Welcome back to another edition of Waiver Wired, where every week we have at least a few no-brainer adds with the NBA on pace for a record-setting amount of games missed by key players. Kyrie Irving (shoulder), Nikola Vucevic (ankle) and Kemba Walker (neck, head) are the newest editions to the growing injury list, and I'm still a bit worried about Damian Lillard even though he was able to play through his back spasms on Saturday. As always, hit me up on Twitter here if you have questions about any player on this list.
Week 6 Schedule: Games Played
4 games: ATL, BOS, BKN, CHA, DET, GSW, IND, LAC, LAL, MEM, MIA, MIL, OKC, ORL, PHI, SAS, TOR, UTA, WAS
3 games: CHI, CLE, DAL, MIN, NOP, NYK, POR, SAC
2 games: DEN, HOU, PHX
45% to 36% Owned in Yahoo Leagues:
Terrence Ross (44%)- The Magic are going to be without No. 1 offensive option Nikola Vucevic (ankle) and his 15 shots per game for a while, but it sounds like Aaron Gordon (ankle) is going to be OK in a couple days. Ross’ usage rate jumps from 17.5% to 23% with Vucevic off the court, but he was already trending up before the injury to Vucevic, averaging 14.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 triples and 1.2 steals in 27 minutes over his last five games.
Josh Hart (42%)- Hart has missed six straight games with nagging ankle/knee issues, but he’s been dropped in a ton of leagues despite coach Alvin Gentry saying he’s on the verge of a return. If your fantasy team is struggling in the standings it makes more sense to prioritize someone who is a lock to contribute, but Hart is one of the best stashes under 45% owned as he ranks 57th in per-game value for 9-cat. He was playing nearly 28 minutes per game with 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.2 triples before the injuries, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect an improvement since Jrue Holiday is finally rolling and because Zion Williamson (knee) will be back in December.
Danuel House (42%)- I wrote up House last week but we only got one full game out of him because he ran into a moving screen by the brick wall known as Nikola Jokic and injured his left shoulder. The game before that he put up an absolute gem of a line with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and three triples, but he’s been doing this kind of stuff all season as he’s ranked 58th in 9-cat for per-game value. He’s questionable for Sunday, but I’m willing to hold him in most spots if he has to miss a bit of time.
Nerlens Noel (41%)- The days of Noel playing 10-15 minutes appear to be over. Noel has been stealing minutes from a struggling Steven Adams, and it sounds like Adams can’t get over his knee issue too (coach Billy Donovan said the Thunder will likely keep him on restrictions). Noel’s last game was terrific with 15 points, eight rebounds, one assist and three steals in 24 minutes, and he closed over Adams too. With the Thunder losing three straight and falling to 5-10, you’d think the likelihood of an Adams trade is going up. Noel did miss Friday’s game with an illness, but if he’s able to play on Monday he has some great matchups coming up against the Warriors, Blazers and Pelicans twice. If Noel can start flirting with 25 minutes on a regular basis, we may have another Richaun Holmes on our hands with top-50 upside.
35% to 26% Owned in Yahoo Leagues:
De’Andre Hunter (35%)- With John Collins suspended and Kevin Huerter (shoulder) out a while, Hunter has really emerged over the last two weeks. In his last eight games, the rookie wing is averaging 16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.6 triples in 33.9 minutes, hitting a shade under 45% from the field. Huerter is usually the one running pick-and-rolls to give Trae Young a breather, but Hunter has been doing that recently and ranks in the 57th percentile for PnR ball-handlers. I wish he brought more to the table in the defensive categories, but Hunter is a quality add with the Hawks so banged up.
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Jae Crowder (34%) and Dillon Brooks (33%)- Both of these guys have been all over the place in terms of production, and if I’m being honest I’d rather stream a roster spot than to rely on them every night. Brooks has at least 12 points and three triples in four of his last five games, while Crowder is coming off his best two games of the season with 18.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4.0 triples. I still think Crowder and his expiring contract will be moved by the trade deadline to clear up some minutes for Bruno Caboclo, so he’s not a long-term solution. As for Brooks, his role will probably be secure for the entirety of the season unless his shooting trails off like it did last season.
Jordan Clarkson (32%)- He’s on here basically every week but the only thing that’s changed is that he has a bit more usage these days with Kevin Love (back) banged up. Both games that Love missed were the second leg of a back-to-back, so it likely had more to do with load management. Clarkson feasted in his last game without Love with 28 points and six triples, but don’t chase that stat line and use him sparingly as a points/3s streamer when the matchup is right or when Love sits.
Markelle Fultz (29%)- Terrence Ross isn’t the only player in Orlando that gets a nice bump with Nikola Vucevic (ankle) out. Just like coach Steve Clifford promised, the Magic are ramping up Fultz’s minutes with 25 or more in four straight games. He played a season-high 29 in his last game without Vucevic, scoring 13 points with two rebounds, nine assists (season-high), one steal and two turnovers. He’s really starting to click and his jumper is working for him too, but the most surprising thing from Fultz this season is that he’s hitting nearly 83% from the line. The starting job is his the rest of the way and he might flirt with top-75 numbers in the coming weeks on the back of his dimes and elite steal rate.
Langston Galloway (29%)- He’s starting to win me over and his minutes aren’t going away with at least 38 in three of his last four. In the last two weeks, Galloway has been a valuable source of points (16.5) and triples (3.8), but the rest of his line is about as inspiring as Jim Boylen’s speeches. Don’t drop someone you’re going to miss for Galloway, but he is getting the job done as a streamer.
Rajon Rondo (27%)- Avery Bradley (leg) is out for at least two more games, and Alex Caruso just missed the last one with a calf issue. Rondo’s minutes have been ramping up, playing 23.8 per game over his last four with 11.3 points, 5.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.5 triples on 42.5% from the field. The Lakers are a mess defensively when Rondo is in there with the worst defensive rating among their rotation players (that was the case last year too), but he’s generally a good source of assists and steals when he gets regular playing time if you can afford a hit to your percentages and turnovers.
Moritz Wagner (27%)- The second-year big man is coming off a dud due to foul trouble vs. Charlotte, but prior to that he was on a roll with top-60 value in four games from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20. In that span he averaged 16.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 triples in just 22.6 minutes. There’s even more room for growth too, as the defensive stats weren’t there even though he averages 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals per 36 minutes. He’s usually a safe bet to play 20+ minutes behind Thomas Bryant when he’s not in foul trouble, so with his per-minute upside he should easily hold standard-league value.
25% and Under in Yahoo Leagues:
Frank Ntilikina (25%)- He might be the most undervalued player in fantasy basketball right now. The steal rate is carrying is most of his value, but Frank has been incredibly efficient too with one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the NBA over the past few weeks. Tommy Beer, a colleague of mine and a fellow shareholder of Ntilikina Island dropped a gem of a stat in his latest article which you can check out here (link). Frank is on pace to become the seventh player in NBA history to post a steal rate of at least 3.0% and a block rate of 2.5% with a turnover rate of 15% or less along with Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Gerald Wallace, Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard and Michael Jordan.
I mean come on. He had a career-high six steals on Saturday with nine points, three rebounds, one 3-pointer and a season-high nine assists, and the game before that he put up 17 points. He’s posting top-70 numbers in 9-cat leagues over the past two weeks and the Knicks are clicking on both ends when he’s on the floor, so what was once a position battle at PG is now Frank’s job indefinitely. "He had nine assists, nine points, I mean it's a heck of a game," coach Fizdale said. "He's competing his butt off. ...Frank's competing.”
Jaxson Hayes (25%)- Derrick Favors has a long history of back issues and has missed four straight, while Jahlil Okafor (ankle) has missed six straight. Hayes is a better fit in this system for his ability to run the floor, dive off pick-and-rolls and protect the rim, and he’s been very productive in his last five games. In that sample size, Hayes is posting 8th-round numbers in 9-cat with 10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.0 blocks in 26 minutes on 60.6% from the field and 73.3% from the line. There’s no guarantee he keeps the starting job when Favors comes back, but it’s worth holding Hayes in the meantime until the Pelicans get some bodies back.
Norman Powell (22%)- He has been lights out over his last four games, scoring 19.5 points with 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 dimes, 0.8 steals and 3.0 triples in 32 minutes. Those are 7th-round numbers in 9-cat, but his value has an expiration date of Dec. 1 with Kyle Lowry (thumb) targeting a return. That still means you can squeeze three more games out of Powell though and one of them is against the Knicks.
Donte DiVincenzo (19%)- Here’s a player that is still flying under the radar despite some really nice lines in recent weeks. DiVincenzo has given the Bucks a dynamic they haven’t had since Malcolm Brogdon left, as he can handle the ball a bit, run and space the floor and hold his own defensively. He’s coming off a quiet game vs. the Pistons which had more to do with the blowout, but he’s played at least 24 minutes in six straight with top-75 numbers of 11.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 dimes, 1.8 steals and 1.5 triples. His +17.6 net rating is the highest in the NBA among players who’ve played as many minutes, and I think there’s a good chance he sticks in the starting five once Khris Middleton (leg) comes back.
Kevon Looney (19%)- He could be back in action this week if his practice goes well on Sunday. Looney was a popular sleeper before the season and the Warriors have been ravaged by injuries since then, so he could offer a ton of upside once he gets his legs under him. Even in a low-usage role last season, Looney had per-36 averages of 12-10-3 with 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals.
Daniel Theis (17%)- Despite the return of Enes Kanter, Theis is still getting the bulk of the center minutes with Robert Williams and Kanter splitting a handful each. Theis isn’t lighting up fantasy leagues, but he does all the little things for Boston and it appears that his job is safe. In his last five games he’s returning 10th-round value with 7.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 dimes, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks in 24 minutes.
Mo Bamba (15%) and Khem Birch (5%)- Birch got the start for Vucevic (ankle), but had just four points, five rebounds and two turnovers in 27 minutes. He was usually pretty solid last season when he got extended run, so I’m willing to give him one more chance. There’s no doubt that Bamba has more per-minute upside, but it appears that the Magic still want to keep his minutes somewhat limited. Bamba played a season-high 21 minutes with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, two blocks and one 3-pointers on Saturday, so I’d be interested to see if the Magic throw a few more minutes his way. If I’m going to take a flier on either player, I think I’d rather gamble on Bamba’s upside and he does have a much higher block rate, the hardest category to pluck off the waiver wire.
Skal Labissiere (9%)- Hassan Whiteside (right hip tendinosis) has missed two straight games, and there’s no telling when he will return. Skal swatted a career-high five shots with 22 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes vs. the Bucks in the first game without Whiteside, but then played just 18 minutes against the Cavs on Saturday with eight points, two rebounds an two assists. Coach Terry Stotts has played Anthony Tolliver at least 30 minutes in back-to-back games and Carmelo Anthony hasn’t helped, so maybe the minutes go back in Skal’s favor. Portland’s season is looking like a lost cause anyways, so it could be a matter of when and not if Skal will become relevant on a nightly basis.
Ky Bowman (8%)- D'Angelo Russell (right thumb sprain) will miss at least one more week before he’s re-evaluated, so fire up Bowman if you need a streamer. He’s averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 dimes, 2.5 steals and 2.5 triples in his last two games, playing 32 and 36 minutes in those outings. “All we can do is keep giving him the opportunity, and he’s seizing it,” coach Steve Kerr said. Kerr added that he wants the Warriors to convert his two-way contract into a standard one, so it’s pretty clear that he envisions a role for him even when Russell is back.
Garrett Temple (7%)- Kyrie Irving (shoulder) will miss at least three more games and it sounds like his absence could extend much longer than that. Caris LeVert (thumb) is still pretty far away from a return too, so Temple has been getting a ton of burn for the Nets with at least 30 minutes in four of his last six. He’s more of a deep-league add and/or streamer though, averaging a mere 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 triples.
DeAndre Bembry (5%) Cam Reddish (wrist) missed two games in a row, allowing Bembry to erupt in Atlanta’s back-to-back set with averages of 16.5 points, 5.0 dimes, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 triples. The Hawks even ran some sets for Bembry with opposing teams doubling and trapping Trae Young at every opportunity. If we learn that Reddish will miss more time, I’d rather take a flier on Bembry than De’Andre Hunter since he’s more diverse on the stat sheet.
Damian Jones (3%) Since entering the starting lineup seven games ago, Jones has done a respectable job for Atlanta, certainly much better than Bruno Fernando and Alex Len. He gives Trae Young a lob threat and a diver off pick-and-rolls, and he’s been pretty good on defense too. He’s been a 9th-round value since moving into the starting lineup with 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 dimes, 0.7 steals and 1.3 blocks in just 22.2 minutes, and he’s been rock solid with his percentages too. He’s a fine glue guy at the end of fantasy roster since he doesn’t hurt you anywhere.