Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 5
Week five is here, and so are your top waiver wire pickups! It’s also that time of the year when we all make an effort to give thanks for the people and things in our lives that we couldn’t live without. So, what better time than now to talk about some players that are still available in most leagues, and give thanks to the fact that there’s still time to pick ’em up.
Jerryd Bayless – PG – Milwaukee Bucks – 20 percent
On the month of November, Bayless has averaged 12.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.8 turnovers and 2.3 three-pointers in 30.7 minutes. Those numbers are well above his career averages, because, in his career, Bayless has never finished a season averaging more minutes than the 25.3 per game he saw in his seventh year in the NBA. This current uptick in playing time is, in part, due to the plethora of injuries the Bucks have had to weather through these first four-plus weeks. With O.J. Mayo, Jabari Parker and, most relevant to Bayless’ value, Michael Carter-Williams having missed time due to injuries this season, Bayless has been asked to do more than would normally be expected. With that time, however, he has played well and will still see enough court time, even with a healthy team, to hold value in deeper leagues.
What currently makes him a nice spot play in standard leagues is his great shooting percentage that’s included valuable three-pointers. In November, Bayless is shooting 46 percent from the field, including 49 percent from three. That means that if you are in the need of threes or just some extra points, Bayless can provide that while not hurting your percentages.
On top of that, Carter-Williams is somewhat injury prone, so there will always be that potential upside. It may be tricky to predict when he will have a big game when everyone around him is healthy, so he’s not currently a reliable start day-to-day. Bayless is worth keeping an eye on, however, because some players just tend to get injured more than others, and Carter-Williams is one of them (played in only 66 games over the past two seasons). He currently has situational value in standard leagues and pretty consistent low-end value in deeper leagues, but if those injuries pop back up (which they probably will), he’ll become a good pickup no matter the size of your league.
Gary Harris – SG – Denver Nuggets – 13 percent
In his last five games, Harris has averaged 15.4 points (while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 81.8 percent from the line), 2.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal in 31.2 minutes. In that span, he’s also shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, while attempting four three-pointers per game. That makes him currently valuable in three categories (the steals aren’t bad either), and as long as he continues to log the same amount of playing time, that shouldn’t change.
And it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon, as Denver’s new head coach, Michael Malone, has recently praised the second-year player for being one of the team’s “most consistent players and shooters.” Maybe it was the coaching change, as Harris had a pretty awful rookie season under former Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw, or maybe he’s just a young player playing with more confidence. Whatever the reason for the turn-around Harris is in the middle of, he seems to be doing all the right things to secure himself valuable minutes.
As a shooter, Harris is going to hit some dry spells, so he might be a popular add/drop player this year, but right now, he is on a roll and is definitely worth a pickup in deeper leagues. As for owners in 10-team leagues, if you have an extra roster spot, he’s worth a look, because at the moment Harris is on the rise, and as a “sophomore” that always holds added promise.
C.J. Miles – SF – Indiana Pacers – 31 percent
ESPN’s fantasy system has Miles listed as a SF/SG, but the Pacers are playing him as a stretch-four, and it’s been paying off for Miles and anyone lucky enough to have played him during his past five games. During that time, Miles has averaged 20 points on 50 percent shooting to go along with 4.2 three-pointers, 1.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 turnovers. Those are pretty great numbers to still be available in most leagues, and when you realize that Miles has done it all while averaging just 27.2 minutes, they look even better.
Not only is Miles putting up great stats for himself, but he is also playing a part in the added success that Paul George has recently enjoyed. In their last game, against Washington, George and Miles put up 40 and 32 points respectively and did so while shooting a ridiculously efficient 68.5 percent from the floor. In that game, Miles shot an almost perfect 8-of-9 from beyond the arc. Saying Miles is hot is just a bit of an understatement, as the 10-year veteran has averaged only 9.6 points in 20.5 minutes over his career.
About this time is when a good skeptic’s alarms would begin to sound, alerting them to an impending “but” or “however” lurking around the corner – and they wouldn’t be wrong. Miles is an injury waiting to happen and even had a sore ankle before his game against the Wizards. But if injuries are Miles’ only real problem, there shouldn’t be much of a hesitation at all for most owners. Compared to fantasy football, fantasy basketball roster spots are not as valuable and a bad game doesn’t hurt as much. That means that if you can use the kind of production Miles is currently putting up (and most owners probably can), you should grab him now and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasts. When it’s over, simply get off and find another.
Luis Scola – PF – Toronto Raptors – 16.1 percent
Scola hasn’t averaged 30 or more minutes a season since his days with Houston four years ago. Since then, his playing time has dropped to averages around the low 20s and his scoring has seen a similar decline. Playing more of a reserve role during those years, Scola was rarely more than a spot play in fantasy leagues, but he has had his moments.
The Raptors’ big man is currently in the middle of one of those moments, as he has now started every game for Toronto this season, already equaling the total number of starts he saw last year with the Pacers. As Scola himself could probably tell you, however, starting does not guarantee more playing time. In his first 11 games this season, Scola only surpassed 25 minutes once, seeing 31 in his fourth game of the season. As a result, he put up 19 points and 12 rebounds. So it seems he just needs more time, and over the past four games he’s gotten just that, averaging 29 minutes per game. He’s also averaged, over that time, 17 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 58 percent from the field. Those numbers are strikingly similar to the ones he averaged in his prime while in Houston.
As we’ve seen before, Scola has proven capable of this type of production, but he’s never been able to keep it going for long. That may very well be the case with his current pace, but either way, he is worth the look if you’re currently in need of extra scoring that won’t hurt your shooting efficiency. And with the Raptors now on a three-game winning streak that includes having won against the Clippers and Cavaliers, (two teams with tons of talent at the power forward and center positions), there doesn’t seem to be much reason to change things up if you are Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. Maybe it lasts, and maybe it doesn’t, but for now, Scola is worth an add in deeper leagues and should at least be interesting to a few owners in each standard league.
Jusuf Nurkic – C – Denver Nuggets – 17.6 percent
This pick feels more like a package deal than it does just one player, because the amount of value you place in a returning Nurkic, is about as much as you should now see in his current replacement, Nikola Jokic (who we’ll get to later). Nurkic, however, is still recovering from the knee surgery he underwent this past May but seems poised to return on schedule, sometime in December. In Nurkic’s rookie year (’14-’15), he averaged 6.9 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 17.8 minutes. Those may not fly off the page, but for a rookie, they are pretty standard. It’s the second year that tends to be a popular breakout period for players in the NBA, and Nurkic showed last year he has that potential. His per 48 minutes scoring and rebounding last year were 18.5 and 16.6 respectively, and while no one expects him to play every minute of every game, it does show what the 21-year-old could be capable of.
Enter Nikola Jokic, a 20-year-old rookie, currently playing center for the Nuggets. Jokic is now showing just as much promise (if not more) as Nurkic. Jokic has averaged 14 points and 8.3 rebounds over his past four games and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. So the question is more about what you need at the moment. If you’re looking for a player you can use now, Jokic is worth a grab as long as he’s seeing 25 or more minutes of action. But, even if you only pick him up for a spot play, Jokic may hold some potential longer term value as well. That value is undoubtedly connected to Nurkic and how his return plays out.
Being in his second year, the Nuggets may see Nurkic as a higher priority than Jokic, but nothing is certain. If you find you don’t currently need any extra production in points or rebounds but have roster space, Nurkic could be a nice player to stash and see what happens. In fact, Jokic might actually be just as valuable in that same respect, so for now, either player is worth taking a look at. If, when Nurkic returns, one of the two is able to emerge over the other as the definite starter, he could eventually become valuable enough to be a must-own in all leagues.
So, as a recap, it’s Jokic with immediate low-end value in points and rebounds and potentially much more if he can hold onto enough playing time, and Nurkic with more definite potential but no immediate value until he returns and gets back to being near 100 percent.