By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Surprisingly — and fortunately — the waiver wire was barely impacted by injuries over the first three weeks. That has changed.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary, Tyrese Haliburton, doesn’t technically qualify for this article as he’s available in just less than half of leagues. We focused on Haliburton last week, and his value has increased even further now that De’Aaron Fox is dealing with a hamstring injury.
Even if you missed out on Haliburton, there are several guys available who are seeing an injury-related boost in value.
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. With that said, especially this early in the season, there are a lot of very valuable players who are widely available but miss that cut-off. I won’t go into depth on those guys, but I’ll include them below in the appropriate order.
Some under-rostered names who might be available in your league:
Tyrese Haliburton, Kings (58% rostered); Joe Harris, Nets (66% rostered); Eric Gordon, Rockets (60% rostered); Tim Hardaway, Mavericks (65% rostered); Darius Bazley, Thunder (65% rostered); Josh Richardson, Mavericks (64% rostered); DeMarcus Cousins, Rockets (61% rostered)
Cole Anthony, Magic (41% rostered)
Everyone was enjoying Markelle Fultz finally achieving some of the promise that led to his pre-draft praise, but his season came to an unfortunate end Wednesday when he tore his ACL. His absence decimates the Magic backcourt, leaving Anthony as their only healthy point guard on an NBA contract. Anthony is averaging 14.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per-36 minutes — and there’s a very real chance that the rookie ends up playing almost that much, at least until reinforcements arrive. Don’t expect quite that level of production as he starts playing more against opposing starters, but something in the range of 13-6-5 is totally possible.
Bobby Portis, Bucks (46% rostered)
I’ve avoided mentioning Portis in this column as long as I could, but it’s time for me to accept the reality that he may actually have some long-term value. On a per-minute basis, Portis has been a fantasy standout for years. For his career, he averages 18.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.4 stocks (steals + blocks) per-36 minutes. But for a variety of reasons — including some pretty big, let’s call them “character concerns” — he’s never managed to maintain a large enough role in the rotation to stay fantasy relevant.
It looks like that may finally have changed, as he’s averaging 24.6 minutes over the last seven games, and he’s played at least 25 minutes in five of those. If he maintains that workload throughout the season, he’s a stone-cold lock to finish inside fantasy’s top 130 (the edge of rosterability in a 10-team league), and a top 75 finish is very much in play. One important trend to keep an eye on: Portis’s steals and blocks are both up above his career per-minute averages. My research indicates that a team’s defensive scheme can have a very big impact on shot-blockers and players who average between 0.5 and 1.5 steals per game. Portis was a defensive menace in college, so it’s certainly possible that his increased production in these categories is due to his role in the Bucks’ defense. On the other hand, it could also be simply a small sample size thing. The answer to that question will determine whether 25-minutes-per-game-Portis is a top-75 guy or an end-of-roster option.
JaMychal Green, Nuggets (16% rostered)
With news that Michael Porter Jr. (COVID-19 protocols) will be out for at least another nine days — he’ll likely miss four more games — Green becomes one of the best options for managers who want short-term help. Porter’s official update was that he’d have to quarantine “10-14 days,” and given the uncertainties around the illness, he may miss even more time than that. The Nuggets also have games on what would be days 11, 13, 16, 17, and 19 of that additional quarantine. Green only played 12 minutes in the team’s first game without Porter, but he’s been an important piece of the rotation in the three games since, averaging 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.7 threes in 22.0 minutes.
Daniel Theis, Celtics (43% rostered)
The Celtics had been sticking with a twin-towers lineup for most of the season, generally keeping two of Theis, Robert Williams (COVID-19 Protocols), Tristan Thompson (COVID-19 Protocols), and Grant Williams (COVID-19 Protocols) on the floor at all times. Well, after Friday’s announcement that the latter three are out for at least a week, Theis is the last big standing. His game isn’t the most fantasy-friendly, but he is probably about to see a 50-plus-percent increase in minutes. He won’t score much, but he’s a capable rebounder and shot-blocker who provides non-zero help in assists and threes.
Other recommendations: Josh Jackson, Pistons (38% rostered); Austin Rivers, Knicks (16% rostered); Isaac Okoro, Cavaliers (11% rostered); Rudy Gay, Spurs (28% rostered); Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers (33% rostered); Bismack Biyombo, Hornets (26% rostered); Cam Reddish, Hawks (48% rostered); Kelly Olynyk, Heat (27% rostered); Danny Green, 76ers (19% rostered); Nicolas Batum, Clippers (42% rostered)