The NBA regular season is ready to tip off a new week and a new month on Monday, and they continue to get in as many games as possible despite some ongoing schedule juggling required as teams deal with the fallout from the pandemic. With the health and safety protocols in addition to the regular injuries taking players out of action, there has been even more volatility in teams’ rotations than usual this season. That constant shifting has resulted in players stepping into new roles each week and boosting their fantasy value. To stay on top of all the shifting value, you have to stay very plugged into the waiver wire.
Each week, I’ve been dropping my top for pickups for season-long fantasy basketball leagues, with some other options to consider included at the bottom. If you have specific questions about your roster or format, you can find me on Twitter @ZT_Sports, where I’ll be happy to let you know what I would do in your situation.
It shapes up to be a very busy week this week in the NBA with every team currently scheduled for either three or four games. In fact, 22 of the 30 teams are scheduled to have four contests, so any addition you grab will have a chance to make an immediate impact. Here are the four names at the top of my waiver wire search list headed into the first week of February.
C Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets (at MIA, vs. PHI, vs. UTA, vs. WAS)
After breaking his hand in the season opener, Zeller was dropped in many leagues, and even where he was stashed on IR, he was often dropped when he returned with limited time off the bench. Now that he’s back in the Hornets’ starting lineup, though, he’s a very solid source of center production. In his three starts coming into the upcoming week, Zeller has averaged 29.9 minutes per game and produced 9.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and has even chipped in 4.0 assists.
On Saturday, Zeller had a season-high 15 rebounds in his season-high 34 minutes against the Bucks. He has a defensive rebound percentage over 28% in four of his past five games, so if his minutes remain high, he should be able to keep cleaning the glass. His usage rate isn’t extremely high with the Hornets’ guards doing most of the lifting on offense, but he chips in solid points to go with his role down low. He also has room to continue to improve his shooting in the coming weeks as he gets more settled into his spot.
PF Thaddeus Young, Chicago Bulls, (vs. NYK, vs. NYK, at ORL, at ORL)
With Wendell Carter Jr. (quad) expected to miss four weeks due to a severe quad bruise, Young has been logging more minutes at center, and the veteran big man has been chipping in solid contributions. In each of his past two games, he has played over 28 minutes and narrowly missed a double-double. He finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, a steal and a block against the Celtics last Monday, shooting a red-hot 8-of-11 from the field. On Saturday, Young cooled off and made just 3-of-10 shots from the field, but he had 11 rebounds and 11 assists to go with his eight points. Seven of those 11 rebounds came on the offensive end, where Young has at least four boards in four of his past five games.
Young’s rebounding percentage isn’t quite as high as Zeller’s, but he should also be very heavily involved over the Bulls’ four games this week. If he keeps handing out so many assists, he could actually be a better pickup than Zeller, depending on your team needs. This week, Young gets a pair of games against the Knicks and a pair against the Magic, so even as he comes off the bench he should be a key contributor.
PG/SG Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks (at CHI, at CHI, vs. POR, vs. MIA)
Quickley was highlighted in this space a few weeks ago and he continues to flash huge upside as instant offense on the Knicks’ second unit. The late first-round pick out of Kentucky has scored double-digit points in six of his nine most recent games, including massive games this past week with 25 points against the Cavs and a career-high 31 points against the Blazers. A rematch against Portland is one of his four games on tap this week, and he also gets a pair of favorable matchups against the Bulls.
Grabbing Quickley definitely can raise your team’s ceiling in scoring, but be ready for some ups and downs as well. In between those two big games, the rookie shot just 1-of-11 from the field and managed just six points against the Jazz. The fact that he still gets that kind of volume is actually a good sign, but he has been boom-or-bust from game to game. He also could hurt your FG% at times, but his scoring potential is huge. The Knicks have a ton of backcourt depth, but moving forward, he should continue to grow into a larger role since he’s such a big part of the Knicks’ future plans.
PG/SG Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder (vs. HOU, vs. HOU, vs. MIN, vs. MIN)
Another promising rookie PG that could be a great grab at this point is the Thunder’s second-round pick Maledon. The Frenchman is still just 19 years old but has shown some nice promise while filling in the past three games while George Hill (thumb) has been sidelined. With Hill a prime trade candidate later in the season, Maledon should get an expanded role at some point, even if he does get squeezed for minutes when Hill returns.
Maledon has made three starts and averaged 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 0.7 steals in his 28.3 minutes over those three games. He went a scorching 6-for-6 on three-point shots in his most recent game against the Nets, when he scored 24 points to go with three boards and three assists. The Thunder lost but 22 points, but Maledon could be in that situation with plenty of garbage time to grow in as the season progresses. He has some great matchups this week against the Rockets and Timberwolves, so he’s a great short-term add for while Hill is out, and the Thunder are starting to realize how high the ceiling is for the mentee of Tony Parker. Coach Mark Daigneault heaped praise on him after Friday’s games saying, “He’s wise beyond his years. We want to make sure to discover where his ceiling is as a player.” Look for him to continue to be very involved both on and off the ball as the Thunder continue to find pieces for their future.
Other options worth watching
- PG/SG Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs
- SG Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
- PG/SG Reggie Jackson, Los Angeles Clippers
- SG/SF Jeremy Lamb, Indiana Pacers
- PG/SG De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies
- SG/SF Gary Trent Jr., Portland Trail Blazers
- SG/SF Wayne Ellington, Detroit Pistons
- PG/SG Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers
- SF/PF/C Jeff Green, Brooklyn Nets
- PF/C Marcus Morris Sr., Los Angeles Clippers
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