October 29, 2023, 10:40 pm
Welcome back to Working the Wire, our weekly look at the top waiver adds out there! Those of you who are premium subscribers can keep up with the action every night via our Pickups of the Night articles, and you’ll find advice sprinkled in throughout our blurb feed, but this is the spot to catch up on all the top pickup options after the week that was.
The NBA season isn’t even a full week old but it’s prime time for roster tinkering, as all managers are engaged and every player presents a world of possibilities. You don’t want to be too eager to make moves and end up cutting the cord on someone who makes a difference in the long-term, but you also don’t want to sit on your hands and miss out on players who end up being season-long contributors. That’s why we’re here — to lend some advice and provide an alternative perspective to consider when you’re setting your rosters.
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These are the players that should absolutely not be on waiver wires. It may not last forever but some of them might, and you can’t ignore what’s happening in the present.
Johnson has been fantastic in the early going and even earned his way into the starting lineup on Sunday. Jumbo ball-handlers with plus athleticism are a rare player type and Johnson is putting those attributes to good use. We hammered home the idea that Johnson should be drafted in all leagues as a priority late-round pick with our work in the Draft Guide, but Johnson is still available in more than half of all leagues. Go get him immediately; you may not get a chance to get him again.
Strus has had two great games and one clunker in his first three for Cleveland, but even in the bad game he got plenty of shots up. He won’t want for opportunity, at least while the Cavs’ starting backcourt is ailing, and is worth adding and starting until the minutes (and performance) dip. Strus looks like more of a 3-point asset when the Cavs are healthy but right now he’s feasting.
The news of Steven Adams’ season-ending knee surgery broke shortly before the season began, so there wasn’t a ton of time for Tillman to settle in as a universally drafted player. There’s still plenty of time to make him a universally added player, however. Tillman has a clear path to the starting center spot for the rest of the season and shouldn’t be on any waiver wires.
Thomas has been dynamite so far this season and although he’s flashed like this before only to fade into obscurity, this is a new version of the Nets that might be willing to put up with his on-court shortcomings for the sake of development. Any time someone scores 30-plus in back-to-back games it’ll catch your attention; Thomas is on the shakiest ground of anyone in this section by a wide, wide margin, but on the off chance he sticks you may not come across a better source of free points.
Sharpe was expected to see his minutes rise over the course of the season but the timeline has been accelerated by Anfernee Simons’ thumb injury. Sharpe is now starting and looks pretty comfortable in only his second season. He should not be available in any competitive fantasy league.
This Week’s Pickups
In this section, we’re going to look at players who are playing well enough to get scooped in most leagues. They’re not the obvious must-adds (and really those players are old news in the most competitive leagues), and some may only be on your roster for a short while, but this group should be able to help you out for the short term and possibly beyond.
Sochan had a little late-draft-season surge when it was announced that he would be starting at point guard, but he remains available in plenty of leagues. You could say that Sochan, who sits just inside the top-150 in the 9-cat rankings, is being undone by inefficiency, but that’s likely to remain the case all year long. The second-year guard won’t fit every roster out there but his ability to chip in rebounds, assists and steals with modest output in points, blocks and 3-pointers makes him worth a look for most managers. There’s also the notion that he’ll continue to improve over time as he learns the ropes. A handful of rebounds and assists, plus a couple of defensive stats and some points sounds good to us — if he can get there.
Anderson is a boring but reliable fantasy player who has proven his cred for a few different organizations. Last season he blew up thanks to some frontcourt injuries in Minnesota, but even with the Wolves at full strength Anderson is going to play enough to make the grade in 12-team leagues. He’ll chip in across the entire box score and generally shoots it well from the field, and while Anderson isn’t the most exciting guy in the world he’s probably going to do more than a lot of upside stashes currently occupying bench spots.
An offshoot of the Shaedon Sharpe situation above, Brogdon is going to benefit from the injury to Anfernee Simons. He’ll now be the sixth man instead of the seventh and although he won’t be as vital to the rebuilding Blazers in that spot as he was to last season’s Celtics, there’s proof of concept here. Brogdon shouldn’t have an issue returning top-125 numbers or better over the next 4-to-6 weeks.
Dereck Lively II
Lively is another player who was drafted in a decent chunk of leagues, but he may still be up for grabs in some of your leagues. The center spot in Dallas has been a wasteland for a few years but Lively, though raw, gives his star guards the kind of athletic lob target that they should enjoy working with. He came off the bench in the opener after starting all preseason but was right back with the starting five in the second game, so that looks like a crisis averted for now. Lively is going to offer up the traditional center stats, with all the upside that comes with a first-year player figuring out the league.
You’d be forgiven for overlooking the bench guard in a three-player timeshare, but Anthony has been off to a nice start for the Magic. He seems to fit best as the sixth man, where he can focus on getting buckets as the offensive hub in the second unit. He won’t shoot .519 forever but Anthony has a secure role that will lead to regular output in points and 3-pointers, even if it’ll take an injury to Markelle Fultz or Jalen Suggs for him to really get to his ceiling.
Stewart has basically moved over to power forward full time to accommodate Jalen Duren, and while that’s not a great long-term move for his fantasy potential he’s been able to provide solid numbers so far. He’s playing a ton and averaging a double-double on a positive mark from the field, which will really be the swing factor. Stewart has to shoot 3-pointers in this lineup but he’s taking a more reasonable number this season after the longball accounted for an unhealthy portion of his shot diet last year. Things may change when Bojan Bogdanovic returns from his calf injury, which won’t be for a few weeks, but Stewart is a double-double threat who should be rostered while he’s playing well.
UPDATE: De’Aaron Fox injured his ankle in Sunday night’s win, so with all due respect to the slow-and-steady Harrison Barnes, we’re profiling a new King here…
With the prospect of Fox missing time, Monk becomes a strong add in all formats. He was basically splitting minutes with Kevin Huerter through the first two games and brings more offensive verve to the table than Davion Mitchell and Chris Duarte. Even if Monk doesn’t start in a Fox absence, or if Fox is able to avoid any absences at all, he’s someone to take a close look at. Despite some poor shooting numbers so far, he’s posting 13.7 points, 5.3 assists, 1.0 blocks and 2.3 3-pointers per game. That’s already helpful, and things could only be going up from here.
Williams has slid into the starting lineup with Santi Aldama battling an ankle sprain early in the year, and he’s gotten better in each of the team’s three games so far. The third-year swingman has been a more active rebounder than anticipated, and he’s been able to stay inside the top-175 despite zero steals or blocks and a .419 mark from the field. If Williams holds down a starting spot even after Aldama returns, the rest of his game should pick up and push him towards usable status in 12-team leagues.
Say you’re looking at next week’s matchups and things feel a little close for comfort in a few categories. You don’t need a permanent addition to the roster, but someone to give you a smidge of extra firepower to get through the next seven days. These are those dudes.
Burks has benefited from the injury to Bogdanovic, creating a scoring vacuum that needs filling, plus foul trouble for Cade Cunningham in one of Detroit’s early games. Burks has put up 16.3 points per game so far — and he’s shooting .433, so it’s not driven by a hot streak — and is one of the better sources of scoring you’ll likely find on the wire in 12-team formats.
Wright is a two-category special here, as he’s averaging 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game so far. He’s coming off the bench for the Wizards but their games have taken on a defense-optional tone, which means the opportunity to rack up dimes will be there no matter what. Wright is no stranger to veteran fantasy players and will give you some nice help in two categories that can be hard to address on waivers.
If you need steals, you won’t get much better than Caruso. He isn’t starting anymore but maybe fewer minutes a night will allow for more games overall, which is a trade that fantasy managers will take in a heartbeat. He’s averaging 2.7 steals per contest so far and has been elite in the category for a few years running, so you can trust him if you need a one-category boost.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway is as streaky as it gets but he’s been solid through two games so far and that puts him on the radar for points and 3-pointers. He could do this for another couple weeks or shoot 2-for-13 in his next game, but if you need 3-pointers then you can roll the dice.
Looney just does his thing every night for the Warriors. It looks like he’ll stick in the starting five while Chris Paul slides to the bench, which means you can count on him to bring you plenty of rebounds with some extra steals and blocks along the way.
Mangers in deeper leagues will be picking from a different player pool, and these are the headliners. Some may be worth considering in 12-team leagues and shallower, but managers may simply lack the roster space to add everyone that intrigues.
Okoro, like Strus, has been benefiting from Cleveland’s early injuries. Historically he has done very little that would interest fantasy GMs, but he’s been able to chip in 1.0 3-pointers, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game so far. You can’t expect Okoro to keep it up all year but there’s no harm in picking him up until he cools off.
Nesmith’s numbers may be a bit inflated by a career-high 26 points in the Pacers’ last game, but he’s vastly outplayed starter Obi Toppin and seems to bring more of the things that the coaching staff is looking for. He’s a bit more offensively inclined than Okoro, so lean his way if you want some extra points and 3-pointers as opposed to steals and blocks.
George is a deep-league pickup and potential standard-league stash. The Jazz have not repeated their hot start from last season and the guard group has left a lot to be desired. Talen Horton-Tucker, Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton haven’t been carrying their weight and if the losses keep rolling in it’ll only be a matter of time before George is given an increased role. He was dynamite in Summer League, quality in the preseason and anecdotally looks like the most effective primary ball-handler on the roster. Add him now before everyone is hip to the game.
Hayes has been handed a starting spot in the wake of Bojan Bogdanovic’s calf injury. That’s the coaching staff going out-of-position while also passing over Jaden Ivey and Alec Burks, so it’s more impressive than you might think. Hayes is a deep-league option for assists and steals, though we did see last season that he can turn it up and get around the top-100 when the runway is totally clear.
The Suns are dealing with some backcourt health problems and even when they’re healthy, Allen should be among the top minute-getters on the wing. It’s a lot easier to justify him as a fantasy add when Devin Booker and Bradley Beal are ailing, though. He’s a fine low-end play if you need 3-pointers and some rebounds and steals.
Watson has gotten off to a nice start for the reigning champs, though some garbage time has definitely helped the cause. Even so, Watson is averaging 0.7 steals, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers in a not-inconsequential 16.8 mpg. There will be bumps in the road for a talented young player who is still mostly untested at this level of competition, but the building blocks of a successful fantasy season are already apparent. He should be rostered in competitive 16-team leagues.
A slow start for Walker Kessler has kept Olynyk on the radar; he’s doing his usual thing in 19.7 mpg with a smattering of points, rebounds and assists with some 3-pointers and defensive stats thrown in for good measure. If that sounds like a lot of categories, that’s because it is! Olynyk is a top-100 value so far and deserves to be scooped up in 16-team leagues at the bare minimum.
Some fantasy GMs have had to make tough choices in the season’s first week, cutting some enticing names loose to get in on the waiver action. These are some of our favorite targets among players who might’ve gotten cut a little early.
Melton should not be on any waiver wires, full stop. A strong game on Sunday night will probably walk a few managers back from the edge of a drop, but he needs to be scooped up anywhere he may be available. It hasn’t been an overwhelming start but Melton is near 30 mpg, which is what fantasy GMs have been asking for since his Memphis days.
Thybulle ripped off some huge games after joining the Blazers last season, and this year’s start is a lot less encouraging. No matter — he has always been able to deliver steals and blocks by the handful. The Blazers have him locked into the starting five and even if the minutes aren’t as high as you’d like, Thybulle is worth holding. His output on defense can be category-clinching. That deserves a little more patience.
This is the tough one. Nick Nurse’s offseason mention of playing Reed alongside Joel Embiid hasn’t played out just yet, and there’s simply no way that Reed can be a top-150 guy in 14 mpg. That said, we’re still early, and the Sixers may be waiting on one big shoe to drop in the rotation that could open things up for everyone. Even without that, Reed figures to play his way up the ladder. Not every manager will have the stomach for it but we’d like to stick with Reed if at all possible.