• Welcome back everyone!

    With another week of action under the belt we’re starting to get a real sample size to draw from. We’re still a ways away from locking anything in permanently, but five games of mediocre performance makes it much easier to stomach a drop than one or two games, and on the flip side someone who has been playing well for a couple of weeks now gives you a lot more comfort when it comes to a potential pickup.

    Elsewhere, we’re starting to see injuries stack up around the league. We’ve been spared any season-enders to this point but absences are absences, and they’re creating opportunity for a number of players to step up. We’ll have a section just for those guys going forward — the players you’ll want to add for the present without necessarily expecting them to be on your roster forever. Let’s get to it.

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    Herb Jones

    We’ll kick things off with one of a few players who has no business being on waivers (in leagues that go by category scoring, anyway). Jones isn’t a major scoring threat but he makes a lot of lineups work in New Orleans because of his defensive presence, and unlike last season, so far that work is translating to the box score. Adding 1.5 steals and 1.8 blocks per game to just about any fantasy roster is a no-brainer, and while your mileage may vary a little bit based on your exact roster build, there’s no reason that Jones should be available in any 12-team league.

    Malik Monk

    Monk has been essentially splitting minutes with Kevin Huerter to this point in the season. He’s sitting right around the top-100 and while that is inflated to a certain extent by a surprising (and unsustainable) 1.2 blocks per game, Monk is also averaging 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 2.6 3-pointers a night. When the steals start rolling in — he has zero steals so far — things will even out a little bit. In this role, it’s tough to see how Monk doesn’t produce at least top-125 numbers, and he’s available in over half of all formats.

    Deni Avdija

    Avdija hasn’t leapt onto the scene with Washington’s top-paid player soaking up a ton of usage, but he’s been able to grind out borderline top-100 numbers in only 23.5 mpg so far. Scoring won’t be his forte but Avdija is making the most of his opportunities with a .560 mark from the field to go with 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.2 3-pointers per contest. He’s a perfect glue guy for a lot of rosters and remains available in about half of Yahoo leagues.

    Kyle Anderson

    It would’ve been easy to fade Anderson a bit with the Wolves supposedly entering the season at full strength, but that undersells his importance to the team. Like Avdija, Anderson’s value stems from doing a little of a lot, but unlike Avdija he has much less of a battle for playing time on his hands, to go with a better track record of producing assists, steals and blocks. There’s definitely more of a roto lean to his game but Anderson is producing enough to warrant an add in all leagues.

    Christian Wood

    Wood is outside the top-150 at the moment but he’s trending up in a big way. Darvin Ham seems to have gotten real buy-in from Wood defensively, and lineups with Wood next to Anthony Davis have been some of the Lakers’ best so far. He’s playing well and the minutes are following, and although Wood isn’t going to be the game-breaking offensive threat he’s been in the past, he should be able to churn out usable fantasy numbers.

    *Other players who should be rostered universally include Jalen Johnson, Robert Williams, Onyeka Okongwu, Gordon Hayward and Mike Conley, while Tim Hardaway Jr., Saddiq Bey and Harrison Barnes are respectable, if not must-roster, options.

    Injury Fill-Ins

    Dorian Finney-Smith

    Finney-Smith has been getting ample opportunity in the absence of both Nic Claxton (ankle) and Cam Johnson (calf), and the fact that he is starting to see time as a small-ball center bodes extremely well. He’s producing middle-round value to this point without the benefit of the steals and blocks that used to make him an underrated contributor. Feel free to roll with DFS until Claxton returns to action.

    Goga Bitadze/Moritz Wagner

    Wendell Carter Jr. will miss at least three weeks with his fractured finger, putting both Bitadze and Wagner in a position to produce. Wagner has been the primary backup but the first game without WCJ saw Bitadze enter the starting five and respond with a 10 & 10 double-double plus five blocks. Wagner was in foul trouble, but we’ve seen coaches pull this trick in the past for the sake of maintaining most of their substitution patterns. Both players are viable adds for traditional center stats, and if you have the choice of both you should be open to the possibility that Wagner ends up being the better play even if he doesn’t start.

    Eric Gordon

    Devin Booker’s return from an ankle sprain was majestic, but short-lived. He’s back on the shelf with a new injury and that puts Gordon right back in the mix for fantasy purposes. He’s got the potential to tank FG% but if you need points and 3-pointers, he’s worth a look while the Suns are missing their starting backcourt.

    Reggie Jackson

    Jamal Murray left Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury and the Nuggets really don’t have to force the issue there. Jackson should move into the starting five and is of consideration if you need points, assists and 3-pointers.

    Davion Mitchell

    De’Aaron Fox isn’t expected to be out much longer with his ankle sprain but Mitchell is safe to deploy until he’s back. A brilliant first game has eased into more modest production, but Mitchell is still someone to kick the tires on if you need assists and steals.

    Jordan Hawkins/Dyson Daniels

    CJ McCollum has been diagnosed with a pneumothorax in his lung, opening up a starting spot in the Pelicans backcourt. Hawkins just got the call while Brandon Ingram was out and fared well, though this time the team is likely to go with a more direct replacement in guard Dyson Daniels. In Daniels, fantasy GMs will find a well-rounded contributor who can deliver across the box score, though he lacks major upside as a scorer. Hawkins will also see additional time, and his 3-point shooting should come in particularly handy. Both players are viable pickups; it really depends what stats you want to prioritize.

    Malaki Branham

    Branham should get first crack at starting while Devin Vassell (groin) is out, and the Spurs have already indicated that Vassell will be missing a chunk of time. He’s not a lock to hold onto this spot but managers chasing points and 3-pointers could do worse.

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