Sure, you drafted LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Chris Bosh and Brandon Knight. And sure, your fantasy hoops roster is looking absolutely untouchable right now. But here are a few things you need to remember before you guarantee that trophy at season’s end. First of all, we’re barely three weeks into the season, so things can (and will) change. And because things are going to change, fantasy owners need to use the waiver wire to their advantage. You can draft the best team ever, but if you aren’t actively pursuing the waiver wire, you’re doing it wrong.
Wrong, I tell you.
Leagues are started during the draft, but are won over the course of the season. Players who emerge from out of nowhere are highlights of every fantasy season, so sooner or later, you’ll be looking back at the time you acquired one that finished as a top-20 player in fantasy off the wire. Do we have one of those guys this week? Maybe, maybe not. But it’ll sure be fun to find out.
Note: Ownership percentages based on Yahoo! leagues.
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves (9%)- Ricky Rubio is sidelined indefinitely with a nasty ankle sprain, opening the door for the high-flying rookie, LaVine. It was a bit of a surprise to see Minnesota give him the start at point guard on Saturday against the Heat. This is a guy who played 13 whole minutes entering this game, but LaVine was solid, totaling five points, six rebounds, four assists, and a steal in 26 minutes of action. Veteran Mo Williams is still going to play point guard, too, but the Wolves have him on a minutes limit, so LaVine should still get plenty of run. And when you’re 6-foot-5 with crazy length and athleticism, you instantly have an upper hand on most point guards in the NBA. If you want the upside, LaVine is 100 percent the guy to target. The Timberwolves, as well as everyone, know what they have in Mo Williams, but the rookie LaVine is unknown and exciting.
Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets (4%)- Obviously, Canaan’s value depends on the health of Patrick Beverley, but he’s now missed four of the Rockets’ last five contests, dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off a career-high 21-point game on Saturday, and both his minutes and shot attempts are trending upwards in each of the last three games. The second-year player showed some flashes as a rookie a season ago, and playing in Houston, Canaan will get easy offensive looks, and Houston plays at a top-10 pace in the league. He’s definitely worth monitoring.
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks (51%)- Shumpert has played really well this season, and with the Knicks having so many issues in their frontcourt, he’ll need to do more for this team than in years past. Over his last five games, Shumpert is averaging 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.6 triples per contest. He’s been very efficient, too, shooting a solid 55 percent from the field during that span, all while logging nearly 33 minutes per game. New head coach Derek Fisher seems to really like what Shumpert provides, as he’s given him the start in every game this season for the Knicks. The new offense in New York seems to be helping his growth as a player, and with no Jose Calderon on the floor, Shumpert is also handling the ball sometimes, serving as the point guard. He needs to be owned in a lot more than just half of leagues, if you ask me.
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies (16%)- I wasn’t planning on putting Allen in this column until I noticed that he’s still out there in over 80 percent of leagues. Sure, it’s not the prettiest form of production, but he’s been a top-100 player in fantasy to open the season, and he’s clearly been valuable, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I mean, this is a guy who is averaging almost three steals per game on the year, but is also averaging a respectable eight points, 2.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds per game as well. He’s still playing just under 30 minutes per game on one of the best teams in basketball, too, so it’s a bit of a mystery to see him so un-owned in fantasy circles.
K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia 76ers (21%)- The 76ers are the only team yet to win a game this year, but their rookie has continued to impress me. He’s improved in each game this season and gives you awesome value on the defensive end, similar to Allen, but with far more upside. Playing in Philadelphia’s system with one of the highest paces in all of basketball helped lesser talents such as James Anderson and Henry Sims become fantasy relevant last year, and McDaniels has been strong. He’s coming off a four-block game on Sunday night, and is now averaging just under two swats per game on the young season. McDaniels is also sinking 1.2 triples per game, as his jumpshot continues to progress. He’ll likely still start once Michael Carter-Williams returns to the lineup on Thursday, so if you are in need of some steals, blocks or threes, he’s worth a look. Besides, isn’t it fun to own someone who can do this?
Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers (24%)- Hill certainly doesn’t have a lot of upside in fantasy, but my goodness, it’s hard to ignore a guy that is playing these type of minutes. Over his last five games, he’s playing 37 minutes per outing, adding 16 points, five rebounds, and almost two steals per game. The Pacers are so, so banged up that they have no other choice but to play Hill this much, and even when the others come back, Hill should still see a large role because guys like George Hill, C.J. Watson and David West don’t play small forward, folks. He’s worth consideration in 12-team leagues.
Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn Nets (54%)- Teletovic is power forward eligible in Yahoo! formats, and he’s been playing very well for the Nets off the bench this year. Playing about 23 minutes per game, he’s averaging almost 13 points per game to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 2.7 triples, and is notching nearly a block per game for fantasy owners, too. He can shoot the long ball with the best of them, and he wants to, hoisting up six three-pointers per game thus far. With Kevin Garnett not playing a ton of minutes, Teletovic will be a huge piece of the puzzle in Brooklyn, and he’ll also be playing plenty at the small forward position, too. Scoop him up if he’s out there in your league.
Channing Frye, Orlando Magic (58%)- Frye may not be as valuable in Orlando as he was in Phoenix, but he’s worth owning, if you ask me. First of all, he is a 6-foot-11 center who can hit a ton of threes and grab rebounds at a respectable rate, averaging over six boards per game over his last five. During that span, he’s also sinking 2.2 threes per game, shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc, as well as almost 56 percent from the field. Simply put, Frye doesn’t hurt you in any statistical category, and once Victor Oladipo returns to the lineup, he’ll probably get even more looks.