With the first week of the 2016-17 fantasy basketball season in the books, it’s time to resurrect our weekly Waiver Wire Watch.
Every Monday — with a nod to those owners in weekly leagues — we’ll present five players owned in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues who merit a look on the waiver wire if your team is in need of some fresh blood. Some of these players could remain fantasy-relevant all season, while others are short-term fixes who figure to be free-agent fodder once more in a few weeks’ time.
Though you shouldn’t necessarily go cutting an underachieving mid-round pick for any of these players — frustrated Pau Gasol owners who acted impulsively after his first three duds missed a 20-10 game on Sunday — they’re at least worth monitoring moving forward. If you do have dead weight on your roster and you’re ready to make a move, take the plunge with one of these five.
Will Barton, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets (42.0% owned)
With Gary Harris sidelined by a partially torn groin muscle, Will Barton has started each of the Nuggets’ first two games this year, putting up 19.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 treys and 0.5 blocks in 38.0 minutes per night. His playing time is sure to fall once Harris is able to return — The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Oct. 5 that the Michigan State product was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks — but Barton proved last season that he can be a fantasy factor in limited minutes, finishing as the 83rd-ranked player despite averaging just 28.7 minutes per night.
If the Nuggets decide to blow up their core and go all-in on a youth movement, Barton could lose playing time to Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley later in the year, but he should be a fixture in lineups for the imminent future. Plan to reevaluate his spot on your roster whenever Harris does return, but until then, pick him up and ride him for the next few weeks if one of your late-round picks isn’t amounting to much production yet.
Justise Winslow, SF, Miami Heat (40.8% owned)
In our 12-team head-to-head draft analysis, I wrote the following about Justise Winslow, who was my final-round pick:
For my final pick, I took a flier on Justise Winslow to see if he’s able to step into a larger offensive role with Dwyane Wade now in Chicago and Chris Bosh unlikely to ever suit up for Miami again. Outside of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside, the Heat don’t have many established offensive threats, so there’s plenty of opportunity for Winslow to emerge as a legitimate fantasy contributor. If not, he’ll be sent to the waiver wire early in the year as I look to pick up a free agent off to a hot start (think Evan Fournier from last season).
If his first week of the 2016-17 campaign is any indication, I won’t be cutting him anytime soon. Winslow erupted for 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal against Orlando on opening night, then followed up with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists against Charlotte two nights later. On Sunday, he went off for 18 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 39 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs.
Winslow has hit just one of his 11 three-point attempts on the year, but owners who spent a late-round pick on him — or those who can grab him off the waiver wire — can’t complain about his otherwise well-rounded impact. The absence of Bosh and Wade in Miami has created the perfect storm of opportunity for the Duke product to become a reliable fantasy contributor this year.
Taj Gibson, PF, Chicago Bulls (21.9% owned)
Taj Gibson beat Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis for the Chicago Bulls’ starting power forward job during the preseason, and he did nothing to lose his grip on the job through the first week of the regular season. In the Bulls’ surprising 105-99 win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday, the 31-year-old chipped in 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds and an assist in 28 minutes, finishing as the team’s third-leading scorer.
Two nights later against Myles Turner and the Indiana Pacers, Gibson had 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting, eight rebounds, an assist and a steal in 25 minutes, hitting an array of jumpers along with a ferocious dunk. Though spacing figured to be an issue with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade in the Bulls’ starting lineup, Gibson’s ability to knock down shots in the mid-range has helped open things up for Chicago, which should keep him in the fantasy conversation moving forward.
T.J. Warren, SF, Phoenix Suns (21.7% owned)
The youth movement is on in Phoenix, and T.J. Warren is hosting a coming-out party. Through his first three games, the third-year forward is averaging 23.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.0 treys and 1.0 assists in 37.8 minutes, including a massive 30-point, nine-rebound, three-steal outing against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Though the 30-point eruption was a career-high for Warren, the NC State product flashed this kind of fantasy upside last year, going off for 29 points, nine rebounds, four steals, three treys and three assists against OKC last New Year’s Eve, and 28 points, six rebounds, two assists, two triples and two steals against Golden State last November. Provided Warren can stay healthy — no sure thing after missing 35 games in 2015-16 — he could work his way into becoming a fixture in fantasy lineups, although this level of production isn’t likely to continue.
Sergio Rodriguez, PG, Philadelphia 76ers (10.7% owned)
Jerryd Bayless entered training camp as the front-runner for the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting point guard job, but a torn ligament in his wrist is likely to keep him out for the first month of the season (if not longer). In his absence, Sergio Rodriguez has started both of the Sixers’ games to date, dropping 12 points, nine assists and four rebounds against OKC on Wednesday and following up with 14 points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
Once Bayless returns, he and Rodriguez may cannibalize each other’s fantasy value to the point where both are only relevant in deeper leagues. For the next few weeks, though, owners in need of help in points, assists and rebounds should continue trotting out “El Chacho,” as he’ll have little competition for ball-handling duties outside of T.J. McConnell.
Allen Crabbe, SG, Portland Trail Blazers (18.8% owned)
Ty Lawson, PG, Sacramento Kings (14.5% owned)
Tyler Johnson, PG/SG, Miami Heat (13.0% owned)
Roy Hibbert, C, Charlotte Hornets (12.2% owned)
Trevor Booker, PF, Brooklyn Nets (11.9% owned)