With the fantasy playoffs upon us, here are some big men to snag off the waiver wire.
Justin Hamilton, F/C Minnesota Timberwolves
Justin Hamilton is about to enter Ike Diogu terrain. That sentence, of course, requires an explanation.
When I was in college, my roommate—and one of my closest friends—was matched up against me in the final round. And because we let the season drag on entirely too long, it was the waiver-wire pickup of Ike Diogu that put the kibosh on my first-place squad—a spot I had held down since Week 3 of the season. And now with Anthony Bennett (ankle) out, Adreian Payne underwhelming and Nikola Pekovic (ankle) forever questionable for the remainder of the season, the ex-Miami Heat big man is in a good spot to thrive.
Before missing his last game with an illness, Hamilton had seen four straight games of at least 28 minutes—and 33-plus in his last three. His numbers over that stretch: 14.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.67 steals and 1.75 blocks on 23-of-45 (51.1 percent) from the floor. That’s clear production in five key categories across the spreadsheet. Not bad for a waiver wire pickup, right? Hamilton’s name might be forgettable, but his current game is not. All it takes is a clear path to minutes to make a player with talent relevant, and that’s exactly what Hamilton has found with his third team (Miami, New Orleans, now Minnesota) this season.
We’re at a juncture in the season where several folks have checked out on a league-wide basis in anticipation of the postseason, but don’t be one of those who just rides into the next round with the status quo as good enough. After all, you don’t want Justin Hamilton turning into your own personal Ike Diogu.
Brandan Wright, F/C Phoenix Suns
Talent has never been an issue with Brandan Wright.
Per-36 minutes, the former No. 8 pick is averaging 12.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.6 blocks on 58.9 percent shooting over 28 games since joining the Phoenix Suns. We don’t have to imagine what could happen if Wright were to become the main man in the middle for the team in the desert now. With Alex Len experiencing yet another ankle sprain that has kept him sidelined since last playing on March 13, it’s Wright’s time to shine.
In his first start for the injured Len, all Wright did was log a whopping 37 minutes and go off to a stat line of 18 points, 11 rebounds and a steal on 7-of-8 from the floor. That’s some impressive work for a “backup.” This isn’t meant to be a shot at Len—he’s a player who has made serious strides since his underwhelming rookie season—but at this stage of where we’re at in the fantasy season, all we want to see are numbers and results. There’s no reason to stash an injured player unless he’s absolutely critical to your team, and Alex Len simply doesn’t fit in that category.
While Jeff Hornacek has said that Len’s ankle is improving, it’s hard to be optimistic. This is the same player who has dealt with multiple ankle issues since before he was even taken off the draft board in 2013, and we’re still expressing some of those same concerns nearly two years later. With the Suns rapidly slipping out of the crowded Western Conference postseason picture, there’s little reason for Phoenix to be aggressive.
Even when Len does return this season, expect a conservative course of action. That means more minutes for Wright regardless of his role, and given his ability to contribute in key defensive categories while serving to boost the field goal percentage, I’m happily rolling the dice on now being the Wright time.
Steven Adams, C Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is still experiencing soreness in his twice-surgically repaired foot and remains without a clear timetable to return. Enes Kanter (ankle, wrist) was banged up in Wednesday night’s affair and Serge Ibaka (knee) is out four-to-six weeks after a surprise surgical procedure earlier this week.
Remember Steven Adams? We were all talking about him when the season began. It’s time to talk about him once again.
The taller half of the “Bruise Brothers” tandem has come back from his broken hand at the perfect time. Although it took him a few games to shake out the rust, Adams has been impressive over his last three contests with two double-doubles and averages of 14.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals on 16-of-30 (53 percent) from the field. Now with just the veteran Nick Collison and the rookie Mitch McGary to assist him along the frontline as his team heals around him, Adams suddenly finds himself playing an integral role once again.
While his game isn’t one designed to be seen on SportsCenter’s highlights, Adams is someone available in a lot of leagues right now, a cheap source of rebounds and should improve with his rim protection as he continues to get more comfortable. The Kiwi was out for a full month before his return on March 8, so it’s a good sign that he’s already finding his rhythm after just five games back.
Considering we’re in or about to enter the postseason, a big man with double-double potential who contributes in both defensive categories is a clear-cut, no-brainer snag worth making.