By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Thanksgiving approaches! We’re now one month into the season — a fairly significant sample size. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and a pair of Rockets are running away from the field for the “Best waiver wire pickups of the season” award, but there is still enough time for another player or two to join their ranks.
If this week’s top recommended pickup can ever end up averaging more than 25 minutes per game (too soon to know), I could see him making a play for that title.
Whether you’re gunning for the year’s best pickup, or looking for more reliable short-term adds filling in for injured players, there are tons of great options this week.
The Week 6 schedule demands some attention. Nineteen teams play four games, while the Nuggets, Rockets, and Suns play just twice. However, due to another schedule nuance, that disparity means something different for all three teams. The games are spread very unevenly throughout the week, with four massive slates, two tiny slates, and zero games on Thanksgiving. Here’s the breakdown:
Monday: 11 games
Tuesday: two games
Wednesday: 14 games
Thursday: gobble gobble
Friday: 13 games
Saturday: four games
Sunday: nine games
With such an unbalanced schedule, daily lineups managers are not going to be able to use their waiver pickups at all on Wednesday and Friday, and may not be able to fit them in on Monday or Sunday either. When ranking players already on your rosters, teams with a two-game week are at a massive disadvantage. But when it comes to potential waiver wire targets, the Nuggets are one of the most desirable teams for daily lineups managers, as they are the only team in the league to play on both of the small slates on Tuesday and Saturday. Daily lineups managers might want to ignore the Suns entirely, as both of their games are on Wednesday 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.
Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder (37 percent rostered)
Next week’s schedule: at GS, at Por, NO, at NO
I’ve seen enough. I’m ready to call it: I’d rather Noel over Steven Adams for the rest of the season. If that’s not bold enough for you, I’ll go a step further: I think Noel will finish as a top-70 option in nine-category leagues.
There are two primary factors at play here. First, Adams appears to have lost a step. Or two. Or three. Adams is only 26 years old, earlier than you’d typically expect to see someone’s abilities start to deteriorate, especially a player with Adams’ fortitude. But what made Adams seemingly invincible may be part of the problem here. He’s finished six seasons and made the playoffs in five of those. Throughout that run, he’s only missed a total of 25 games, and he’s played more than 14,000 minutes in his career. A lot of physical big men’s careers start to nosedive by that point. Andrew Bogut was a shell of himself by the time he hit 14,000 minutes, Chris Kaman was falling apart after a similar minutes load, and Andrew Bynum was out of the league before 12,000. Of course, none of those players are perfect comps for Adams, but the point is that there is plenty of precedent for the idea that Adams may now be entering a new phase of his career. He certainly looks slower and less effective when you watch him.
The other reason to be excited about Noel is that his skills are incredibly well-suited to fantasy. By per-36 minute production, he’s been a top-20 player for the last two and a half seasons. He’s an excellent defender – I expect him to average at least one steal and one block per game, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him average two per game in either or both categories if he can get his minutes up. He’s incredibly efficient from the field, and his free throw shooting appears significantly improved (and, if that’s just a small sample size thing, he doesn’t take enough to hurt).
That per-minute efficiency wasn’t enough to make Noel a fantasy factor when he was playing just 16 minutes per game, but he’s up to 21.0 minutes per game over his last four. Now that Adams is no longer good enough to play 30-plus minutes per game, Noel’s workload should stay above 20 per game, and it could increase from there. As for “actions speak louder than words," I’ve added him in all of my leagues that he was available in.
Ky Bowman (8 percent rostered) and Alec Burks (45 percent rostered); Golden State Warriors
Next week’s schedule: OKC, Chi, at Mia, at Orl
Welcome back to your weekly Warriors Watch segment. D’Angelo Russell (thumb) is out for at least another week, and, realistically, all of us are probably expecting the team to keep him out a little longer. Bowman is averaging 32.8 minutes per game when Russell sits — more than enough to make him startable in all leagues. The undrafted rookie out of Boston College is inconsistent, but he’s averaging 13.5 points, 4.5 assists and 1.3 threes on 54% shooting in Russell-free games, and he’s reached 19 points in three of those contests.
Burks’ minutes’ load doesn’t change as much with Russell out, but his usage rate increases dramatically. Both players are worth starting in all leagues until Russell returns.
While we’re here, Glenn Robinson (23 percent rostered) seemed to be turning a corner before he put up another stinker on Wednesday. Of the Warriors who qualify for this article (ie, excluding Russell, Draymond Green, and Eric Paschall), Robinson is the one I have highest over the rest of the season. It may be a bumpy ride, but I like him more than the other options.
Danuel House, Houston Rockets (45 percent)
Next week’s schedule: Mia, Atl
We’re still doing this? His roster rate is down from last week, in large part due to a disappointing Wednesday line. But he left that game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. He might miss a game or two, but the Rockets are giving the impression that it will not be a lasting problem. House is a top-60 player in nine-category settings with a steady workload floor and the potential for extra minutes while Eric Gordon (knee) is out.
Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic (12%)
Next week’s schedule: at Det, at Cle, Tor, GS
This is an upside play. Nikola Vucevic (ankle) is expected to miss at least the next four weeks, creating a massive hole in the Magic rotation. Frankly, I’m not sure Bamba ends up winning enough of those vacated minutes to be worth holding – I think that Khem Birch picks up a lot of the available minutes and that the Magic try to fill some time with multiple power forwards and no true centers. After all, if it weren’t for the Knicks, we would have spent the last few months mocking the Magic for the way they have attempted to stockpile fours.
Bamba is very talented, but he hasn’t shown much that would indicate he’s ready to carry a starting workload yet. If he can hold down 25-plus-minutes per night, he’d probably become one of the league-leaders in blocks and a solid source of rebounds and big-man threes. While I’m not convinced he gets that many minutes, the possibility is worth the add if you can fit Bamba into your bench. While I think Birch gets a bigger workload over the next month, he doesn’t do enough statistically for us to bother.
Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat (9%)
Next week’s schedule: Cha, at Hou, GS, at Bkn
I’m listing Robinson out of order here — he actually ranks between Langston Galloway and Frank Kaminsky, listed in the other recommendations section, below — because his roster rate is shooting up after Wednesday’s 29-point, nine-three-pointers explosion against the Cavs. Robinson is definitely add-able, but he shouldn’t be a high-priority pickup yet. Robinson has had a couple of these semi-random glow-up games, including a 21-point, four-threes game against the Timberwolves and a 23-point, seven-threes game against the Rockets.
All three of those opponents rank among the worst defensive backcourts, especially against shooting guards and small forwards, so that pattern ought to be acknowledged. He’s been highly inconsistent, and he doesn’t help much outside of points and threes. Robinson has also benefited from a suite of injuries – Justise Winslow (concussion) and Jimmy Butler have only played two games together so far this season, and Robinson averaged just 6.0 minutes in those two.
It’s unclear when Winslow will return, but he’s already missed multiple weeks, so Robinson’s time as a fantasy asset could be short-lived. Until Winslow returns, however, Robinson is worth a look. He’s scored in double-digits in four straight, he’s averaging 2.8 threes per game, and his workload has increased as the season has gone on.
Other recommendations: Donte DiVincenzo, Bucks (22 percent rostered); Nemanja Bjelica, Kings (43 percent rostered); De’Andre Hunter, Hawks (26 percent rostered); Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers (47 percent rostered); Kris Dunn, Bulls (24 percent rostered); Norman Powell, Raptors (22 percent rostered); Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies (35 percent rostered); Aaron Holiday, Pacers (12 percent rostered); Langston Galloway, Pistons ( percent rostered); Frank Kaminsky, Suns (21 percent rostered); Kenrich Williams, Pelicans (25 percent rostered); Moritz Wagner, Wizards (29 percent rostered); Terence Davis, Raptors (3 percent rostered); Dwight Powell, Mavericks (45 percent rostered)