By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’ve reached the part of the season where our biggest obstacle is in figuring out how to handle the still-confusing teams. We know how to handle the Pistons – when healthy, they have four guys who should be rostered everywhere, and everyone else is to be ignored in standard leagues. But what do we do with the Trail Blazers SG-SF-PF? Or the Heat’s backcourt? Or the Lakers’ bigs? Or the entire bleepin’ Warriors roster?
Some of those answers are becoming clearer. The Lakers don’t need a full blurb — I just tossed Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee into the “Deep-league only recommendations” section at the end. The Blazers and the Warriors, on the other hand, get multiple paragraphs each.
While we’re figuring out these remaining puzzles, there are still other high-value targets emerging. Dario Saric, who remembered that he’s good at sports, headlines a long list of solid waiver wire acquisitions.
An important scheduling note: The Suns have the only five-game week of the season in Week 5, making them a high-value target for managers in weekly lineups leagues or daily lineups leagues without games maximums. Those five games are particularly valuable since this is, overall, a light week for NBA games. Only 13 teams play four games, and the Pacers, Grizzlies, and Magic all play only twice.
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, as it is still early in the season, there are a lot of very valuable players who are widely available but miss that 50 percent 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:
Luke Kennard, Pistons (71 percent rostered)
Devonte’ Graham, Hornets (77 percent rostered)
Enes Kanter, Celtics (63 percent rostered)
P.J. Washington, Hornets (65 percent rostered)
P.J. Tucker, Rockets (66 percent rostered)
Isaiah Thomas, Wizards (54 percent rostered)
Gary Harris, Nuggets (60 percent rostered)
Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks (56%)
Next week’s games: SA, GS, Cle, at Hou
Powell has been mentioned multiple times already this season, and he’s over the 50% roster rate line, but he’s good enough that I wanted to give him a little extra attention. He’s continuing to get better as the season wears on, and, as you’ve probably seen me write in previous articles, he was a top-40 player after entering the starting lineup last season.
Dario Saric, Phoenix Suns (42%)
Next week’s games: Bos, at Sac, NO, at Min, at Den
Look who decided he’s still good at basketball! Sometime last week, Saric remembered that he’s a solid scorer and rebounder. Over his last three games, he’s up to 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 3.0 threes. While that might be considered an unsustainable hot streak from many players, it’s largely in line with his 2017-18 numbers with the 76ers. Saric’s ceiling is probably as someone in the 65th- to the 80th-overall range, and he’s most likely to finish closer to the 90th- to 110th-range, so when he started the season ice-cold many managers reasonably dropped him. But he’s getting plenty of minutes as a Suns starter, and we’ve seen him sustain quality production before. He probably won’t be a stud, but he should be added in all leagues.
Danuel House, Houston Rockets (47%)
Next week’s games: Por, at Den, at LAC, Dal
House has been a focal point of these articles all season, so I won’t belabor the point. He’s been a top-50 player so far in nine-category settings, and the Rockets will now be without Eric Gordon for the next several weeks. House has a locked-in starting role of 31.1 minutes per game (excluding his early departure due to injury Monday). This is silly. Get him off your waiver wire.
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (23%)
Next week’s games: at Hou, at NO, at Mil, at Cle
I don’t think the addition of Carmelo Anthony, addressed below, has much impact on Simons. Simons has emerged as a third guard option for the Blazers, and his emergence reminds me of the short-lived three-headed monster that was the 2014-15 Suns backcourt. Before the trade deadline, the Suns were starting both Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and giving Isaiah Thomas 25 minutes per game off the bench. Though point guard was the natural position for all three — similar to the way Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Simons are arguably all at their best manning the point — all three were able to have major fantasy impacts. As of the day Thomas and Dragic were traded away, both of them ranked in fantasy’s top-75, while Bledsoe ranked in the top-30.
The point I was trying to make with that jaunt down memory lane? We’ve seen this work and sustain itself before. The Blazers’ have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to Simons and they’ve made clear that they see him as a part of their future. He’s averaging 28.2 minutes over their last five games, which is more than enough to make a fantasy impact. His workload didn’t change when Rodney Hood was out, so Hood’s return is not a concern. Simons is only helping in points and threes right now, but he’s a highly efficient shooter and he won’t hurt you in turnovers. He looks like an improved version of what many of us were hoping the Nuggets’ Monte Morris might be.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Golden State Warriors (47%)
Next week’s games: at Mem, at Dal, at Uta
Cauley-Stein is my preferred waiver wire target among the Warriors who qualify for this article, so he gets the headline, even though this is actually more of an excuse to talk about the Warriors at large. With only two must-roster-in-all-leagues players, D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green, the Warriors will probably remain a topic of high relevance to the fantasy community for the next several weeks — if not the whole season. Cauley-Stein is averaging 24.5 minutes over the last four games, and he’s been the starting center since his second-day game after returning from injury.
His game is particularly well-suited to fantasy, as he avoids turnovers and can produce in every category except threes. Kevon Looney (hamstring) will eventually return, which could knock Cauley-Stein, Eric Paschall, or both out of standard league rosters, but we still don’t know when that might happen. As long as Cauley-Stein keeps playing around 25 minutes per game, he’s likely to remain rosterable.
After Russell, Glenn Robinson (23%) has the most stable role in this backcourt, though his production has been underwhelming. He’s definitely addable in deeper leagues, but he’s tough to hold onto in most 12-team leagues. Jordan Poole (4%) has also seen a ton of minutes, but he’s basically been a poor man’s version of Robinson. Both Robinson and Poole should remain on watch lists in all leagues, but most managers can probably find better options. Alec Burks (39%) flashed last week, but his minutes and shooting cooled down considerably since then, and he’s back to being my third choice among the three options.
Carmelo Anthony, Portland Trail Blazers (23%)
Next week’s games: at Hou, at NO, at Mil, at Cle
Let’s be clear: Anthony hasn’t played an NBA game in a year because a playoff team decided it was better off paying him not to play. Anthony is a massive name and his signing with the Blazers is big news, which is why we’re talking about him here, but I’d recommend adding many of the players in the “other recommendations” section below before adding Melo.
So here’s what we do know. Portland is struggling at power forward ever since Zach Collins (shoulder) went down, and Collins is probably out through at least mid-March. None of the hodge-podge of players they’ve tried to use has proven capable of reliably holding down 20-plus minutes for a playoff team.
While Anthony has been out of the game for a year, he was still fantasy-relevant the last time we saw him. He averaged 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.2 threes in 2017-18. He only played 10 games in 2018-19, but he managed 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 threes in 29.4 minutes. That’s more than Davis Bertans is doing this season, and he’s rostered in 44% of leagues.
Anthony’s assists, steals, and blocks numbers aren’t good, but they’re non-zero. Presumably, there will be a ramp-up period of a couple of games during which Anthony’s workload will be limited. If he settles into a role where he’s playing at least 25 minutes with a 20-plus usage rate, he’ll have some value.
The best-case upside is probably a top-90 player. The most likely scenario is that he becomes a decent threes-and-points specialist who will be on and off of the waiver wire throughout the season. And, of course, it’s also possible that things go very poorly, and that he’s back out of the league in a few weeks.
Other recommendations: Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies (33 percent rostered); Jae Crowder, Grizzlies (32 percent rostered); Chris Boucher, Raptors (31 percent rostered); Kenrich Williams, Pelicans (12 percent rostered); Malik Monk, Hornets (10 percent rostered); Rajon Rondo, Lakers (31 percent rostered); Nerlens Noel, Thunder (25 percent rostered); Jordan Clarkson, Cavaliers (35 percent rostered); De’Andre Hunter, Hawks (21 percent rostered); Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Raptors (8 percent rostered)
Deep-league only recommendations: Dwight Howard, Lakers (58 percent rostered); JaVale McGee, Lakers (36 percent rostered); Mo Wagner, Wizards (5 percent rostered)