Special to Yahoo Sports
The first week of the season is generally the most reliable time to find a difference-maker floating on the waiver wire. Rest assured, the true diamonds in the rough, whether undrafted or prematurely dropped, won’t be widely available for long.
Chances are, rookies Alperen Sengun (60% rostered) and Chris Duarte (54% rostered) have already been scooped up in your fantasy league, along with veteran Will Barton (53% rostered). But here’s another bunch of players to consider snagging in the early stages of the campaign.
ALREADY ON MOST RADARS
Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks (42% rostered)
Atlanta might be the deepest team in the NBA, which hurts Huerter’s fantasy value. He finished with just six points, six boards, two dimes, and one block in 22 minutes during Thursday’s trouncing of the Mavericks, while fellow Hawks reserve Cam Reddish (19% rostered) turned up for 20 points in just 21 minutes. We all know the NBA is Where Amazing Happens, but it’s also unfortunately where injuries happen. As such, Huerter and Reddish are at the very least worth keeping an eye on for when (or more optimistically, if) the Hawks get bit by the injury bug.
Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks (39% rostered)
Brook Lopez (back) is already a bit banged up, and at 33 years of age, the Bucks would be wise to limit his workload during the regular season. Milwaukee doesn’t really have a true backup center, so that role is Portis’ for the taking once he’s healthy. Furthermore, Giannis Antetokounmpo is unlikely to play significant minutes at center before the playoffs. He could miss a few more games, but Portis (hamstring) should be a nightly double-double threat when healthy. Add him now while you still can.
Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets (38% rostered)
Mills was one of the only Nets who didn’t sleepwalk through Tuesday’s opener against the Bucks, as he splashed all seven of his three-point attempts while chipping in two boards, two dimes, one steal, and one block in 29 minutes. Unless Kyrie Irving returns, Mills will be relied upon for more scoring than expected when he signed with the Nets in August.
Eric Bledsoe, LA Clippers (38% rostered)
About a month ago, I went to bat for Bledsoe, suggesting him as a bounce-back candidate. In Thursday’s season opener against the Warriors, he made the case for himself, contributing 22 points, three boards, three steals, two assists, one trey, and one block across 30 minutes. A rough end to his tenure in Milwaukee, and a so-so 2020-21 season in New Orleans, damaged Bledsoe’s reputation, but he’s still a productive fantasy option when given the opportunity.
Terance Mann, LA Clippers (34% rostered)
With Nic Batum (personal) out, Mann logged 39 minutes off the bench in the season opener. Not only did he do a decent job cooling off Stephen Curry following a 25-point first quarter, but Mann amassed 11 points, seven boards, three dimes, two treys, and one steal. There will likely be fewer minutes for Mann on nights when the Clippers are at full strength, but he’s still worthy of consideration for a reserve spot in most formats.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers (31% rostered)
Rubio looked comfortable in his sixth-man role during Wednesday’s season-opening loss to the Grizzlies, recording 12 points, 10 assists, four boards, three treys, and one steal in 25 minutes. Coming off the bench could be an ideal role for Rubio, from a fantasy perspective, as he’s more likely to be highly involved offensively with the second unit. Finding assists on the waiver wire is usually a tough task — plus, Rubio has long been an underrated source of steals.
Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets (29% rostered)
Morris, who made my personal must-draft list, was subpar in the season opener, managing nine points, three assists, three treys, and two boards. Still, as the starting point guard on a Nuggets team that could be without Jamal Murray (knee) for the entire season, the stage is set for Morris to enjoy a career year. He’s especially valuable in nine-cat roto leagues.
Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs (16% rostered)
The offseason departure of DeMar DeRozan was bound to result in more opportunity for more established players like Derrick White and Keldon Johnson. Vassell, and to a lesser extent, Lonnie Walker (11% rostered), look like they could stand to benefit, as well. There will be only one more matchup against the lowly Magic this season — plus, Thaddeus Young is yet to make his debut — but Vassell was impressive in the season opener, supplying 19 points, five dimes, three treys, two boards, and two steals in 25 minutes.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (12% rostered)
The fact that Brunson is the backup point guard to the league’s most ball-dominant point forward (Luka Doncic) helps explain Brunson’s widespread availability. However, coming off last season, in which Brunson provided superb efficiency and decent counting stats, it’s still somewhat surprising that he’s rostered in such a small percentage of leagues. Although it was during a blowout loss, Brunson collected 17 points, three boards, three dimes, and three threes across 26 minutes in Thursday’s season opener.
Jordan Nwora, Milwaukee Bucks (8% rostered)
Pat Connaughton (21% rostered) and Grayson Allen (19% rostered) are more established players in the primes of their respective careers. Both offer higher fantasy floors than Nwora. However, if you already have a strong squad and an open roster spot that you prefer to shoot for upside with, Nwora is an intriguing prospect thanks to his ability to get buckets. Standing 6-foot-8, he boasts a considerable size advantage over Connaughton (6-foot-5) and Allen (6-foot-4), and there’s a universe (maybe not this one) where he shines so bright that he earns a sixth (or seventh) man super-scorer role even when the Bucks are closer to full strength. Given Milwaukee’s many injuries and the upcoming four-game slate for Week 2, all three make for solid streaming options, if nothing else.
Furkan Korkmaz, Philadelphia 76ers (7% rostered)
Korkmaz came alive in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s season opener, almost single-handedly turning a close, competitive contest into a runaway rout for the 76ers. Korkmaz essentially operated as the team’s backup point guard with Ben Simmons and Shake Milton (ankle) sidelined, generating 22 points, five assists, four treys, and one steal in 20 minutes. Most opposing defenses will provide more resistance than the Pelicans, but Korkmaz could sneakily be among the 76ers who stand to see his usage increase the most this season.