Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wired, Week 3: Come Sail Away with Stix

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Target Hawkins in fantasy after McCollum's injury

As Big Ten football and basketball happen simultaneously, Noah Eagle discusses calling the Texas A&M-Ohio State basketball game Friday night ahead of broadcasting Michigan State-Ohio State Saturday night.

Three weeks into the NBA season, and the excitement is just ramping up! The NBA’s first weekend of In-Season Tournament action was a rousing success, as five of seven games on the inaugural night were decided by five points or less. The new-look Suns have struggled in the early goings due to Bradley Beal and Devin Booker injuries, but with Beal back and Booker on the mend, we may be close to seeing Phoenix’s Big 3 at full strength.

LeBron James continues to do LeBron things in Year 21, and Steph Curry is in the MVP conversation yet again. Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic have been dominant for their respective teams. The Pacers are the best offense in basketball, the Hawks have played great thanks to a breakout year from Jalen Johnson and Cam Thomas (now injured) has looked electric as a primary scoring option for the Nets. Houston looks surprisingly competent with its new roster, Minnesota is laying down the law on defense and the Clippers haven’t quite found their footing with James Harden in the lineup.

We’ve got so many awesome storylines across the Association, but unfortunately, there are notable injuries to monitor as well. With them come new opportunities for some players who may not have gotten a shot. Through three weeks, we can also start to discern which players are in the midst of unsustainable streaks (good or bad) and those who are here to stay (or go).

The format for this article will feature players who are “tired” and those who are “wired.” Tired players are those worth adding off the wire but with tempered expectations or highly rostered players who can be dropped in favor of a hot pickup. Wired players are those who are the best additions with the highest rest-of-season ceilings. Both tired and wired players will have their Yahoo roster percentages listed next to their names.

Thanks for reading! As always, I’m so excited to share this column with you each and every Friday. LET’S GO!

Pickups in order of priority:

1. Kyle Lowry
2. Jalen Smith
3. Jordan Hawkins
4. Lonnie Walker
5. Tari Eason
6. Dorian Finney-Smith
7. Keyonte George
8. Jalen Suggs
9. Dyson Daniels
10. Bogdan Bogdanovic
11. Royce O’Neale
12. Rui Hachimura

Tired: Bruce Brown 71%
Wired: Jalen Smith 20% ⚡

Say it ain’t so, Bruce! Brown was a fantastic option for the Pacers last season, exceeding fantasy expectations as a useful option in 12-team leagues. This season? Not so much? Indiana’s litany of quality role players has limited Brown’s production despite him sticking in the starting five and averaging better than 30 minutes per night. It would be tough to find options with more upside or a more secure role on the waiver wire, so don’t drop him for a flavor of the week. If you’re struggling, however, and you need to get some immediate production to secure a victory, don’t be afraid to but Brown on the chopping block. Make those tough decisions!

“A gathering of angels appeared above my head. They sang to me this song of hope. And this is what they said.” They said “Add Jalen Smith” and don’t look back. The bespectacled big man, affectionately referred to as “Stix” is averaging 11.9 points and 6.9 boards on 71.7% shooting in just under 18 minutes per contest this season. He’s ranked just inside the top 100 in per-game fantasy value, and there’s plenty of room to grow. Smith logged 25 big minutes Wednesday and provided 16 points, 11 rebounds, an assist, two steals and a block. He was a late scratch Thursday with a back injury, but we won’t read much into that on the second night of a back-to-back set. If his playing time ticks up, he could be a fantasy monster for the rest of the season.

Tired: Al Horford 43%
Wired: Kyle Lowry 28% ⚡

Even after the Celtics traded away Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams to bring in Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, Horford’s minutes have come down significantly this season. With his playing time cut, Horford’s production has dipped precipitously to 5.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.7 each of steals, blocks and three-pointers across 24.1 minutes per contest. Those numbers aren’t nearly enough to keep the veteran big man in the conversation for 12-team leagues. He’s a safe drop if you still have him on your team and are looking for a little more juice.

Lowry started the season slowly, but his production has increased over the last week. Ranked 82nd in per-game fantasy value, the veteran could be in line for big minutes and usage moving forward. It’s no surprise that Miami’s rotation is razor thin, and Tyler Herro - who has been the team’s leading scorer and a strong facilitator - injured his ankle Wednesday and logged just eight minutes. Lowry had his best game of the season after Herro went down, posting a 17/11/9 line. With Herro expected to miss at least “a couple of weeks,” Lowry’s fantasy value is ready to take off.

Tired: Aaron Nesmith 22%
Wired: Spencer Dinwiddie 73%, Lonnie Walker 22%, Royce O’Neale 19%, Dorian Finney-Smith 44%  ⚡

Over his last four games prior to Thursday’s dud, Nesmith posted 14.0 points, 2.8 boards, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.5 triples while shooting 58.8% from the floor. He saw 24.5 minutes per night, but there are too many options in Indiana and only so many fantasy-relevant options. The steals are particularly valuable, but Nesmith’s playing time and lack of strong contributions elsewhere make him a lackluster option at best. If you need steals and triples, you can them from Nesmith, but there are better options on the wire.

More like Spencer Dim-Widdie, am I right? He’s been pretty forgettable in Brooklyn’s crowded rotation, averaging just 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.3 triples across 27.6 minutes per contest. The Nets have spread the playing time across the roster, with nine players logging at least 22 minutes and eight logging at least 25. Cam Thomas has been an offensive force, Ben Simmons has been mostly healthy, Lonnie Walker IV has emerged as a reliable option, and guys like Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale continue to show how valuable they are on both ends of the court.

Dinwiddie’s playing time and usage have taken massive hits, but with Thomas out for multiple weeks and Simmons starting to miss games, it could be time for Dinwiddie to step back up. He’s highly rostered, but if he’s on your waiver wire, it’s time to add. Walker IV is widely available, so add him if Dinwiddie is already rostered. Finney-Smith and O’Neale should also be available, and all three are worth a look in the wake of Thomas’ injury. O’Neale and DFS have been top-100 options over the last week, while Walker has been electric as a scorer and figures to see a boost to the 20 minutes a night he’s been seeing.

Tired: Andrew Wiggins 75%
Wired: Jordan Hawkins 46% ⚡

Yikes, things are not going well for Wiggins out in the Bay, and it’s tough to see a light at the end of the tunnel. A glue guy for one of the Association’s best franchises since arriving in Golden State, Wiggins has completely disappeared this season. He’s averaging just 10.8 points, 3.6 boards, 0.7 assists, 0.1 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.3 triples across 25.7 minutes. These numbers are so cartoonishly bad that we had to do a double-take and make sure there weren’t any typos. After logging more than 32 minutes per game across the last three seasons, Wiggins is seeing just 25.7 minutes in 2023-24. His three-point attempts have been chopped from 6.1 to 2.2, and his field goal attempts are down from 14.3 to 10.6. He’s down bad, and there’s no reason to hold onto him right now.

CJ McCollum is out indefinitely with a collapsed lung, and in two games since he’s been out, Hawkins has thrived. In his first game without McCollum, the rookie casually dropped 31/7/3/1 with seven triples across 38 minutes. He followed that up with a 14/1/1 line and two triples across 30 minutes. Hawkins looks like the real deal, and the UConn product has made a name for himself in the NBA immediately. With McCollum out, there should be plenty of minutes for Hawkins moving forward. Make sure he’s not still on your waiver wire.

Tired: Tyus Jones 81%
Wired: Bogdan Bogdanovic 55% ⚡

Jones is a full-time starter for one of the worst teams in the Association, but his playing time and production look nearly identical to what they were last season in Memphis when he came off the bench. Jones is ranked 144th on the season, and there’s not a ton to love. His 5.4 assists and 1.1 steals are helpful to fantasy managers in need of production in those categories, but he’s scoring fewer than 10 points per game, not hitting many three-pointers, and he’s attempted one free throw in seven contests. You can do better than the disappointing Jones, and there’s no reason to continue holding him. Let someone else in your league deal with the headache of rostering him.

Across his last four games, Double Bogey has averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Yawn, right? Not so fast! In that span, he also recorded 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.3 triples while committing 0.5 turnovers. The FG% hasn’t been great (42.9%), but fantasy managers will certainly take the elite defensive numbers, low turnovers and quality three-pointers. Bogey has the potential for bigger nights when he gets hot on offense, and he’s gone for at least 15 points, three triples and two steals in each of his last two. He’s trending up in Week 3 and worth an add.

Tired: Christian Wood 34%
Wired: Rui Hachimura 14% ⚡

Well, what do you know? Anthony “Day-to-Davis” missed a game already after saying he was “confident” he’d play Wednesday. Davis left Monday’s game early with a groin injury, and with Jaxson Hayes also on the shelf, Christian Wood stepped into the starting five against his former team, the Rockets. Houston blew the doors off the Lakers, and Wood stunk it up with just four rebounds and an assist across 22 minutes. There are plenty of mouths to feed in Los Angeles’ rotation, but Wood doesn’t look destined to eat based on early returns.

Rui Hachimura, on the other hand, returned to the lineup after four games off and delivered 24 points, eight boards, two dimes, two steals, a block and two triples across 26 minutes. Hachimura showed in last season’s playoffs that he could be a reliable third scoring option behind Davis and LeBron James, and if Davis is forced to miss additional time moving forward, it would likely be Hachimura who benefits the most.

Tired: Cole Anthony 53%
Wired: Jalen Suggs 45% ⚡

Markelle Fultz returned from his three-game absence Thursday and looked good in 29 minutes of action. His return coincided with Anthony’s worst game of the season. Anthony averaged 17.0 points, 4.7 boards and 4.3 dimes across 28.0 minutes in the three games Fultz missed, but he crashed back to earth with a 7/2/2 line in 23 minutes Thursday. Anthony can be a hot-and-cold scorer, and with no strong defensive numbers to buoy his production when he can’t find his shot, he’s not worth holding onto in category leagues. He’s a fine end-of-bench guy in points leagues.

With Fultz back, Suggs remained in the starting five, and his production was phenomenal. Suggs turned in his best game of the season with 21 points, four triples and six steals across 31 minutes. His counting stats won’t wow you all the time, but Suggs is a low-turnover guy who sits fourth in the Association in steals per game at 2.3. He can get hot and score in buckets on occasion, and there are times when his assist numbers are above average. You’re targeting him for steals, but he can contribute in other areas too.

Tired: Bobby Portis 67%
Wired: Lu Dort 62% ⚡

Once regarded as an end-of-bench option who could get double-digit rebounds with ease and knock down a couple of three-pointers off the bench, Big Bobby P has taken a big step back this season. His minutes are down from 26.0 last season to 20.4, and his rebounds have fallen from the career-high 9.6 he grabbed in 2022-23 to just 5.3. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 1.1 steals to go with the paltry rebound total, and he’s hitting just 0.3 triples. These are not the numbers of a reliable option in 12-team leagues, and Portis can be dropped.

Dort has gone from Tired to Wired in a hurry. He’s a guy who we highlighted last week as Tired due to lack of diversity in his final stat lines but also someone who could hold value purely based on his defensive contributions. Dort has continued to blow past expectations, and there’s still time to add a guy who’s been a top-20 contributor over the last week. Over his last three games, Dort has averaged an impressive 20.7 points, 6.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.7 blocks and 3.7 triples. There’s no reason to think he’ll lose his starting gig, and fantasy managers should continue to ride with him for as long as he’s lighting things up on offense. His 53.4% shooting is unsustainable, but even a slight regression in efficiency will have him comfortably above his previous career-best shooting mark of 40.4%. Dort’s becoming less and less available, so this may be your final chance to add him.

Tired: Collin Sexton 47%
Wired: Keyonte George 12% ⚡

When will people finally wake up and drop the Young Bull? We’ve been calling bull on him for weeks, and it’s finally enough! Sexton was wildly disappointing last season in his first campaign with the Jazz, posting middling numbers across 23.9 minutes per game. He’s not even clearing 19 minutes per game in 2023-24, and he’s posting just 12.4 points, 2.1 boards and 2.3 assists. Yuck. The Sexton breakout is apparently not going to happen, especially with Keyonte George jumping into the starting five and showing real promise from the jump. Speaking of George…

With Walker Kessler out of action, it was George and Ochai Agbaji who moved into the starting five, with John Collins and Lauri Markkanen holding things down in the frontcourt. Kelly Olynyk came off the bench again, and Talen Horton-Tucker lost his starting gig. George finished with 7/2/9 with a triple and just one turnover across 31 minutes. Not too shabby for the rookie’s debut as a starter. Kessler is set to miss extended time, opening the door for George to remain with the first unit and continue to develop. It’s time to enjoy the “luxury” of your “luxury stash.”

Tired: Isaiah Stewart 64%
Wired: Dyson Daniels 10% ⚡

Stewart double-doubled in his first game of the season, and it looked like he was ready to take another step forward for fantasy hoops managers. Stewart didn’t record another double-double for seven more games, and it took the absence of Jalen Duren to get there. Stewart has improved in terms of efficiency this season, as he’s shooting 48.8% from the floor and 42.9% from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, he’s averaging fewer than eight rebounds per game (fewer than six over the last week), and his defensive contributions have been forgettable. There will be strong games for the big man if he’s lighting up from distance or if Duren is out and he can snag some extra boards, but for the most part, Stewart is better for the Pistons in real life than he is for your fantasy team.

Daniels made his first start of the season Wednesday, contributing a well-rounded 7/3/5 line with four steals across 31 minutes. Prior to this one, Jordan Hawkins had absorbed most of the minutes in the starting five when injuries came knocking, but the list of available players continues to shorten, as has been the case for New Orleans in recent years. That means Daniels should see extended playing time moving forward. He’s not the scorer that Hawkins is, but Daniels’ fantasy value is far from dead thanks to his ability to contribute in multiple categories, including assists and steals. He’s worth a look, especially with the Pelicans playing Friday and Sunday to close out the week.

Tired: Mo Wagner 33%
Wired: Goga Bitadze 25% ⚡

Mo, Mo, Mo. How do ya like me? How do ya like me? We like you ok, Mo, but not quite as much as Orlando’s other big man… but we’ll get to him in a moment. Since Wendell Carter Jr. went down, Wagner has averaged 16.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a triple across 22.5 minutes in two contests. He’s the best scoring option at center thanks to his ability to hit outside shots, but he’s never been revered for his shot-blocking skills. Wagner’s not a high-level rebounder either, so his upside is mostly limited to points.

Goga Bitadze has started each of Orlando’s last two games, averaging 8.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.0 blocks across 24.0 minutes. In the first game without WCJ, Bitadze logged more minutes than Wagner, and the minutes were flipped in the second contest. It’s very possible this is an even timeshare, but even if that is the case, Bitadze has the most fantasy upside thanks to his strong contributions in rebounds, blocks and FG%. Go, go, Goga!

Tired: Eric Gordon 32%
Wired: Tari Eason 35% ⚡

Gordon went for two points, one rebound, two assists and three turnovers while shooting 1-of-9 from the floor Wednesday, taking a backseat in the rotation with the return of Bradley Beal to the Suns’ lineup. Beal’s season debut is the harbinger of Gordon’s fantasy demise, and managers streaming him for points and triples can drop him without worry, picking him back up when some combination of Devin Booker and Beal is forced to miss time.

We missed you, Tari! Eason made his season debut Wednesday and, as expected, the Rockets didn’t give him big minutes in his first game of 2023-24. Eason delivered nine points, nine rebounds, two assists, a block and a triple across 14 minutes, but there’s a ton of room for him to improve on those numbers with additional minutes. The Rockets are winning games with their deep lineup, and it makes sense to bring Eason along slowly. He’s worth stashing now as he ramps up and gets back in game shape.

Others worth a look: Saddiq Bey 46%, Killian Hayes 40%, Marcus Sasser 28%, Jae Crowder 16%, Skylar Mays 3%, Toumani Camara 2%