By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Welcome back! The season is finally here! Every team has played at least one game, so we can make roster moves based on real, meaningful information — no more “gained 17 lbs of pure muscle and he spent the offseason learning how to shoot 70 percent from three while singing backward in Hungarian” preseason noise.
The first week of waiver moves is a critical time, but remember, your roster’s success or failure will be determined as much by the moves you don’t make as the ones you do. Do not drop Eric Bledsoe just because he has a bad game on opening night. There are a lot of high-value players that are probably available in your league, and you’ll need to act quickly and decisively to take advantage, but don’t overreact — don’t panic.
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. That said, 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 (69% rostered); Paul Millsap, Nuggets (72%); Justise Winslow (74%), Tyler Herro, Heat (75%); Rui Hachimura, Wizards (65%)
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (53%)
Next week’s schedule: at Sac, Dal, at NO, at Orl
As I’ll say a couple of times during this article — it was only one game, but … I was down on Barton during the preseason, primarily because I was afraid of what his workload might be. The Nuggets have one of the deepest rosters in the league, and they are particularly deep on the wing. The additions of Jerami Grant (via trade) and Michael Porter Jr. (missed 2018-19 due to injury) could have taken a giant cut out of Barton’s minutes.
Well, it was only one game, but Barton was third on the team in minutes and second in scoring. He loaded up the box score with 19 points, five rebounds, two threes, two assists, two steals, and a block. Grant played only 21 minutes. Porter Jr was a DNP-CD. Torrey Craig and Malik Beasley, two secondary threats to Barton’s potential workload, played just 16 and 13, respectively. Barton is a dynamic across-the-board producer. If he’s going to consistently see 30 minutes a game then he is probably a top-100 player.
Coby White, Chicago Bulls (49%)
Next week’s schedule: at NYK, at Cle, Det, at Ind
It’s only one game, but … White played more minutes than starter Tomas Satoransky. Satoransky, who played 24 minutes, was having an off game, so this could have been a ride-the-hot-hand situation. That said, even if it was just a hot-hand situation, White still has to be a major part of the rotation just to position himself to pass Satoransky when the latter is having an off night. White scored 17 points and dished seven assists while committing one turnover in his 27 minutes. It is likely to be months before White has any chance at replacing Satoransky as the starter, but it’s clear that the Bulls are willing to let White lead the team in PG minutes as long as his play can justify the workload.
PJ Washington (47%)
Devonte’ Graham (14%)
Dwayne Bacon (26%)
Next week’s schedule: at LAC, at Sac, at GS
We knew there would be a ton of bad-team-stat-inflation up for grabs on the Hornets. We just weren’t sure who the beneficiaries would be. It’s only been one game, but we now know a lot. The Hornets rotation was what fantasy managers dream of — all the starters played 30-plus minutes, Graham played 27, end everyone else played 16 or fewer.
Washington was fantastic, leading the team in minutes, scoring 27 points including seven threes, and adding four rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block. Graham significantly outplayed Terry Rozier, which is a sentence you will probably see a lot over the coming months. He finished with 23 points, eight assists, six threes, and four rebounds. Bacon started and scored 22 points to go with five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two threes. They won’t always be so efficient from behind the arc, but all three have the workload and the ability to be steady fantasy contributors.
Importantly, Nic Batum (48%) got hurt early in the game, and he is set to miss at least three weeks; he’s droppable in standard leagues. His absence probably helped Graham and Bacon, and one or the other could see a drop in value when Batum returns, but that doesn’t detract from their short- and middle-term appeal. Batum’s absence has no impact on Washington, who looks like a high-priority season-long add.
Cedi Osman (33 percent rostered)
Darius Garland (42 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at Mil, Chi, at Ind, Dal
Another obvious location for bad-team-stat-inflation, though these two were a little more predictable than the Hornets threesome listed above. Both of these two started, with Osman playing 29 minutes and Garland playing 32. Osman is a third-year 24 year old who has steadily improved throughout his career. He had a two-month stretch of top-100 play last season and finished just outside the top-150 for the season.
Garland was the No. 5 overall pick in the NBA draft last summer. Though his opening night box score was nothing to write home about, Garland played more minutes than 2018 lottery pick Collin Sexton, who also started. If Garland and Sexton are both going to start and both going to play at least 30 minutes per game, then both have meaningful fantasy value.
Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers (16 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at Atl, Min, at Por
The 76ers’ rotation got weird in their opener. Three players — Joel Embiid, Al Horford, and Matisse Thybulle — were all limited by foul trouble, each finishing with five. Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson also had to monitor their fouls with four apiece. That said, Thybulle was the clear sixth man, leading all non-starters with 22 minutes. He scored only three points, making just one of his five shots, but he was a defensive menace. After averaging 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks in the preseason, Thybulle kicked off the season with two steals and two blocks against the Celtics. Even if he continues to be a drain in every other category, his ability to rack up steals and blocks makes him rosterable in any category-based league.
Other suggestions: Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (40 percent rostered); Jae Crowder, Grizzlies (15 percent rostered); Rodney Hood, Trail Blazers (7 percent rostered); Wesley Matthews, Bucks (7 percent rostered); Luke Kennard, Pistons (29 percent rostered); Marcus Morris, Knicks (39 percent rostered); Bobby Portis, Knicks (36 percent rostered); Frank Kaminsky, Suns (7 percent rostered)