It’s a somber start to Week 9 in the NBA with our Lord and Savior Luka Doncic going down with an ankle injury. Doncic is expected to miss some time, so there will be places to target on the Dallas Mavericks for value in the back court. We’ve also seen a couple other guards solidify roles for teams lately, including the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks. Our focus will start with the Mavericks and how to approach losing Luka in the short term for your fantasy basketball team. Let’s take a look at some top players to target on the waiver wire for Week 9.
Jalen Brunson, PG, Dallas Mavericks (1.3 percent owned on ESPN)
With Doncic out there are a few options to consider. Brunson is the most obvious one, with Delon Wright and J.J. Barea also in the mix to pick up more minutes. But if Saturday night’s second half vs. the Heat told us anything, it’s that Brunson is the guy. He played 34 minutes and finished with 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Brunson’s per 36 minute stats are pretty eye-opening: 17.3 points, 6.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds on average. I think Brunson will start this week with Dallas on a tough stretch, but it’s four games. I think Brunson is the initial pickup and I’d keep an eye on Wright and Barea.
Ben McLemore, SG, Houston Rockets (5.2 percent)
I’m sticking with guards and I’m going to ignore a few players who are higher owned on ESPN (Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, T.J. Warren). I think those are obvious pickups. McLemore has carved out a role for the Rockets recently with their rotation pretty thin. In the month of December so far, McLemore is averaging 16.4 points in 30.3 minutes per game while shooting 50.6% from the field and 44.6% from distance. With Russell Westbrook resting over the weekend, McLemore played 33 minutes in the starting lineup and scored 13 points. He’s starting to look more like the player we thought he’d be out of college, and he’s essentially taken Eric Gordon’s role off the bench. As long as Gordon and Austin Rivers are behind him, McLemore is worth owning in deep leagues.
Elfrid Payton, PG, New York Knicks (8.0 percent)
Payton returned from injury on Dec. 5 and had been in a lesser role with coach David Fizdale still at the helm. With Fizdale out, Payton has seen more minutes, combining to play 57 over the past two games. He has double-digit fantasy points in three of the past four games. Payton is a triple-double threat when he’s getting big usage and playing time, which could be on the horizon with the Knicks’ season basically meaningless. New York has a tough schedule this week and only three games (vs. ATL, @ MIA, vs. MIL), but picking up Payton is more of a long-term move anyway.