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By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
For the second week in a row, the waiver wire is an embarrassment of riches — but there’s a catch. While there are tons of high-upside, desirable options to choose from, most of them have some “too good to be true” qualities. As a result, the players highlighted below aren’t necessarily the ones putting up the best numbers, nor are they the ones with the highest upside. Rather, this article tries to focus on the waiver candidates I believe have the best chance to last on your roster.
Due to the unusual nature of this week’s player pool, I want to emphasize that managers should feel free to disagree with my rankings. I’m making recommendations, and you should pick the players you believe in and who fit your roster’s needs. That’s always true, but it is especially important when there are so many players who could just as easily bust as end up in the top 100. Every player who received a blurb this week, and all of the “other recommendations” players before and including Christian Wood, have a ton of upside but are putting up numbers that seem a little unsustainable.
Schedule-wise, it’ll be a busy week for the league. Half the league plays four games, and only the Clippers have a two-game week.
Thursday is on the slow side (four games) while Friday is a little busy (10 games), but every other day has between six and nine games, making for a mostly balanced day-to-day schedule. All eight teams that play Thursday are off Friday and play again Saturday, making them great targets for managers who can stream a spot — since Friday is so busy, streaming is unlikely to actually help, and players who managers pick up for Thursday get double the value by playing again Saturday. Those eight teams are the Cavaliers, Trail Blazers, Rockets, Celtics, 76ers, Pistons, Thunder, and Timberwolves.
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. Therefore, Warriors’ Damion Lee (52 percent rostered) doesn’t qualify, but managers should check to see if he’s still available. He’d be the second name listed this week if he qualified, behind only Aaron Holiday.
Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers (36 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at Cha, Mia, at Chi
Holiday was the second player listed in last week’s column, and his roster rate is up 12% since then, but it’s still not high enough. Before foul trouble limited him to just 22 minutes Thursday, Holiday had played at least 30 minutes in seven games in a row — Malcolm Brogdon (back) only missed three of those. The Pacers are figuring out that Holiday might be a budding star, and they have adjusted by increasing his workload, regardless of the health of the rest of the roster. Before December 15, the last game before Holiday’s run of 30-plus minute games started, Holiday and Brogdon were averaging 8.7 minutes together per game. They’re up to 22.1 minutes together per game since. Holiday’s increased stats have nothing to do with Brogdon’s injuries. They’re a reflection of Holiday’s abilities and his increasing role on this team.
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets (25 percent)
Next week’s schedule: at Atl, at Dal, Cle, LAC
Is it finally happening? Probably the most anticipated breakout since Joel Embiid, we’re finally seeing some major signs of life from Porter. Porter played only three games in college due to injury and was redshirted for what would have been his rookie year last season. The Nuggets have brought Porter along slowly this season, playing him 14 minutes or fewer in 20 of his first 21 games. But he’s seeing increased run over the last week, playing 19, 26, 11 and 23 minutes over his last four games. That 11 stands out as a red flag — we can’t yet be certain that they’re finally going to give him consistent minutes. But what he’s done with the time he’s had has been great.
He’s averaging 21.2 points, 20.2 rebounds, and 2.2 threes per-36 minutes (note: there is no chance he approaches 36 minutes per game, but those numbers allow for easier player-to-player comparisons). In the four games in which he played at least 19 minutes, he’s averaged 17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 threes. He’s played alongside Will Barton and Gary Harris, which is good since it increases the number of opportunities he’s likely to have. If Porter can keep a larger role in the rotation, he’s highly likely to be a fantasy factor.
Shabazz Napier (17%) and Gorgui Dieng (39%); Minnesota Timberwolves
Next week’s schedule: at Mem, Por, at Hou
We’ve seen this before from Napier, which is why I’m not more excited about three straight 20-plus-point games. When given extended run last season, Napier scored 15 points in six straight games, but once the team got healthier, he was immediately returned to a minor bench role. Andrew Wiggins (illness) has missed the last four games, Treveon Graham (illness) the last three games, and Jeff Teague (knee) the last two. Napier probably has value as long as the backcourt remains shorthanded, but I doubt that this hot streak turns into a bigger role and sustainable production. That said, I could be wrong about that — it’s not like things have been going so great for Minnesota – and 22.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 threes in 32.7 minutes over three games demands attention.
Dieng got several paragraphs last week, and the message is fundamentally unchanged — so go back and read that if you want more detailed analysis. The tl;dr is this: Dieng has shown fantasy excellence before and borders on all-leagues must-start territory as long as Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) is out, but his value probably evaporates the moment Towns returns.
Darren Collison, Free Agent (Not yet available)
Next week’s schedule: Home Depot, buy some wallpaper, do some flooring, maybe Bed Bath & Beyond if he has enough time
Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a massive WojBomb this week when he announced that the 32-year-old Collison is considering un-retiring and that the Lakers and the Clippers are his preferred destinations. Collison grew up near LA and went to UCLA for college, so the “prefers Lakers and Clippers” bit is probably more than just the usual talk coming from a free agent — it seems highly likely that those are the only teams he’d come out of retirement for. Taking the speculation one step further, due to some salary cap nuances relating to DeMarcus’ Cousins’ offseason injury, the Lakers are able to pay Collison roughly double what the Clippers could offer.
If we’re picking up Collison, it is on the hope that he signs with the Lakers. Collison could have value with the Clippers (or somewhere else), but probably not enough to warrant holding onto while he’s still inactive. But the Lakers would be a near-perfect situation for him. Rajon Rondo is a shell of the player he used to be, and the team needs a point guard who is more of a shooting threat. Collison shot 39.4% from three for his career. Collison unexpectedly retired at the end of last season, so he hasn’t been out of the league for very long, and he was still highly productive. He was a top-100 guy in 8-cat for basically his entire career, and he was top-85 in 9-cat in five of his last seven seasons. If he comes back for the Lakers, he’d likely see a lot of minutes and provide value in assists, steals, field goal percentage and threes, while breaking even in rebounds and scoring.
Collison is currently not available as a part of the Yahoo player pool, but keep an eye out for when that updates. He’s not worth adding in most daily lineups leagues, where managers need to make frequent use of their bench. However, in weekly lineup leagues, especially those that are head-to-head, I’m willing to stash him.
Danuel House, Houston Rockets (26%)
Next week’s schedule: at Atl, at OKC, Min
You thought I forgot? I’m sticking to my guns on this one. I still think House is a top-100 player in 9-cat, and his overall ranking still reflects that.
Other recommendations: Maxi Kleber, Mavericks (30 percent rostered); D.J. Augustin, Magic (37 percent rostered); Jordan McRae, Wizards (35 percent rostered); Sekou Doumbouya, Pistons (1 percent rostered); Christian Wood, Pistons (10 percent rostered); Dwight Powell, Mavericks (49 percent rostered); Glenn Robinson, Warriors (31 percent rostered); Eric Paschall, Warriors (27 percent rostered); Darius Garland, Cavaliers (22 percent rostered); Jordan Clarkson, Jazz (31 percent rostered); Nerlens Noel, Thunder (48 percent rostered); Troy Brown, Wizards (25 percent rostered); Isaiah Hartenstein, Rockets (9 percent rostered).