This week’s edition of Waiver Wired features pickup recommendations for fantasy leagues of any size or depth. Every player listed is owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo leagues. The early picks are intended for shallower leagues, but I steadily lower the bucket into the fantasy well, eventually scraping rock bottom for the sake of owners in very competitive and/or deep leagues.
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Tony Parker (49%) - He's still under 50% ownership but shouldn't be, as he's averaging 19.2 points on 62.3% shooting, 0.8 threes, 2.2 boards and 6.4 assists in his past five games. As a bonus, the Spurs don't have a back-to-back set until Jan. 23/24.
James Johnson (49%) - Seriously? He's red hot and his versatility ensures consistent minutes for the short-handed Heat, especially with Justise Winslow (shoulder) likely done for the season.
Cody Zeller (43%) - Zeller missed three straight games due to a concussion, but he logged 33 minutes on Saturday, and prior to the injury he was cruising as a late-round value. His appeal is rooted in 59.5% shooting, which ranks fifth in the league behind Dwight Howard, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan. His 65.1% free throw rate is well below his career average (73.6%) but otherwise he's been great with 6.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.1 blocks and a mere 1.1 turnovers. His 33 minutes on Saturday tied his third-highest total of the season, so the Hornets obviously aren’t limiting after his head injury.
Alex Len (43%) - Tyson Chandler is reportedly being tracked as a trade target for the Blazers, who need help in the frontcourt. Even if he's not dealt, the 34-year-old should see his role decrease in favor of Len as the season progresses. Len has been sporadically useful in recent weeks, but standard-league owners would be targeting his potential in February, March and April.
Brandon Ingram (43%) - Ingram is over-owned at 43%, despite his potential as a post-All-Star breakout candidate. He's getting nearly 30 minutes per game over the past two weeks, but is shooting just 43.2% from the field and 69.2% from the line, without many points (8.3), 3-pointers (0.3), rebounds (4.3) or assists (1.7). Don't even ask about his defensive stats. I like him as a stash in the hopes that things 'click' for him in the next month or two, but wouldn't be playing him at present.
Montrezl Harrell (36%) - This is oddly low for Harrell, who was a hot pickup following his 29-point breakout on Dec. 30. He's cooled off since then, predictably, and logged only 22 minutes on Friday, but there's more than enough upside here to snag him if you need a big man. Nene can't play 25 minutes every night even if Mike D'Antoni wanted him to, and Clint Capela (fibula) won't be reevaluated until late January.
Seth Curry (29%) - His shots are falling, he's been a mid-round value for weeks, and everything about the Mavs' backcourt (aging, injury-prone, recent rumors that Wesley Matthews is available in trades) points to a big rest-of-season role for Curry.
Tony Allen (29%) and Thabo Sefolosha (28%) - Two steals specialists available in the bulk of leagues for nothing more than your worst player. Allen is coming off a six-steal gem, and Thabo gets a boost with Kyle Korver traded away (and nobody coming to ATL in return). They're not particularly versatile, and certainly not flashy, but they usually get the job done in standard leagues.
Terrence Ross (23%) - Ross has averaged a mere 0.4 turnovers per game over the past month, a remarkable stat that makes him considerably more valuable in 9-cat leagues. That said, he's still worth a look anywhere with month-long averages of 11.5 points, 1.7 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.5 blocks, in addition to tolerable percentages.
J.J. Barea (23%) - He finally returned on Saturday but is still available in many leagues, thanks to the fact that he'd played just two games in nearly two months. I have no faith in his ability to stay healthy, and his ROS outlook is uncertain with the Mavs going nowhere fast, but I can't argue against him as a speculative short-term add.
Jared Sullinger (22%) – I can only advocate Sully in deeper leagues with IR spots. In that scenario, he has just enough proven upside to be worth a look. He's started taking some shots lately, a February return seems plausible, and the Raptors aren't exactly overloaded at the PF spot. Look no further than Pascal Siakam starting the first 34 games, or the recent Lucas Nogueira/Jonas Valanciunas experiment with Patrick Patterson (knee) on the sidelines. That said, Sullinger’s 22% ownership rate can only be attributed to leagues in which he was drafted (or auto-drafted) by owners who promptly drifted away. Free, public leagues are both great for fantasy (by introducing new fans to the glory of managing and micro-managing their own fake NBA squad), and terrible for analysis (by distorting data). My guess in competitive 12-team leagues with IR spots would be about 6% ownership for Sully at this point.
Larry Nance (17%) - Nance isn't likely to return until mid- to late-January due to a bone bruise, so he's on the wire in most leagues. He was a quiet top-100 value in 9-cat leagues prior to the injury, though, thanks to 5.5 boards, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 58.7% shooting, and just 0.8 turnovers per game. Luke Walton will find ways to keep him on the court once he's healthy, and I'm not dissuaded Thomas Robinson's strong play since Nance went down.
Dwight Powell (16%) - He's quiet most nights and hasn't broken out like we'd hoped, but is still returning steady value. Everything about the Mavs' situation suggests that he'll continue to see his role grow in the coming months.
T.J. McConnell (16%) - Apparently, many owners have been scared off by the prospect of Sergio Rodriguez (who is owned in more leagues) returning to action. McConnell is coming off a 17-assist game and he's been great lately, however, so I'm buying in here. After all, Philly has way more incentive to give minutes to their 24-year-old PG, rather than the 30-year-old Rodriguez.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (14%) - THJ is your guy if you need scoring with heavy 3-pointers. He got a boost with Kyle Korver leaving town, and the Hawks have toyed with him as a ball-handler, but be aware that he offers very little in terms of supporting stats. If he can score with efficiency and a high level of 3-pointers, he’ll earn his keep in most leagues.
Amir Johnson (14%) - The veteran big man always seems to be battling some nagging injury, but he's yet to miss a game all season. He makes the most of his limited FG attempts and shot 56.8% in December, while quietly adding 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks. You could certainly do worse.
Lucas Nogueira (14%) - It isn't Nogueira's recent start alongside JV that earns him a spot on your roster -- it's the fact that he's been sneakily effective all season long. He's only likely to start in certain matchups, but there are enough backup C minutes for him to maintain his current 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 0.9 steals. He's also shooting 64.9% from the field on low-volume attempts, and he'd simply be a must-own player if his minutes spiked from their current 19.7 per game.
Willie Reed (10%) - Yes, Hassan Whiteside is expected to return on Sunday. Nothing about Reed's game suggests that he'll earn any minutes alongside Whiteside, which limits his upside, but in deeper leagues I'm willing to see what happens over the next 2-3 games. At worst, he's a nice handcuff for Whiteside.
Doug McDermott (8%) - McDermott was rusty for a while after returning from his concussion, but he's hot in his past five games with averages of 11.6 points on 52.4% shooting, 1.6 threes, 3.2 boards, 1.4 assists and 0.6 steals in 30 minutes. The minutes have been steady all year and Chicago really needs his perimeter shooting, as they are by far the league's worst team in 3-pointers made (6.3) and 3-point percentage (31.2%). Just don't expect much beyond the points and threes.
Andre Roberson (8%) - The Thunder swingman has been awful lately and he's only worth a look if you're punting FT%, or can otherwise cope with the fact that he's shooting 36.0% at the line this season (seriously, he's a combined 18-of-50). He's also shooting just 43.5% from the field, but beyond those nasty percentages the picture brightens with career-highs in 3-pointers (0.7), rebounds (4.5), assists (1.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (1.0). The defensive stats are the key, of course, and he's a nice fit on plenty of teams.
Jeremy Lamb (5%) - Lamb deserves a nod as a temporary option due to Nicolas Batum's knee injury, which could reportedly cost him 1-2 weeks. He's averaging just 17.0 minutes on the season, however, so it's hard to love his outlook once Batum is back in action.
Dragan Bender (5%) and/or Marquese Chriss (4%) - Neither of these guys have provided lasting value this season, but both have nice potential as key pieces of a rebuilding Suns team that lacks postseason aspirations. If I had to pick one I'd go with Bender, since Chriss has done nothing despite getting more playing time thus far.
Jodie Meeks (3%) - If you're still desperate for help with 3-pointers, steals and FT%, Meeks is there for you. He was very good as a fill-in starter for Evan Fournier but is just a fringe option coming off Orlando's bench -- in 18 games this season he's averaged 8.7 points, 1.5 threes and 1.1 assists, while making 90.3% of his 1.7 FT attempts. Those numbers should be attainable if he hovers in the 22-minute range, which isn't guaranteed. It helps that Frank Vogel has a startling lack of interest in the No. 5 pick from 2015's draft, Mario Hezonja.
Caris LeVert (3%) - LeVert's situation in Brooklyn is the primary reason for this recommendation -- the Nets are likely to eventually give him as many minutes as his repeatedly surgically-repaired left foot can handle. He's played just 249 minutes all season, but on a per-36 basis he's averaging 11.7 points, 2.0 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.7 steals and just 1.2 turnovers. Even 25 minutes per game should be enough for intriguing fantasy returns.
Justin Hamilton (2%) - The Nets have no real reason to keep Brook Lopez beyond this season. He's an anachronism as a veteran pseudo-star on a team with a league-worst 8-27 record, and it's already been rumored that Brooklyn wants two future first-round picks for him. If he's traded for draft picks and whatever salary-cap flotsam another team throws in to make the deal work, Hamilton instantly becomes a viable fantasy center.
Jerian Grant (2%) - Grant leaped onto the fantasy radar once Rajon Rondo fell out of the rotation, and he's at least worth monitoring. In Chicago's past two games he's played 27 and 20 minutes, including a nine-point, six-assist, four-steal performance vs. Charlotte on Monday (he added three rebounds and a 3-pointer). Michael Carter-Williams isn't a lock to stay healthy, which adds to Grant's deep-league appeal.
Glenn Robinson (1%) - It seems clear that GR3 should have higher ownership than a lot of guys I've already discussed. He appears to have locked down a starting job and in the Pacers' past six games he's averaging 7.0 points, 0.8 threes, 5.5 boards, 1.3 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.5 blocks, while making 48.3% FGs and 81.8% FTs. As with most of the guys on this list, he's better in 9-cat formats -- that's inevitable when discussing low-end players who don't get as many touches or minutes.
Zero Percent Club! There are plenty of players whose ownership statistically rounds down to 0%. It's not an auspicious group, clearly, but there are some guys worth mentioning. Phoenix C Alan Williams had a brief, glorious moment in the sun earlier this season, but he's been a DNP-CD staple for weeks. He's not suited to PF in the best of situations, let alone on a roster that includes Chriss and Bender, so the best we can hope for is a backup role if/when Chandler is traded...Salah Mejri and A.J. Hammons both merit deep-league attention. Hammons is a second-round pick Dallas can experiment with in a lost season. Mejri is 30 years old, but they have him under contract for a non-guaranteed $1.0 million salary next year, with a $1.3 million qualifying offer the following season, so there’s some incentive to air him out down the stretch. Andrew Bogut is almost guaranteed to be shut down, if he's not traded, and Dirk Nowitzki is nearly as precarious. The Mavs have been terrible with Dirk at center this season and nobody else on the roster can handle the night-in, night-out rigors of the position: enter Hammons and/or Mejri, potentially...Ron Baker made headlines while playing ahead of Derrick Rose in the fourth quarter on Friday, especially since he helped the Knicks rally to snap a six-game losing streak. The undrafted 23-year-old rookie played just 12 minutes on Saturday and clearly isn't a lock for minutes, let alone fantasy value, but he's on the radar as someone unowned in virtually all leagues...DeAndre' Bembry played 15 minutes on Thursday and could suddenly emerge as a bit player in Atlanta's rotation (he missed Saturday's game due to a death in the family). There's a chance that the Hawks could blow things up with a Paul Millsap or Dwight Howard trade, in which case all bets are off, so keeping an eye on Atlanta's young prospects (including Taurean Prince) is a very good idea...Juan Hernangomez was the overall No. 15 pick to Denver this year. An early first-round pick on a bad team, who has shown upside in very limited minutes, could be an appealing 'no-risk' fantasy option.
Dribs and Drabs: Dorian Finney-Smith is worth watching with the Mavs headed toward nothing in particular, and Justin Anderson even more so...Lance Stephenson, Jarrett Jack and Mario Chalmers could luck into fantasy-relevant positions once they're healthy, but I'm not eager to bet on any of them...Joe Harris has been quite awful lately, admittedly, but he's shown flashes of impressive play this season and is still on the radar. Good luck this week.