game, too, which gives him added appeal as a cheap pickup in 9-cat leagues.
Patty Mills (44% owned): Mills' backup job must be hurting him in fantasy owners' eyes, because it's hard to explain such a low ownership rate. The 28-year-old PG Is thoroughly out-playing Tony Parker this season and he's been a steady top-100 fantasy option, with averages of 11.4 points, 2.0 triples, 2.1 boards, 3.6 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.3 turnovers. He's shooting 48.7% from the field and 94.1% from the line. He won't jump out of the boxscore, or carry your team in a given week, but he offers the subtle, all-around contributions that can make the difference in a close matchup.
Sergio Rodriguez (40% owned): I am by no means a big proponent of Sergio, primarily because I'm leery of his poor shooting (39.0%) and high turnovers (2.7 per game). I recommended cutting him across the board when Jerryd Bayless returned a few weeks ago, but that seems to have been premature -- the torn tendon in Bayless' wrist is still an issue, and there's no guarantee he can play through the injury this season. It's not easy to find reliable assists on the waiver wire, which is the primary reason to target Sergio at 6.7 dimes per game. It doesn't hurt that he's also chipping in 1.4 triples, 3.1 boards and 1.0 steals.
Bonus: J.J. Barea (16% owned)
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Gary Harris (48% owned): The Nuggets are a mess, especially on defense, and coach Mike Malone will undoubtedly plug Harris into the starting lineup as soon as he's ready. Malone said after Wednesday's ugly loss to the Nets, "Hopefully in the next week or so we can get Gary Harris back." If he returned 10 days after those words were spoken, he'd be playing vs. the visiting Knicks on Saturday, Dec. 17. That would leave him with 56 games left in the season, and we saw last year that he's capable of racking up mid-round value thanks to terrific efficiency and contributions in scoring, 3-pointers and steals.
Josh Richardson (34% owned): It's been a rough start for J-Rich, whose injuries and inefficiency have spoiled the first quarter of the season. He posted 11 points, four assists and three rebounds in 26 minutes on Saturday, however, and his minute-limit should be eased over the next week or two. Once he's capable of a full workload, the Heat have every incentive to give him extra opportunities -- they aren't going anywhere this season, with a 7-17 record, and they desperately need playmakers as a team that ranks 24th in offensive efficiency (100.1 points per 100 possessions). J-Rich is a strong upside addition in almost any format.
Nick Young (33% owned): Young's ownership has plummeted during his six-game absence, but he's ramped up his activity and is targeting a return on Monday. I don't know that I've ever recommended him as a pickup in my years of writing fantasy basketball columns, but there's a first time for everything. Despite averaging a modest 25.0 minutes per game, Young has returned 13.3 points on career-best 45.5% FGs and 94.1% FTs, with a career-high 2.6 threes, 2.4 boards, 1.1 assists and occasional defensive stats. The offensive efficiency doesn't feel sustainable, and a lack of supporting stats leaves him very vulnerable if his scoring slumps, but there's no denying the fact that he's been a strong fantasy asset when healthy this season.
Bonus: Wayne Ellington (27% owned)
T.J. Warren (65% owned): Warren gets special dispensation above the 60% threshold because he's still floating on plenty of waiver wires following a lengthy absence. The vague nature of his "mild head injury", coupled with the fact that he's missed 10 straight games, have conspired to make many owners forget how great he looked to start the season. Warren was scoring 17.7 points per game on 45.8% FGs and 81.8% FTs, with 0.6 threes, 4.3 boards, 1.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks and a mere 1.0 turnovers. That was good enough for early mid-round value, and at 23 years old he's exactly the type of player Phoenix wants to develop rest-of-season. Go get him.
Robert Covington (56% owned): The caveat here is glaring -- Covington is shooting an abysmal 31.0% from the field through 20 games. That doesn't sting as much in points leagues, or even H2H, but roto owners should think long and hard before adding such a massive FG% anchor to their squads. If you can get past the shooting, RoCo is once again providing nice 3-pointers (1.9 per game), rebounds (5.2), steals (1.9) and blocks (0.7). If he keeps up those numbers all season, he'll join James Harden from 2014-15 as the only players to average 1.9 triples, 1.9 steals and 0.7 blocks. That historical footnote is important because it highlights just how unusual Covington's contributions are, and how valuable he can be for your fantasy team.
Thabo Sefolosha (19% owned): Sefolosha qualifies at both wing spots in nearly all leagues, which gives him added appeal as a cheap pickup. He began the season as a strict steals specialist and is still anchoring his value with 2.0 thefts per game. His overall value has picked up since he assumed a starting role, however, and over the past two games he's averaged 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in 29 minutes per game (that production would be even better if he hadn't gone 0-of-7 from downtown). With no obvious threat to his starting job and playing time, it's surprising to see Thabo unowned in 4 out of 5 leagues.
Bonus: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (53% owned)
Marvin Williams (58% owned): Last season was an unlikely breakout for Williams, as he appeared in 81 games and showed a level of consistency most owners had given up on in 2009. He's off to a rough start this season but it's not because of the return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or any schematic changes in Charlotte. He simply hasn't been shooting well...at all. His previous career-low was 42.3% from the field, and this season he's at an atrocious 34.1%. His attempts have increased this season (from 9.2 to 9.8 per game) and he's still averaging a steady 1.9 threes with 6.0 boards, and an upward correction in his shooting numbers is inevitable.
Larry Nance (26% owned): Efficiency can be an invisible factor in fantasy basketball, a weak gravity that ties everything together. Emmanuel Mudiay is owned in 58% of Yahoo leagues despite destructive tendencies such as 34.8% shooting on 12.8 attempts, with nearly as many turnovers (3.0) as assists (3.8). And yet a player like Larry Nance can float along at just 26% ownership, even though he's been a steady top-80 value. The reason why is that he doesn't have 'flashy' counting stats, particularly scoring, and it's not sexy to talk about his 57.5% shooting, 5.7 boards, 1.2 assists. 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks, or the fact that he's committed just 0.6 turnovers per game. He's a smart pickup for fantasy wonks, who will become a trendy add overnight if anything happens to Julius Randle.
Dwight Powell (24% owned): The Mavs are leaning on Powell for more production with both Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles) and Andrew Bogut (knee) on the shelf. He's responded well, with averages of 12.0 points, 6.0 boards, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks in his past five games, all while hitting 61.5% FGs and 80.0% FTs. Powell isn't just a short-term grab, however, since the Mavs are locked in the Western Conference cellar and liable to focus on player development as the season continues. Powell won't hurt you anywhere and his 1.3 steals per game are an out-of-position bonus.
John Henson (48% owned): Henson qualifies at both PF and C in most formats, but owners have been slow to bite after his promotion to the Bucks' starting lineup. I get it. Jason Kidd's rotation have been unreliable, to say the least, and Henson has never lived up to his per-minute potential. However, Kidd seems to have finally settled on a frontcourt rotation and Henson has played at least 20 minutes in eight straight games. He's averaging 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in that span, with a handful of assists, decent percentages and almost no turnovers, all of which makes him a surprisingly good pickup in roto leagues.
Cody Zeller (42% owned): If you're in need of a steady, late-round value at center, look no further than Zeller. He's scored more than 15 points just twice this season, and has reached double-digit rebounds just twice, which contributes to a lack of attention from fantasy owners. Zeller makes the most of his opportunities, however, shooting a stellar 60.6% from the field with a career-high 10.7 points, 6.0 boards, 1.2 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He rarely turns the ball over and his 63.9% FT shooting should trend upward (he's 73.8% for his career).
Good luck this week!