By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Welcome back. It’s been a busy week. Two of the league’s best centers got themselves suspended for fighting, Steph Curry broke his hand, Jimmy Butler made his season debut, and the Cavaliers and Suns are on track to make the playoffs.
It may feel like most of the best waiver wire prospects have already been picked up, but there are still a ton of excellent players available in most leagues. Often, the best pickups of the season don’t emerge until a few games have passed. My favorite example: at this point in 2017-18, Donovan Mitchell was averaging 7.0 points and 0.6 threes in 22.1 minutes per game. He was being dropped by the few managers who drafted the rookie.
Mitchell finished the season averaging 20.5 points, 2.4 threes, and ranked inside the top-60.
The players below are listed in the order I’d recommend adding them.
As always, this article will focus on players available in at least 50 percent of leagues. That said, and especially this early in the season, there are a lot of very valuable players who are widely available but miss that cut-off. I won’t go into depth on those guys, but I’ll include them below in the appropriate order.
Some under-rostered names who might be available in your league:
Derrick Rose, Pistons (79 percent rostered)
Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (76 percent rostered)
OG Anunoby, Raptors (71 percent rostered)
Rui Hachimura, Wizards (70 percent rostered)
Willie Cauley-Stein, Warriors (57 percent rostered)
Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks (52 percent rostered)
Next week’s games: Orl, NY, at Mem
Powell missed the first three games due to injury, but he was reinserted into the starting lineup for his 2019-20 debut Tuesday despite playing with a minutes cap. Powell was a top-40 player in nine-category settings after entering the starting lineup last season. His minutes might increase gradually — he saw only 14 Tuesday – and the fantasy production might be slow at first. But he’s worth adding and holding for a couple weeks. It’s not every day there’s a potential top-40 player just sitting on the waiver wire.
Richaun Holmes, Kings (48%)
Next week’s games: at Tor, at Atl
There’s an expiration date on Holmes’ fantasy value, as he’s unlikely to remain rosterable in 12-team leagues after Marvin Bagley (finger) returns. But that could be a month or more away, and in the meantime, Holmes is likely to put up fantastic numbers.
Holmes has a history of being a waiver-wire darling while a starter is out, most notably at the end of 2016-17, when he averaged 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 0.8 threes in 30 minutes per game. Holmes has blown those numbers out of the water over the past two games, averaging 20.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 32.5 minutes. That torrid pace is unlikely to continue, but Holmes’ skills translate well to fantasy, and he’s likely to continue seeing a large workload for the next few weeks.
Worth noting: The pending return of Harry Giles (knee) could cut into Homes’ court time a little, but the Kings are unlikely to ask for much from the oft-injured Giles. While Holmes isn’t the best long-term add available, he’s probably going to be more productive in the near-term than anyone else listed here.
Devonte’ Graham, Hornets (59%)
Next week’s games: Ind, Bos, NO, at Phi
The Hornets have played five games. Graham has been better than starting PG Terry Rozier in at least three of those. He’s playing only one minute per game less than Rozier, and Graham is averaging more points, more assists, more threes, and a better field goal percentage. Graham’s 29 minutes per game aren’t going anywhere, and they might increase as the season wears on.
Aron Baynes (34%); Frank Kaminsky (41%), Phoenix Suns
Next week’s games: Phi, Mia, Bkn
There are still 21 games remaining in Deandre Ayton’s suspension, which means 21 more games of increased workloads for Baynes and Kaminsky. Baynes is the more traditional big man, while Kaminsky is more of an oversized stretch-four — though both players are effective three-point shooters.
Kaminsky was more productive in the first two games sans-Ayton, while Baynes led the way in the fourth game. I’m not at all worried about what looks like a drop-off from Kaminsky, however, as it seems his down game was more a combination of playing to the matchup and riding the hot hands while Baynes and power forward Dario Saric were playing well. Kaminsky is averaging 28.0 minutes without Ayton, while Baynes is starting and averaging 25.3. Great short-term additions if Holmes is already off the board.
Isaiah Thomas, Wizards (47%)
Next week’s games: Det, at Ind, Cle
Is this real? Can it last? He’s been plagued by injuries and bad situations since his All-NBA season, but Thomas is off to a great start with the Wizards. He’s played two games, averaging 16.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.0 threes in 22.0 minutes. Ish Smith is the next-best point guard on this team, so Thomas can easily earn more minutes and the starting role if his health and play can keep up.
I desperately want to believe — how can you not root for him? — but the health issues have been so steady that we should remain cautious. Thomas should be added in all leagues, but make sure you’re not dropping anyone too valuable.
Glenn Robinson (8%); Jordan Poole (4%); Damion Lee (3%); Alec Burks (5%), Golden State Warriors
Next week’s games: Por, at Hou, at Min, at OKC
First of all, don’t add all four of these guys (if, for some reason, you had four spots available). Second, I view Robinson and Poole as significantly more attractive options than Lee and Burks, but it’s easiest to deal with all four of them together. Steph Curry (hand) is out, and it looks like he’s going to miss at least a month, if not significantly more. That opens up a huge amount of shots and minutes for the Warriors. This is going to be a bad team as long as he’s out, so bad team stat inflation is also in play.
Anyone who tells you they know how this rotation will shake out is a liar. I’m pretty confident that coach Steve Kerr doesn’t know yet and won’t know for several games, if not longer. Based on what we’ve seen so far, my guess is that Robinson and Poole take on most of the available minutes, while D’Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein take on bigger offensive roles.
Robinson has started thus far and is averaging 28.3 minutes per game, second-most on the team, while Poole has been the first backcourt player off the bench and has averaged 23.0 minutes. Both players were already taking 10 shots per game, and they can complement Russell. Russell isn’t a great shooter, but he’s a decent rebounder who can provide some defensive stats, primarily steals. Poole would be most valuable as a three-point shooter, though he’s likely to also provide a strong amount of steals.
While less likely, it’s also possible that Lee or Burks are among the biggest winners here. The 28-year-old Burks has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but he has a track record as a scorer and might give the team a better chance to stay competitive. Lee is the least likely of the group, but he already has a 23-point double-double this season in the Warriors’ only win.
Other recommendations: Nerlens Noel, Thunder (19 percent rostered); Jae Crowder, Grizzlies (23 percent rostered); Bobby Portis, Knicks (40 percent rostered); Dennis Schroder, Thunder (50 percent rostered); Davis Bertans, Wizards (50 percent rostered); Matisse Thybulle, 76ers (16 percent rostered); Danuel House, Rockets (18 percent rostered); Markelle Fultz, Magic (26 percent rostered); Rodney Hood, Trail Blazers (20 percent rostered); Jaxson Hayes, Pelicans (16 percent rostered); Tyus Jones, Grizzlies (6 percent rostered); Michael Porter Jr, Nuggets (7 percent rostered)