NBA Waiver Wire: Top Early-Season Pickups

NBA Waiver Wire: Top Early-Season Pickups

This article is part of our NBA Waiver Wire series.

Welcome back! Merry Christmas! Happy NBA Season!

The season has finally arrived after the weirdest, shortest offseason in NBA history. And with the start of games, it's time to start paying attention to the waiver wire.

Every team has now played one game. While it's important not to overreact, there are some situations where we've already learned some important information. For example, in most leagues, I'm already willing to cut bait on Chris Boucher (53% rostered) after he played just 15 minutes off the bench, behind Aron Baynes' 28 minutes, on Wednesday. 

If you're ready to make a move – whether because you drafted Boucher, moved a player into an IR spot, or are just feeling antsy – here are the players who've already begun to separate themselves.

The players below are listed in the order I'd recommend adding them. 

This article will focus on players available in at least 50 percent of leagues. That said, especially this early in the season, there are a lot of very valuable players who are widely available but miss that cut-off. I won't go into depth on those guys, but I'll include them below in the appropriate order.

Some under-rostered names who might be available in your league: Josh Richardson, Mavericks (69% rostered); Joe Harris, Nets (57% rostered); Jeff Teague, Celtics (59% rostered); Will Barton, Nuggets (59% rostered); Darius Garland, Cavaliers (54% rostered); Paul Millsap, Nuggets (51% rostered)

Keldon Johnson, Spurs (31% rostered)

Wednesday's biggest

Welcome back! Merry Christmas! Happy NBA Season!

The season has finally arrived after the weirdest, shortest offseason in NBA history. And with the start of games, it's time to start paying attention to the waiver wire.

Every team has now played one game. While it's important not to overreact, there are some situations where we've already learned some important information. For example, in most leagues, I'm already willing to cut bait on Chris Boucher (53% rostered) after he played just 15 minutes off the bench, behind Aron Baynes' 28 minutes, on Wednesday. 

If you're ready to make a move – whether because you drafted Boucher, moved a player into an IR spot, or are just feeling antsy – here are the players who've already begun to separate themselves.

The players below are listed in the order I'd recommend adding them. 

This article will focus on players available in at least 50 percent of leagues. That said, especially this early in the season, there are a lot of very valuable players who are widely available but miss that cut-off. I won't go into depth on those guys, but I'll include them below in the appropriate order.

Some under-rostered names who might be available in your league: Josh Richardson, Mavericks (69% rostered); Joe Harris, Nets (57% rostered); Jeff Teague, Celtics (59% rostered); Will Barton, Nuggets (59% rostered); Darius Garland, Cavaliers (54% rostered); Paul Millsap, Nuggets (51% rostered)

Keldon Johnson, Spurs (31% rostered)

Wednesday's biggest story, waiver-wire-wise, was Johnson. He started and played 32 minutes while posting an explosive 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and one three. Quietly, Johnson showed a massive leap in the bubble, averaging 14.1 points, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 threes in just 26.1 minutes per game. With production like that, the upside is high, making Johnson my favorite early add – but be careful who you drop for him. Derrick White (toe) was out and should return in about two weeks, which could cut into his workload. Furthermore, we really don't know if he can maintain this level of output.

Isaac Okoro, Cavaliers (19% rostered)

Between Johnson and Okoro, Johnson has the better chance to provide steady top-75-ish production. Johnson is a sophomore, and he plays for a team with a well-earned reputation for developing it's players. That said, if Wednesday's game was the best Johnson has to offer, he might quickly return to the waiver wire. Okoro is going to be one of the weekend's most popular waiver pickups, and I think he'll be a fixture on rosters for a good long while. He's ceiling is lower, but his role in the rotation is rock-solid for the woebegone Cavaliers. He started and played 34 minutes in the opener, and I fully expect him to remain above 30 minutes per game all season. The box score was good-not-great, and he probably tops out as a low-end top-100 guy this season, but I think he'll provide solid across the board production.

Bismack Biyombo, Hornets (5% rostered)

I'm hardly a Biyombo fan – if those even exist – but two basic facts are unavoidable: 

  • He's a very good per-minute rebounder and shot-blocker, averaging at least 10.8 and 1.7 per-36 minutes for each of the last seven seasons; and
  • He's going to see a ton of minutes over the next month as the Hornets' only true center now that Cody Zeller (hand) is out.

Blocks are hard to find on waivers. Biyombo will get a bunch of those. He's boring, but addable in almost all leagues.

Tyrese Haliburton, Kings (38% rostered)

Haliburton certainly looked the part Wednesday, playing 30 minutes off the bench. But the minutes are a little inflated by overtime, and the Kings are a fountain of instability. If he can edge out Cory Joseph as the clear third option in the backcourt, then he'll probably have fantasy value. But can we trust the Kings to: A) accurately assess their talent, and/or: B) pick a rotation and stick with it?

Other recommendations: Malik Beasley, Timberwolves (43% rostered); Shake Milton, 76ers (28% rostered) Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers (47% rostered); JJ Redick, Pelicans (34% rostered); Tristan Thompson, Celtics (35% rostered); Gary Trent Jr, Trail Blazers (13% rostered)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.
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