By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving, but this is no time for feast-induced lethargy. The pool of waiver wire options is about as deep as it’s been all season. There are multiple high-value targets, some with rest-of-season staying power, and others who are more short-term splashes but with potentially higher upside. And most of the options highlighted this week help in those particularly scarce categories: Blocks and steals.
Schedule-wise, the NBA returns to normalcy next week. The Celtics and Spurs play only twice, and 12 teams play four times. Thursday has only four games, and Wednesday and Thursday both have 10, but those are all normal slates for a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
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.
Danuel House, Houston Rockets (47 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at SA, at Tor, Pho
House’s roster rate is up a little from last week, but I’m going to keep listing him near the top of this article as long as he qualifies. Wednesday’s 23 points, four rebounds, four threes, two assists, and two steals got him back into the top-55 in 9-category settings. Yet, despite his high-quality production, his roster rate may fall again as he’s listed as doubtful for Saturday due to illness. As I’ve said before about House: He is better than most of the players on your roster. I don’t need to see your team to be 100% confident of that fact.
Dario Saric, Phoenix Suns (50 percent)
Next week’s schedule: at Cha, at Orl, at NO, at Hou
It’s been a frustrating season so far for Saric, there is no denying that. But after some early struggles, he’s finally starting to look more like the top-100 player we were expecting when he was drafted. Saric has benefitted from Aron Baynes (hip) missing the last five games, and it remains to be seen what his workload will be when Deandre Ayton (suspension) eventually returns (Ayton will miss nine more games).
But his last two games demand attention, and we know that when he’s playing well, Saric can be a stable, low-end roster guy. Over the last two games, the Suns increased Saric’s workload to 35.0 minutes per game and dropped Frank Kaminsky to 17.5 per game. In those two, Saric put up 17.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 3.5 threes, 2.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.0 steals. Saric should not be relied upon as a shot-blocker, but he’ll have a ton of value if the Suns keep rolling with this rotation.
Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic (23%)
Next week’s schedule: at Was, Pho, at Cle
It’s now been three-and-half games since Nikola Vucevic (ankle) went down. While the big All-Star appears to be making good progress on his recovery, he’s still expected to miss several more weeks. As expected, Khem Birch has seen the biggest boost in minutes, increasing from 13.2 to 26.3 per game. However, also as expected, Birch has been virtually useless for fantasy, despite the doubling of his court time. While Bamba’s minutes' increase was more moderate, going from 13.4 to 21.3 per game, he’s made solid use of the extra run.
Bamba is averaging 10.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, and 2.0 threes. The points and rebounds are nice, but it’s the combination of elite blocks and volume threes that make Bamba really valuable. Blocks are so scarce, and as long as Vucevic is out, Bamba is likely to remain among the league-leaders, even if he continues to play just 21-or-so minutes per game.
Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder (44%)
Next week’s schedule: Ind, Min, at Por
I went into detail last week on why I’m really high on Noel for the rest of the season. Nothing has changed since then. The Thunder played three games and Noel sat one out due to illness. During the other two, he averaged 18.0 minutes, 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 64% FG shooting and went 3-for-3 from the charity stripe. Kind of a down week, but nothing to contradict my core premises that: A) Steven Adams is in decline and will continue to play 26ish minutes or less the rest of the season (he averaged 26.7 last week; he averages 26.3 this season); B) Noel only needs 18ish minutes a game to be rosterable and C) Noel is one of the best per-minute defenders in fantasy.
Alec Burks (48%) and Ky Bowman (23%), Golden State Warriors
Next week’s schedule: at Atl, at Cha, at Chi
Not too much has changed in this week’s edition of Warriors Watch, though D’Angelo Russell (thumb) could be nearing a return to action. He’s missed the last six games, and the team is expected to provide another update on his status Saturday. Whenever he does return, Bowman falls from an add-and-start to a must-drop in most leagues. Bowman averages just 12.3 minutes per game when Russell is active. But as long as Russell is out, Bowman is usable in almost all formats. During Russell’s thumb injury, Bowman has put up four 16-plus point games and averaged 14.0 points, 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 threes, and 1.5 steals. Burks will also take a hit whenever Russell returns, but Burks will lose usage, not minutes. He’s still likely to provide some value as a scorer and rebounder, though his assists may fall off a cliff.
Marquese Chriss (7%) deserves some attention, as he has at least one steal and one block in each of his last four games. During that span, he’s averaging 23.0 minutes, 9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks. The Warriors’ big man rotation remains in flux, and Kevon Looney (hamstring; 20%) is set to return next week, adding further confusion.
But as long as Chriss is nearing four stocks (steals plus blocks) per game, he’s at least streamable — if not a speculative add-and-hold while we wait to learn if he can sustain this. Glenn Robinson (35%) remains the waiver-wire Warrior who I have the most confidence in as a rest-of-season pickup, though his upside is not as high as Chriss or Looney.
De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (40%)
Next week’s schedule: GS, Bkn, at Cha
Kevin Huerter (shoulder) is still expected to miss another couple weeks, or more. As long as Huerter is out, Hunter is worth rostering — though I’m not interested in either player when Huerter returns. Hunter is averaging just 3.4 extra minutes in games without Huerter. That’s a nice bonus, to be sure, but it’s not enough to suddenly boost a player from unrosterable to startable-in-all-leagues. The real change has been Hunter’s increased usage rate. When Huerter was active, Hunter was averaging just a 15.7% usage rate. Since Huerter’s injury, that has jumped to 20.1%. Like almost all rookies, Hunter’s production has been inconsistent, but in the eight games without Huerter, Hunter is averaging 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 threes, 2.1 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
Other recommendations: PJ Washington, Hornets (49 percent rostered); Tim Hardaway Jr, Mavericks (37 percent rostered); Jae Crowder, Grizzlies (38 percent rostered); Markelle Fultz, Magic (41 percent rostered); Moritz Wagner, Wizards (33 percent rostered); Langston Galloway, Pistons (27 percent rostered); Kelly Olynyk, Heat (42 percent rostered); Terrence Ross, Magic (44 percent rostered); Chris Boucher, Raptors (10 percent rostered); Wes Matthews, Bucks (5 percent rostered)