Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Week 4
Welcome, once again, to our weekly waiver wire series where we scout out some of the best players currently unowned in most fantasy basketball leagues. As we near Week 5, it’s important to remember that the journey is still young. If you feel like your draft could have gone better, try not to panic as few teams, both of the real and fantastical variety, have managed to find their true identity this early in the season. The free agent pool may be a little shallow this week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t enough guys out there capable of helping you turn things around. So, on that note, here are some players who may be worth adding if they’re still available in your league.
Ownership percentages are for ESPN leagues as of November 8.
Donovan Mitchell (SG – UTA) 23.2%
He may have started his season off looking like the rookie that he is, but lately, Donovan Mitchell has been playing as if the NBA is nothing new. In fewer than two weeks, Mitchell seems to have found a groove and is now averaging 18 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.8 three-pointers made in 27.8 minutes over his last six games – and that’s including two duds in which he scored a combined 16 points while shooting under 30 percent from the field. In each of the other four games, he recorded at least 17 points (including three games of 22 or more points) while averaging 47 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 93 percent from the line. So, as you can see, just like any other proficient shooter, Mitchell can provide solid scoring and three-point shooting for fantasy owners which in and of itself warrants rostering him in most 12-team or deeper leagues. However, it’s his production in other categories that makes him worth picking up in shallower leagues of both points and category-based formats.
Sure, because he is a rookie who makes most of his living shooting the ball on a team known for its slower than average pace, he’s going to have duds like the two mentioned earlier, but that shouldn’t scare you away too easily. His ceiling may very well be high enough to make accepting his floor not that difficult, so if you can handle the natural ebb and flow of that which is a rookie NBA season, then Mitchell should be a player to target, especially while he’s still seeing upwards of 30-35 minutes per game.
Justin Holiday (SG/SF – CHI) 45.2%
It’s a little surprising to see Justin Holiday still available in so many leagues, but that probably won’t last for much longer. Now back in Chicago after one year with the Knicks, Holiday has started each of the Bulls’ nine games and, as a result, averaged 35 minutes per game. He hasn’t made much of an impact to fantasy rosters in seasons past, so it makes sense that he wasn’t widely owned to start the year, but now that he’s consistently put up averages hovering around 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers per game, you can expect his stock to continue to rise until he’s owned in at least 60-70% of leagues.
At his current pace, Holiday is going to put up useful stats in the points scored, rebounds, steals and three-pointers made categories, which is enough to warrant picking him up in most leagues. Because of a poor career field goal percentage of 40.1% and an even worse current season percentage of 32.9, Holiday is going to be more attractive in points leagues than he is the category variety, but still worth considering in both.
His season-long numbers suggest an eventual positive regression to the mean in terms of efficiency, which may mean that he eventually takes fewer shots per game, without putting much of a dent in his scoring output. As long as he continues to see 30-plus minutes per game, Holiday should be able to get enough quality attempts to improve his shooting percentages while still scoring at a similar rate. If he can do that, he could very well have some solid staying power for fantasy owners this year, and even if he can’t, he’s at least worth owning as long as he’s seeing starter’s minutes.
Taurean Prince (SF – SAC) 30.6%
I’ve been meaning to mention Prince in the past, but for one reason or another, it never happened. That was my mistake because he’s been a surprisingly reliable fantasy option for anyone smart enough to pick him up earlier in the season, so it’s time to mention him. Prince is averaging 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.7 threes and 2.6 turnovers in 31.1 minutes per game this season. Those numbers don’t necessarily jump out at you, but, before his most recent game against a tough Boston defense, Prince was coming off of a five-game stretch in which he averaged 17.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.4 threes per game. That kind of production may be his ceiling, but because Prince looks like he could end up being a relatively stable fantasy player he could make a nice bench asset in 10-team leagues. Shooting below 45 percent from the field while turning the ball over 2.6 times per game makes him a little less appealing in category leagues (especially 9-cat). If he can’t improve upon those numbers, he’ll be more of a flyer play in such leagues.
Bobby Portis (PF – CHI) 8%
Bobby Portis went off in his first game of the season after serving a suspension for punching teammate Nikola Mirotic during a preseason scuffle that sent the latter to the hospital with multiple fractures in his face. In his first game back, Portis put up an impressive 21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three 3-pointers in just 24 minutes. Even with Mirotic out due to the injury, Portis still saw modest minutes because of Lauri Markkanen remaining in the starting lineup, but that didn’t stop Portis from leading the team in scoring.
With Markkanen playing so well and Mirotic nearing his own return, Portis’ immediate future, in terms of fantasy production, is anything but certain, however, there may be hope. According to Chicago Sun-Times writer Joe Cowley, in an article he wrote on November 8, not too many of the Chicago players are big fans of Mirotic. In fact, it sounds like most of the team prefers to play alongside Portis and, given the fact that Mirotic has already said he would rather be traded than be forced to play with Portis (Vincent Goodwill – NBC Sports), the depth chart may not be as full as we all once thought for very long. Most analysts are suggesting it’s Portis who may end up getting the boot, and while they could be right, it is worth noting which side his teammates come down on.
Team cohesion is important in basketball, so if you have two guys who put up similar numbers but only one of them gets along with his teammates and the other is spitting out ultimatums, it would seem clear as to which player was more likely to stick around and which was likely move on.
Bobby Portis is by no means a must-add, but if you have room on your roster to pick him up and sit on him for a while, you may want to do just that. He’s not going to regularly produce numbers like he did in his last game, but if he can be productive while Mirotic is out, there’s a chance he could end up sticking around on a Bulls team that will be more focused on developing talent than winning games. Pick him up as a deep league flyer or a standard league stash and see, but don’t waste a roster spot on him if there’s a more reliable guy out there who you can feel good about starting now.
Dewayne Dedmon (C – ATL) 15.1%
Dewayne Dedmon is not a very exciting waiver wire target, but since it’s been so difficult to find a solid center on the wire recently, I figured I had to come up with someone. The Hawks big man is fresh off of a career night that saw him score a career-best 19 points along with 12 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 36 minutes against Boston. Even though he’s started in all 11 games this year, it was only the third time that he’s surpassed 26 minutes, and that had everything to do with the fact that both Ersan Ilyasova (knee) and Mike Muscala (ankle) were out due to injury, and John Collins was limited due to foul trouble. While none of those players are true centers, they will cut into Dedmon’s playing time when available, so he’s not going to be a strong fantasy play for very long. If you need some 5-man help Dedmon is probably available, but the time to use him is growing short, so you should act now.