NBA Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 3
We’re now three weeks deep into the 2015-16 NBA season, and that’s the perfect time to start thinking about ways to improve your fantasy team.
Ownership totals are in ESPN leagues as of November 11
T.J. McConnell – PG – Philidelphia 76ers – 29 percent
One popular strategy for finding hidden gems on the waiver wire is to track the teams who’ve given up on any chance to make the playoffs and are more committed to developing young talent than any contending team would be, as a result. It’s no surprise then, that we begin with McConnell, the 76ers’ starting point guard. The Sixers are currently winless on the season with a 0-8 record, and rookie McConnell has started the past five games since taking over the job from current backup Isaiah Canaan.
In that time, McConnell is averaging 5.8 points, 9.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.6 turnovers in 31.2 minutes. That kind of production across the board from a rookie point guard is enough to warrant attention in most leagues, and if you are in need of assists, McConnell is definitely an attractive option.
He has yet to reach double-digit points, but is shooting a useful 45 percent from the field (believe it or not, McConnell has yet to attempt a single free-throw this season), so while he may not help much in point production, he isn’t going to hurt you in field-goal percentage. It’s worth noting again, that he is a rookie on an awful team, so there will be ups and downs, but the playing time is less likely to fluctuate – meaning McConnell is more likely to gain confidence and improve his game as the season continues.
Langston Galloway – SG – New York Knicks – 36.3 percent
The second-year Knick was a popular waiver wire add throughout much of his rookie campaign (’14-’15), which is where we find him now. So far this season, Galloway has averaged 12.3 points (48.4 percent from the field and 72 percent from the line), 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.5 turnovers in 27.8 minutes this season.
He has had to fend off backup point guard Jerian Grant for playing time so far, but that hasn’t been too difficult for Galloway, as he is averaging more points, steals, blocks, rebounds and threes while shooting a better field goal percentage than Grant. Even with Arron Afflalo returning and playing valuable minutes, Galloway should see enough time off the bench to warrant at least, if not more, low-end consideration in 10-team or larger leagues.
Jae Crowder – SF – Boston Celtics – 27 percent
The small forward position is pretty thin at the moment, but Crowder is proving to be a nice addition to any team in need of steals – while still managing to do a little in other categories like rebounds, points and free-throw percentage. In his fifth season in the NBA, Crowder is averaging 9.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.4 blocks and a league leading 3.4 steals per game (Stephen Curry is second with 2.6). Steals can be a hard stat to come by, so with the way Crowder has been playing, he could hold some surprising value.
Even though Crowder is more of a specialist than anything else, he’s one heck of a specialist, and that means everything in a difficult category. Crowder is going to get his minutes while at Boston, and even though the Celtics have acted like a revolving door for players over the past few years, Crowder will hold his value as long as he is wearing green.
Nemanja Bjelica – PF – Minnesota Timberwolves – 18.7 percent
Bjelica is a 27-year-old rookie out of Serbia, signed by Minnesota in June. The Timberwolves have been a good source of mid-season fantasy additions for a while now because they’re usually pretty bad. Minnesota hasn’t put together a winning season since the ’04-’05 season when they went 44-38 and hasn’t made the playoffs since the ’03-’04 season.
That’s a decade chock-full of losing, which equates to fantasy gold. A lot of losing usually means a lot of blowouts, and a lot of blowouts usually means plenty of development for the new guys.
Fast-forward to the present and Minnesota may have finally found some solid young talent to build a team around. Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have shown some pretty exciting potential as a starting unit. Enter Bjelica, who has averaged 8.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.6 steals and 1.7 threes in 28.7 minutes off the bench.
Those are great numbers for a rookie, and if you focus on the last three games, they get even better. He’s also averaged 13.7 points, 4.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds over that span while logging more minutes (total of 98, averaging 32.7 a game) than any other player at his position on his team and any other bench player. His only direct competition comes from an aging (or more accurately, just aged) Kevin Garnett and third year Adreian Payne, who has yet to see consistent playing time.
Bjelica, having already played five years of international ball, comes in as a rookie with experience on a team more than willing to send minutes his way. He can produce in points, assists, rebounds and field-goal percentage (50 percent on the year), and with more NBA experience will very likely continue to improve. The Serbian rookie is worth a pickup in most leagues since he is putting up numbers competitive enough to be useful for fantasy owners right now. Just keep in mind that his value still rests mostly in his potential.
Joffrey Lauvergne – C – Denver Nuggets – 5.1 percent
Lauvergne is in his second NBA season, and like Bjelica, also has some experience playing professional basketball in Europe. Hailing from France, Lauvergne only played in 24 games his rookie year but has gotten off to a great start this season. After his first three games, Lauvergne was averaging 10.7 points (shooting 67 percent from the field), 6.3 rebounds and two assists in only 19 minutes per game.
Unfortunately, the big man had been playing through back tightness issues since the end of the preseason, and it eventually caught up with him. Lauvergne was forced to sit out after the Nuggets’ third game, and since has missed five straight. However, Lauvergne has said that he plans to get an injection to help alleviate the back pain and return to action very soon. The back problems are, well, problematic, but if he can manage the pain or even make a full recovery, the Frenchman could end up having a pretty solid fantasy season.
Denver currently has three centers on their roster: J.J. Hickson, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic. Nurkic is still out, recovering from surgery performed in May to repair a partially torn left patella tendon and remains without an official return date. So, for four out of the past five games, Hickson has gotten the start, and he’s been doing an okay job at best.
When Lauvergne finally does come back, likely in the next few games, he should reclaim the starting position, holding it as long as Nurkic is out. If Lauvergne can pick up where he left off earlier in the season, he could carve out some solid playing time that could very well hold firm even after the inevitable return of Nurkic. He’s more of a wait and see kind of player for the time being, but if things go right, Lauvergne could turn out to be quite valuable down the stretch.