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Deep Wire Dive: Up the Hill

by Matt Stroup

I’ve decided to call this the Deep Wire Dive because that’s exactly what it is: a weekly deep dive onto the waiver wire.

I’ve decided to call it that also because it sounds like a really awesome, probably dangerous made-for-TV stunt ideally pulled off by David Blaine.

But back to waivers. I’m gonna try to keep this to players who are owned in 20 percent or less of leagues, and make sure to include some each week who are on rosters in way less leagues than that. So if you’re wondering why names like Malik Monk (29 percent owned) or Shae Gilgeous-Alexander (22 percent) aren’t here, it’s because they’re not eligible. Too high-profile. But hopefully this column will be helpful to fantasy owners in deep and standard-sized leagues, as we throw on our Steve Zissou beanies and dive, in the spirit of adventure, to find players who might — in some cases — make the leap from deep-league gem to all-out standard-league dynamo.

Or maybe we’ll just find some guys to throw into your lineup for a game or two here and there.

Let’s get started…

(Note: All percentage numbers are from Yahoo, with players listed in descending order of percentage)

(Also Note: This will likely be the longest edition of this column all season, given how many useful players are out there right now…)

Damion Jones (18 percent): Here are the pertinent numbers from his season debut on Wednesday — in a starting role: 27 minutes, 12 points, three boards, two assists, three blocks, 6-of-7 shooting, four dunks. His value will likely have an expiration date labeled DeMarcus Cousins, but it could be a scalding hot minute before that happens.

Justin Holiday (17 percent): He looks like the starter at SF for the Bulls, so here’s a quick reminder that Just Holla could be surprisingly useful early on. For the first half or so of last season (38 games), Holiday posted 13.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.7 bpg and 2.4 3s — albeit with rotten shooting (38.7 percent). If you need a boost in a bunch of areas and can stomach some ugly shooting lines, or if you’re already punting FG percentage, here’s an ideal flier.

Dwyane Wade (16 percent): I get why he’s not on rosters in a lot of leagues. Here’s a quick argument to the contrary: The 36-year-old is likely to go all-out in what he says is his final season. He got 26 minutes and 13 shots (going 3-of-13) in the season opener, with nine points, 11 boards and two assists. Despite no defensive stats on Wednesday, he showed last year he can still be an asset there (0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg in 2017-18). Also, his profile photo on ESPN is that of a man who means business.

George Hill (15 percent): I’m guessing this number will quickly be on the rise after a promising season debut. It certainly should be. Hill had 15 points, seven dimes and two treys (with just one turnover) in 31 minutes, and could be way more useful than most of us are expecting this season. In fact, I’m really talking myself into this as I write, and I’m going to make Hill the featured image for this column. Remember, he had a really disappointing season last year, but in the three seasons prior to that, Hill averaged 14.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.1 spg and 1.8 3s (with just 1.5 turnovers a game). The only caveat is health — Hill has averaged just 58 games played the last four seasons. Other than that, stop reading this nonsense right now and go see if he’s available in your league. 

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Jae Crowder (15 percent): The good news is he got 33 minutes on Wednesday night. The mediocre follow-up is that he only had 13 points, five boards, two treys and nothing else in that time. Crowder probably isn’t going to do much outside of points, 3s and perhaps a small pile of steals, so temper your expectations accordingly.

Ersan Ilyasova (10 percent): He’s a Coach Bud favorite and got 29 minutes in the season opener, with 13 points, nine boards, two assists and a trey. There’s not much more analysis than this necessary. If a low-end big man is a good fit for your needs, then welcome Ersan into your home. 

Nemanja Bjelica (8 percent): Odds are that Bjelica will eventually take a back seat to No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley — and maybe really soon — but let me take a moment to remind you of two things:

1) The Kings just signed Bjelica to a three-year, $20.5 million contract (with the third year not guaranteed, if you want to get technical about it);
2) We are talking about the Kings.

So, would any of you really find it that shocking if Bjelica — who had 18 points, eight boards, two assists, a steal and two 3s in 27 minutes in the opener — continued to play 25-30 minutes a game and post useful numbers for the foreseeable future? I would add Bjelica wherever I have open bench spots and see how this plays out — and I certainly prefer him over many of the names on this list, with the exception of George Hill so far. (You could maybe convince me to take Damion Jones too because of the blocks, but with Jones we’re dealing with far less of a track record, so keep that in mind.)

Bryn Forbes (7 percent): Follow the minutes. Forbes played 30 of them on Wednesday, putting up 11 points, three boards, two dimes, two steals and a trey.

MarShon Brooks (7 percent): Brooks didn’t do a lot in a blowout loss in the opener (nine points, two rebounds in 22 minutes), but he should score plenty if he gets around 25 minutes most nights. And if the Grizzlies eventually descend into chaos — which seems possible, if not inevitable — MarShon’s role will only grow.

Kevon Looney (7 percent): He uncorked 10 points, 10 boards, two assists, a steal and two blocks in just 18 minutes on Wednesday, which is good news and bad news stuffed into one envelope. Looney is already worth an add in deeper formats, but we need to hold back expectations in standard-sized leagues.

Allonzo Trier (5 percent): He flashed an impressive offensive game in 26 minutes in the opener, putting up 15 points with four boards, no assists, two blocks and a trey against a Hawks defense that looked absolutely and positively porous (the Knicks scored 126). Either way, the playing time and production make him worth a look, and I’d put him in the top five of all the names on this list so far (along with D. Jones, G. Hill, Bjelica and Forbes).

Seth Curry (5 percent): Just keeping an eye on him in his Blazers debut on Thursday. Carry on.

Ish Smith (4 percent): Honestly, he bores me. But he did post 11 points and three assists in 29 minutes on Wednesday, and it seems likely — if not guaranteed — that he’ll be reasonably useful in deeper leagues for a good portion of the season.

J.J. Barea (4 percent): In theory, it’s tough to see how he’ll duplicate last year’s solid numbers (11.6 ppg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 3s) with the addition of Luka Doncic, but Barea put up nine points and 10 dimes in just 21 minutes on Wednesday. So let’s just call him what he is and leave it at that: a deep-league All-Star.

Dante Exum (3 percent): Pretty intriguing opener for Exum (13-4-4 with a trey in 26 minutes). I’d put him right there with Trier and Forbes as low-end guards with some upside. Remember, the Jazz are now paying Exum nearly $10 mil per year, and even though it feels like he’s been around and doing not much for an eternity, he’s still just 23 years old. A low-level breakout is very far from out of the question.

Aron Baynes (3 percent): In this column, we live for writing short blurbs about Aron Baynes. The big headline here is that after going 3-of-21 on 3s last season, the Boston backup C cashed in 2-of-4 from behind the arc on Wednesday, putting up an 8-4-3 (points-assists-rebounds) line in 19 minutes. Let’s not overreact, but some occasional 3s are a nice development if you drafted Baynes in a deeper league.

Ed Davis (3 percent): The backup center behind Jarrett Allen, Davis isn’t going to do anything thrilling this season, but he had eight points, seven boards and three dimes in 18 minutes on Wednesday, and he should do at least something for you most nights if you play in a super-deep league. 

Yogi Ferrell (2 percent): Played 30 minutes and scored 12 with two treys in the opener. Should hold some value at least until Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) is back. 

Isaiah Canaan (2 percent): He quietly dropped an 8-6-7 line with a couple of triples in a robust 34 minutes on Wednesday. I wouldn’t necessarily be counting on him for long-term value, but there’s a pretty clear opportunity for him in Phoenix right now. 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2 percent): He had a very MKG line on Wednesday — 10 points, six rebounds and a block in 22 minutes — leaving my level of enthusiasm, appropriately, at right around 2 percent.

Cory Joseph (2 percent): Congrats to those of us who drafted the Pacers backup PG in 30-team leagues (me), though his line in the opener — 11-6-3 with a steal, two blocks and a trey in an easy blowout win — will probably be one of his best of the season. Also, full disclosure: I left him on my bench.

James Ennis (2 percent): Disappointing numbers in the opener (eight points, two 3s, one steal) could prove to be the norm. The reason to hold onto a little bit of hope is that he did get 25 minutes in an explosive offense. 

Donte DiVincenzo (1 percent): It may not be time to pick him up yet. It is time to keep a close watch. This is an exciting player in an exciting offense playing not-insignificant minutes right away (22 in his NBA debut, with eight points, two 3s and a steal). Put a star next to DiVincenzo’s name, or stash him now if dynamic players move off the wire quickly in your league.

Alec Burks (1 percent): He put up a nice line on Wednesday (13-3-4 with three triples), but I need to see more than 18 minutes to get excited about his prospects.

Terrence Ross (1 percent): His bizarre stat line caught my attention — 4-4-4 with two steals and four blocks in 26 minutes — but I’ve been let down by T. Ross too many times to count. I’m out.