Not even a week into the 2015-16 NBA season, it’s too early to make major panic moves with your fantasy basketball roster. No, Anthony Davis isn’t performing like the No. 1 overall pick quite yet, but you shouldn’t go sell him off for a hot-starter like C.J. McCollum. Unless you dig yourself into an extremely deep hole over the next few weeks, it’s best to wait it out with any struggling top-tier guys before making a reactionary move.
For your end-of-the-roster spots, though, it’s never too early to start looking for upgrades on the waiver wire. Some early-season surprises can be valuable long-term additions to your roster, while others may fall back to earth after a scorching start. Regardless, it’s worth taking a gamble if your last one or two players aren’t contributing much, especially if you need help in a particular category.
Each Sunday at Today’s Fastbreak, we’ll be scanning the waiver wire to highlight five such players who could be worth a pickup. All five will always be owned in 50 percent or fewer of ESPN.com leagues. While few will wind up swinging your leagues the way Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert did last season, you can’t win the waiver-wire lottery without consistently dipping your toes in the water.
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF, Portland Trail Blazers (48.3% owned)
If Aminu is still on your league’s waiver wire, go ahead and rectify that immediately. He’s topped 30 minutes in each of the Blazers’ three games to date and is averaging 13.7 points (on 43.3 percent shooting), 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 treys, 1.3 blocks and 0.3 steals thus far, making him perhaps the most desirable fantasy free agent owned in fewer than 50 percent of leagues. He’s currently 27th on ESPN’s Player Rater, just ahead of DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant.
Aminu was never much of a three-point shooter during his three years in New Orleans, attempting a grand total of 114 triples over that span, but Portland appears intent on unleashing him from deep this year. Though Aminu won’t be a primary offensive weapon for the Blazers — Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have that role locked down — he appears poised to take advantage of the defensive attention opponents must pay to his two backcourt teammates.
Robert Covington, SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers (47.8% owned)
So, apparently, owners have been rushing to drop Covington, as his ownership percentage plummeted by 18.4 percentage points over the past week. If you’re in a league where that’s the case, take advantage of your opponents’ early-season overreaction by scooping him up, as he’s a near-lock to provide top 80 value once he gets up to full speed after suffering a sprained right MCL during the preseason. (Covington is likely to make his season debut Monday, per Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News.)
Last season, RoCo finished 65th on ESPN’s Player Rater despite not playing a game until mid-November and shooting below 40 percent from the floor. With Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel commanding significant attention down low, the 76ers need shooters to bomb away from deep, and Covington will be all too happy to oblige, having attempted 6.4 treys per game last year. Owners in roto leagues might not be willing to punt on a roster spot, but those in head-to-head leagues — particularly if your league has an IR spot — should rush to scoop up the Tennessee State product if another owner foolishly dropped him.
Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C, Sacramento Kings (26.8% owned)
It didn’t take much time for Cauley-Stein to begin making a fantasy impact, as the rookie moved into the Kings’ starting lineup after a quiet debut and immediately rewarded head coach George Karl’s faith. During his first start, Cauley-Stein went off for 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, nine rebounds, three blocks, a steal and an assist in 30 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers. The next night, he followed up with eight points, nine boards, three steals and a block in 23 minutes against the Clippers.
As with any rookie, Cauley-Stein is bound to fluctuate somewhat wildly throughout the season, so fantasy owners shouldn’t expect major offensive contributions from him. Those in need of an early-season infusion of rebounds, steals or blocks, though, should strongly consider picking him up, as he came into the league with the reputation of being a defensive-minded big and has done nothing to disprove that during the first week of the season.
Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Utah Jazz (16.9% owned)
Hood was wildly undervalued throughout the draft process, as fears of a crowded backcourt led him to often going entirely undrafted in shallower 10- or 12-team leagues. Fantasy owners who watched the Jazz after the All-Star break last year, however, shouldn’t be surprised by Hood’s hot start to the season, as he put up 11.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.6 treys and 0.8 steals over the final 26 games of the 2014-15 campaign.
The Duke product edged out Alec Burks for Utah’s starting 2-guard spot, and through three games, there’s no reason to expect him to give it up any time soon. To date, he’s averaging 15.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 treys, despite having gone 0-of-7 from deep in the season opener. You aren’t likely to get many defensive stats (steals or blocks) from Hood, but owners in need of threes should snap him up quickly.
Langston Galloway, PG/SG, New York Knicks (13.7% owned)
Heading into the season, Galloway’s fantasy value was a major question mark. He put up huge numbers toward the end of the 2014-15 campaign, but he was one of the Knicks’ primary options with Carmelo Anthony sidelined following the All-Star break. With Anthony back in the fold, plus a host of free-agent additions such as Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez and Derrick Williams, Galloway’s fantasy stock appeared to be on the decline.
As it turns out, however, Galloway may still have a fantasy pulse. He’s played at least 25 minutes in each of the Knicks’ first three contests, averaging 12.7 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.7 treys and 0.7 steals a night. Though the three-point shooting is bound to regress — he’s currently knocking down 66.7 percent of his looks from downtown — Galloway should still be a reliable source of points, rebounds, assists, treys and the occasional defensive stat.
Deeper League Adds:
Marvin Williams, SF, Charlotte Hornets (20.7% owned)
Ian Mahinmi, C, Indiana Pacers (19.6% owned)
Kyle O’Quinn, PF, New York Knicks (16.8% owned)
Langston Galloway, PG/SG, New York Knicks (13.7% owned)
Tony Allen, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies (10.2% owned)
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com and are current through Saturday, Oct. 31.