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Ryan Knaus

Waiver Wired

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Wired: Top NBA Pickups Week 10

Monday, December 18, 2017


Injuries and changing roles continue to roil the NBA as we head into Week 10, so there is no shortage of intriguing waiver-wire pickups. This week's edition lists players in descending order by ownership rates -- every player is at or below 50% owned in Yahoo leagues, and most are way below that threshold.

 

Before we get to the players, a quick note about ownership rates. These numbers are often skewed by leagues that were auto-drafted, intended as mocks, or simply abandoned by owners. There's no clear data about how many such leagues exist, but I have a solid guess based on what I'll call "the Donovan Mitchell method". Utah's star rookie was drafted in only 10% of leagues, according to Yahoo's own 'Draft Analysis'. He's currently owned in 82% of leagues. If we're generous and assume that the 10% who drafted him have remained active, while the other 72% went out and grabbed him off the waiver wire, that still leaves 18% of leagues in which Mitchell, a top-40 fantasy value in nearly any format, is still unowned.

 

That rough estimate of 18% is supported by another back-of-the-envelope approach – “the Jeremy Lin method." Lin was drafted in 100% of leagues, according to Yahoo, and he's still owned in 20% of those leagues even though his season ended on opening night. A fraction of those leagues might be keeper/dynasty leagues, in which owners opted to hold him for future value, but that still leaves us right around 18% in terms of leagues with absentee owners.

 

This 18% threshold is obviously just an anecdotal number I've created based on a handful of examples, but it's worth keeping in mind -- both when reading this column and looking at ownership rates in general. Now let's get to the pickups.

 

Caris LeVert (43% owned...for those in shallower leagues) -- Prior to a dud during Friday's blowout loss to Toronto, LeVert was rolling as the Nets' backup PG. In the five previous games, he was averaging 16.2 points (50.0% FGs, 92.0% FTs), 1.6 threes, 3.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.6 blocks. He was doing that in just 29.2 minutes per game, moreover, which is a testament to his sheer upside. Player development is the key for Brooklyn, and the 23-year-old LeVert should get plenty of opportunities as the season progresses. It doesn't hurt that the Nets will inevitably be very cautious with D'Angelo Russell (knee surgery).

 

Editor's Note: Looking for an edge in your fantasy leagues? The NBA Season Pass provides weekly projections, rankings, the popular Pickups of the Day column, exclusive columns and customizable stat options. It's the extra tool that can take your fantasy basketball teams to the next level.

 

Larry Nance (41% owned) -- The Lakers have Nance, Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma all jockeying for frontcourt minutes, which could explain Nance's low ownership. Fantasy owners look at the depth chart and assume that Nance can't carve out a big enough role, but look again -- he's starting at PF and putting up mid-round value in a mere 23.5 minutes per game. He's getting it done with efficiency (57.0% field goals, just 1.1 turnovers), rebounds (7.2) and borderline-elite steals (1.6 per game). Thaddeus Young is the only true PF averaging more steals per game than Nance, and he deserves more love in roto and category-based leagues.

 

Trey Lyles (20% owned) -- Like most midseason waiver-wire pickups, Lyles has broken through due to injuries. Paul Millsap's wrist surgery and Nikola Jokic's recent absence have opened up the frontcourt rotation and allowed Lyles to strut his stuff -- over the past four games he's averaging 18.3 points (65.0% FGs, 61.5% FTs), 3.3 triples, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 29.3 minutes. The best news is that he played 30 minutes on Friday despite the return of Nikola Jokic, and they shared the court for long stretches in the first and fourth quarters. As an efficient scorer who can hit threes with enough rebounds and steals to satisfy most owners, Lyles is an easy add in most leagues.

 

Frank Ntilikina (13% owned) -- The Knicks rookie has been a fantasy liability for most of the season, averaging a mere 5.7 points on 35.0% FGs and 72.4% FTs, with 1.9 turnovers in just 20.1 minutes per game. His efficiency has crept up in recent weeks, however, and over the past five games he's chipping in 1.4 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.6 steals in just 23.3 minutes. That per-minute potential, combined with the likelihood that he'll be turned loose sooner rather than later, makes this the time to grab him. You can gamble and wait, possibly as late as the All-Star break (depending on your league depth), but I'll happily take his upside right now over a low-end specialist.

 

Bogdan Bogdanovic (10% owned) -- The Kings' non-traditional rookie is trending up in a hurry with 29+ minutes in four straight games. That's a minor miracle considering the Kings' topsy-turvy rotations. In that span, he's averaged 13.0 points on 51.4% FGs and 75.0% FTs, 3.3 triples, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 0.5 steals, which is good enough for top-100 value. Yes, it's heavily weighted by 3-pointers that don't appear sustainable, but there's enough all-around upside to give him a look if your waiver wire is thin. He exited Sunday's game with a bruised quad, which could scare off some owners, but at worst that's a day-to-day injury -- if healthy, he'll draw some nice matchups on Tuesday (at Philly) and Wednesday (at Brooklyn).

 

Ekpe Udoh (8% owned) -- This is a purely situational pickup with Rudy Gobert (sprained PCL, bone bruise) out for approximately one month. Derrick Favors (eye) shouldn't miss much more time, but even when he's active the Jazz are precariously thin in the middle. On a per-36-minute basis this season, Udoh is averaging a modest 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, but he's also at 1.7 steals and 3.4 blocks. If you need a cheap source of defensive stats, look no further.

 

Maxi Kleber (6% owned) -- Kleber's inconsistency has prevented him from being owned in most leagues, and that's understandable. He scored 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting with three blocks on Saturday, for instance, but in his two previous games he averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds without a single defensive stat to his credit. Nevertheless, there's plenty of incentive to own him in deeper leagues -- he's already getting solid minutes (30.2 over his past five) and has shown the ability to score efficiently (65.6% in that span) while chipping in enough 3-pointers (1.4), rebounds (4.0) and blocks (1.0) to help most owners.

 

Mike Scott (4% owned) -- Scott took advantage of Markieff Morris' recent injuries to creep into the fantasy picture, and he's making it hard for coach Scott Brooks to keep him off the court. Over the past five games, he's averaging 16.2 points on incredible 69.4% shooting, with 2.0 three-pointers, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks. He won't stay this hot forever, of course, but it helps that Morris' health isn't exactly pristine -- he reportedly suffered from whiplash on Sunday, recently missed time with a groin injury, and he's also been dealing with hip and ankle pain within the past week.

 

Reggie Bullock (2% owned) is starting at SF for the Pistons, ahead of Stanley Johnson, and coach Stan Van Gundy said he's "going to roll with Bullock for a little bit" as long as he brings consistent effort. “The reason Reggie Bullock is starting ahead of all the other wings is he’s the most conscientious guy of doing all the things we want to do — run, move without the ball, move the basketball, be in the right spots defensively and pressure the ball,” Van Gundy said. “He’s the guy who most consistently does those things; those things help those other four [starters] a great deal." He'll be a popular pickup after scoring a career-high 20 points on Sunday, and is adding enough 3-pointers and steals to be worth grabbing in the hopes that he keeps the starting gig.

 

Mario Hezonja (2% owned) -- Orlando's injuries are piling up in a hurry, and Hezonja is taking full advantage of the situation. Playing without Aaron Gordon (strained calf), Evan Fournier (sprained ankle), Terrence Ross (sprained knee, fractured tibia) and even Arron Afflalo (back spasms), Hezonja started Sunday's game and dropped a career-high 28 points. That included a 10-of-18 mark from the field, with eight 3-pointers, six boards, three steals and two assists in just 31 minutes. His role isn't guaranteed once the Magic get healthy bodies back, but Orlando has an 11-20 record and they might as well see what Hezonja can do as he heads toward unrestricted free agency.



Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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