Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Enes Kanter leads top options in wake of Jusuf Nurkic injury


The NBA has had quite a week. After months of speculation, James Harden was finally traded, marking just the 15th time a former MVP has been traded. Several games were postponed in accordance with the league’s COVID-19 protocols. As of Friday afternoon, we’re up to 11 total postponed games. And yet, despite all the commotion, the current standings are remarkably close to most people’s preseason expectations, with surprisingly few exceptions (cough Heat cough Nuggets cough Raptors).

The commotion, of course, creates lots of fantasy opportunities. And that’s what this column is here for: identifying waiver wire targets.

As always, the players in this article must be rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues. Players are listed in the order that I recommend adding them, assuming they are equally good fits for your team.

Double-check your league

Tyrese Maxey, 76ers (68% rostered)
Bobby Portis, Bucks (68% rostered) 

These are a few names rostered in more than two-thirds of leagues, but who are still under-rostered. Double-check to make sure they aren’t available in your league.

Adds for all leagues

Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers (57% rostered)
Harry Giles, Trail Blazers (5% rostered)

Jusuf Nurkic broke his wrist Thursday night. As far as the waiver wire is concerned, that’s more important than anything else in this already crazy week. We don’t have any official timetable yet, but based on what we already know about the injury, two months seems like a safe minimum estimate. Nurkic was starting but averaging only 23.6 minutes as he worked his way back into game shape. Despite the low minutes, he was still making a meaningful impact, averaging nearly 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game.

His absence leaves Kanter and Giles as the only healthy centers remaining for Portland. Furthermore, Robert Covington is their only forward who can even masquerade as a small-ball five, and it’s not a very convincing impression.

Kanter is likely to be the starter and play more minutes, especially at first. He’s a solid source of points, rebounds, and field goal percentage, though he provides little else.

Giles would be the real prize here if he can get his workload up above 25 per game. Giles is a per-minute machine with a skillset tailor-made for Fantasy goodness. That’s been true since he was a rookie, and he showed continued progress this preseason. He provides help in every category except 3s and free throw percentage, and has even started attempting more shots from behind the arc this season, albeit in a limited sample size.

Bruce Brown, Nets (5% rostered)

The four-team Harden deal was historic and massive — seven players, five draft picks and four pick swaps. Yet, for all its magnitude, it had surprisingly little impact on the Fantasy waiver wire. For our purposes, the decimated remains of Nets depth chart left is most important. Brooklyn’s new starting lineup is arguably the best in the league. But their next five is Brown, Landry Shamet (2% rostered), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (5% rostered), Jeff Green (3% rostered) and center-to-be-named-later (probably 0% rostered?). One of those five is likely to become a rosterable player, and it’s not yet obvious which – though I’m betting against Still Empty Center Spot.

Brown stands out as the add to me for two reasons. First, his skill-set is the most fantasy-friendly. If Shamet gets 25 minutes a night, he’s still a borderline deep league player. If Brown gets 25 minutes, he probably becomes a meaningful source of assists with some solid production elsewhere. Second, of the Nets’ new big three, Kyrie Irving is easily the most likely to miss games throughout the season. When that happens, Brown is the bench player most likely to benefit. If you missed out on Brown, or aren’t convinced that he’s the add, Luwawu-Cabarrot is my second choice here.

Kevin Huerter, Hawks (54% rostered)

With Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) joining Danilo Gallinari (ankle) on the sidelines, there should now be a several-week-long window for Huerter to make an impact in lineups. Over the last 40 games of 2019-20, Huerter’s minutes jumped to 34.9 per game. Given that extended run, he was able to provide solid value in many categories, averaging 13.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.5 threes and an occasional smattering of defensive stats. He’s only averaging 27.2 minutes so far this season, but that seems likely to rise following Bogdanovic’s injury.

Moritz Wagner, Wizards (22% rostered)

The Wizards are in the midst of a COVID outbreak. They’ve already had two games postponed and appear on track for more. The uncertainty makes it hard to roster any fringe Wizard. That said, between the season-ending injury to Thomas Bryant (knee) and Wagner’s upside, he warrants mention.

The Wizards have effectively played two games since Bryant tore his ACL (Bryant played only two minutes before suffering the injury). Robin Lopez (18% rostered) moved into the starting lineup and saw his minutes per game jump from 14.7 to 23.5, but his upside is limited and his game is not particularly fantasy-friendly — he’s not likely to provide much help outside of blocks and FG%.

Wagner is the more attractive waiver-wire target, even if he continues to come off the bench. In those first two games, he averaged 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 threes and posted an incredible 58-83-50 shooting split. Wagner is good and should earn more playing time now that he’s getting the chance to show his skills. I don’t trust coach Scott Brooks’ ability to manage a rotation, but I really like Wagner’s game. Hopefully the Wizards get to return to action soon.

Other recommendations

DeAndre Jordan, Nets (51% rostered)
Austin Rivers, Knicks (18% rostered)

Deep-league special

JaMychal Green, Nuggets (13% rostered)

At some point, Michael Porter Jr. (health and safety protocols) will return, likely sapping almost all of Green’s value. But while a player who is out due to contact tracing simply has to sit out a predetermined period, Porter Jr. tested positive, so his return requires a combination of negative tests and a waiting period, and his quarantine period has already been extended once. As long as he is out, Green provides stable (if unexciting) production. He’s averaging 12.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.4 threes.

Damyean Dotson, Cavaliers (9% rostered)

The Cavs’ backcourt has been decimated by injury. Collin Sexton (ankle) appears closest to returning, but even once he’s back they’re likely to still be without Darius Garland (shoulder), Dylan Winder (hand), Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) and Kevin Porter (personal). Until both Sexton and Garland are fully back, Dotson should see good minutes and provide quality points and assists.

Other recommendations

Aaron Holiday, Pacers (9% rostered)
Taurean Prince, Cavaliers (9% rostered)





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