By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
The waiver wire is loaded ahead of Week 8, in large part due to several injuries around the league. And with multiple high-value players to choose from, managers should carefully consider their rosters’ specific needs when choosing who to pick up. Though the top three names this week are all fairly balanced producers, the second half of this list includes a number of specialists.
With more than half the league playing four games in Week 8, there is an increased downside to relying on a player from the Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Spurs, or Wizards, each of which only play twice. That said, the Blazers play on Tuesday and Thursday, by far the quietest days of an otherwise busy week for the league, which increases their appeal for managers in daily lineups leagues. The Mavs and Spurs both play Thursday.
The players below are listed in the order I’d recommend adding them.
This article will focus on players available in at least 50 percent of leagues.
Moritz Wagner, Washington Wizards (33 percent rostered)
Next week’s games: at Cha, at Mem
Thomas Bryant (foot) was off to an excellent start this season, but he’s now set to miss at least the next three weeks. His absence opens up 28.4 minutes, 8.5 rebounds and 10.2 FG attempts per game, and the Wizards’ big man depth chart was already paper-thin. Before Bryant’s injury, the Wizards were already showing an interest in increasing Wagner’s role, as he averaged 17.9 minutes over his first nine games, compared to 21.1 over his next eight.
Ian Mahinmi and Davis Bertans are the only other Wizards taller than 6’8” and the 33 year old Mahinmi hasn’t averaged 15 minutes in nearly half a decade. In Wagner’s first game without Bryant, he started and played 26 minutes. Though the initial returns were somewhat underwhelming — 11 rebounds, but just five points — Wagner should be a priority add in almost all settings.
While we’re here, Bertans (68 percent rostered) is still available in almost a third of all leagues. He was knocking on the doors of being an all-leagues guy before Bryant’s injury. As long as Bryant is out, Bertans should be rostered in 100% of leagues.
De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies (9 percent)
Next week’s games: at GS, at Pho, Mil, Was
Ja Morant’s (back) injury has elevated Melton from an end-of-bench guy with frequent DNP-CDs to a high-value fantasy pickup. Morant is “week-to-week.” When applied to a high-performing rookie on a tanking team that needs to finish in the bottom-six to keep it’s 2020 draft pick, it seems all-but-certain that “week-to-week” will actually translate to “two weeks at the absolute minimum, but we’ll drag it out as long as we can.” In their three games without him, Melton has averaged 26.0 minutes per game, and he’s putting up well-rounded box scores. He’s up to 11.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 steals, and his minutes have increased in each of the three games.
Tyus Jones (11 percent) has been overshadowed by Melton during these first three games without Morant, but Jones is a solid consolation prize if you missed out on Melton. While Melton has been the primary beneficiary, it is Jones who has replaced Morant in the starting lineup. Including Morant’s first missed game back in early November, Jones is averaging 28.6 minutes and 6.0 assists as a starter.
Danuel House, Houston Rockets (44%)
Next week’s games: Sac, at Cle, at Orl, Det
Though a pair of guys climbed ahead of him to claim the title of Week 8’s top pickup, House still qualifies, so he’s still getting a quick blurb here. In his first game back after missing two due to an illness, he put up 16 points, three threes, and three assists. He’s a top-60 per-game fantasy player this season. Add him, so that I don’t have to include him here next week.
Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic (19%)
Next week’s games: at Mil, LAL, Hou, at NO
Another repeated name from last week. His minutes haven’t increased as much as we hoped they would following Nikola Vucevic’s (ankle) injury, but they have increased nonetheless. In seven games without Vucevic, Bamba is averaging 8.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 threes, and, most importantly, 2.0 blocks per game. Those blocks alone are valuable enough to warrant an add.
Rajon Rondo, Los Angeles Lakers (35%)
Next week’s games: at Orl, at Mia, at Atl
The “pro” argument here is quite straightforward: Rondo is averaging 10.2 assists per-36 minutes. Assists are one of the hardest categories to add midseason, and even if Rondo remains limited to 21.5 minutes per game, there’s a good chance that there won’t be another pickup all season who can match his current pace of 6.1 assists per game. Furthermore, his relatively low workload also hints at a potentially yet-untapped upside, as it seems unlikely his workload would shrink, and any increase in court time would probably come with increased assists. He’s not doing much else — he’s putting up decent rebounds, steals, and threes, and he’s a slight negative in points, FG% and FT% – but the assists alone should warrant an add for a lot of managers.
Damian Jones, Atlanta Hawks (8%)
Next week’s games: at Mia, at Chi, Ind, LAL
The Hawks center rotation has been pretty annoying this season, as Alex Len’s one random good game every other month has allowed him to linger around eating up minutes. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that Jones is the best player here, and his workload has been rising throughout the season. His play is inconsistent, and there continue to be those just-frequent-enough-to-be-obnoxious Len nights, But Jones has become addable in most leagues. That’s emphasized by his last two games, during which he’s averaged 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 27.0 minutes. It won’t be nearly that good every night, but Jones warrants consideration.
Other recommendations: Norman Powell, Raptors (37 percent rostered); Jaxson Hayes, Pelicans (17 percent rostered); Nemanja Bjelica, Kings (39 percent rostered); Jarrett Culver, Timberwolves (20 percent rostered); Nerlens Noel, Thunder, (39 percent rostered); Terrence Ross, Magic (46 percent rostered); Jakob Poeltl, Spurs (19 percent rostered); Garrett Temple, Nets (19 percent rostered); Frank Kaminsky, Suns (19 percent rostered); Kelly Olynyk, Head (44 percent rostered); Duncan Robinson, Heat (27 percent rostered); Ben McLemore, Rockets (6 percent rostered); Kris Dunn, Bulls (16 percent rostered)