More NBA players are either testing positive, are sitting out due to contact tracing, or are simply injured entering week four of the season. Now is about the time where you’ve already shuffled a few spots, your injured reserves are filling up, and you’re scouring your waiver wire for worthwhile fantasy pickups, not just for a quick fix, but one that’ll appear as a season-long gem. The unpredictability could be intimidating, but we’re here to help. Here are five players — one for each position — possibly sitting on your waiver wire for you to ponder over and ultimately steal before your league-mates do. Remember, revenge is the sweetest joy next to getting... you know what, never mind.
PG/SG. Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
The Iowa State product will be an All-Rookie Team selection if he remains healthy. He’s currently second in rookie minutes and is averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Haliburton also started his last game alongside cornerstone point guard De’Aaron Fox. It’s been clear since draft night that the Kings view Haliburton as a combo guard to develop next to Fox, comprising the team’s backcourt of the present and future. Haliburton may still be on your waiver wire for now but won’t be for much longer at this rate. If he’s there, pounce on him like Keith Lee. If not, consider fellow rookie Cole Anthony of the Orlando Magic, who will have limitless opportunities with Markelle Fultz (torn ACL) out for the season.
PG/SG Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
This second consecutive Tyrese is another rookie who may find himself with hardware to end his first NBA go around. Even before the 76ers’ roster became depleted just enough for Maxey to start, he had been averaging 15.7 minutes per game, with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 20 minutes on the backend. Last time out, Maxey exploded 39 points, seven rebounds, and six assists against the Denver Nuggets, separating himself in the absence of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Shake Milton, among others. Maxey will be in the rotation all season long and confirmed that while lifting the team of only seven in a 115-103 loss. Indiana Pacers’ Justin Holiday is another good shooting guard option, who also has small forward eligibility.
SF/PF De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks
Hunter’s been the most reliable Atlanta Hawk this season, including Trae Young, who has been an efficiency nightmare. The second-year combo forward is averaging 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while shooting 51 percent from the field, 42 percent from three, and 85 percent on free throws. Hunter’s still available in a sizable amount of leagues and should be picked up in damn near all 10-teamers and beyond. He seems to have turned an early corner, especially when compared to fellow draftmate Cam Reddish, or as “know it all” NBA Twitter lauds him as a young Tracy McGrady. Hunter’s been better than most second-year guys, and while it may not continue at the same efficiency all year long, he’ll be more than respectable enough to keep in your core. Cleveland Cavalier swingman Cedi Osman is a solid short-term fix with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton struggling with minor injuries.
PF/C Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks
As touched on last week, Portis is a better NBA player than given credit for, which he is proving in his sixth-man role in Milwaukee. The 6-foot-11 versatile big is averaging 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in just over 24 minutes per contest, which he’s roughly done throughout his career on lesser teams. Portis has clearly separated himself as the Bucks’ premier bench option, whose value will increase if Giannis suffers an injury, which we saw play out with a 17-point, 11-rebound performance from the Arkansas alum in a victory over the Cavs. Portis might be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate if the Bucks’ perennial regular-season success continued in 2020-21. Being a double-double threat off the bench is fantastic for fantasy. Other bigs? Kelly Olynyk of the Miami Heat should have the starting power forward spot locked in until the team makes a deal of some sort (think LaMarcus Aldridge). Olynyk is like Portis if he were white, Canadian, and not as good.
PF/C Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers
Kanter will more than likely not overtake Jusuf Nurkic as the Blazers’ starting center, but so far, he’s been outperforming him despite his status on the team’s depth chart. Through nine games, Nurkic’s averages stand at 10.3 points through nine games, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists, an immensely disappointing follow-up to his 17.6-10.3-4.0 bubble showing. Kanter this season sits at 10.9 points and 9.7 rebounds, shooting 65.6 percent to Nurkic’s 50.0, despite averaging five fewer minutes. The issue with Kanter is he’s still a shade under 20 minutes per game, but much like Hassan Whiteside (minus the blocks), that’s all he’ll need to approach a double-double on many nights. For his career, Kanter has posted 19.2 points and 12.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is up to 20.8 points and 14.2 boards in his last six seasons. You watch games, you look up, and Kanter has 10 and 10 in 18 minutes; it’s just what he does. In the absence of many Boston Celtics, Daniel Theis is another decent choice here.