The NBA has returned to action following the All-Star break, and the regular season will continue at a very accelerated pace until wrapping up in mid-May. If you’re playing season-long fantasy basketball, it’s going to be extremely important to stay on top of player movement, rotation changes and players’ availability. Players’ roles and their value will continue to flux and fluctuate as the season unfolds, so make sure to keep a close eye on the waiver wire. Each week, you can find my top four pickups for season-long fantasy basketball leagues, with some other options to consider included at the bottom.
Looking at the coming week, 20 teams play a total of four games while nine teams play three times. The only outlier is the Los Angeles Lakers, who play a total of five games with back-to-back sets to start and finish the week. For short-term pickups, the Lakers should benefit from the extra work while other teams with only three games may be better long-term options but won’t help as much this week.
SG/SF Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets (vs. ATL, vs. GSW, vs. DET, vs. OKC)
The Cavaliers soured on Porter due to off-court issues and ultimately shipped the promising 20-year-old to Houston in exchange for a 2024 second-round draft pick. The Rockets sent him to the G-League bubble for a stint with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers before he made his season debut on Thursday coming out of the All-Star break. Porter made an instant impact, producing 13 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes off the bench. He got the start on Friday against the Jazz and played 38 minutes, producing 27 points, eight assists and three rebounds.
The Rockets have moved Porter from on the wing to playing PG, and he should continue to get a long look for Houston, which is shorthanded due to a myriad of injuries. The team is also thoroughly out of the playoff hunt and playing for the future, which now could include plenty of Porter. He had a 21.7% usage rate in his Rockets’ debut and saw that jump to 30.6% in Friday’s game in Utah. While he probably won’t carry quite that much of the load in every contest, he obviously has a very high, multi-category ceiling and makes a great addition for the coming week as the Rockets host four beatable, up-tempo opponents.
SG/SF Hamidou Diallo, Detroit Pistons, (vs. SAS, vs. TOR, at HOU, vs. CHI)
If you miss out on Porter since there was surely a rush to the waiver wire after those two games, a solid alternative to try and grab is Diallo, another young prospect who was just traded and could benefit from a change of scenery. Diallo was sent from the Thunder to the Pistons, who view the defensive specialist as a new addition to their core for the future. Coach Dwane Casey has been raving about Diallo and sees a big role for him as soon as he can join the team. Diallo is dealing with a groin injury and may have to clear health and safety protocols, but once he puts on a Pistons uniform, he should get a good workload.
Casey did admit that Diallo needs to develop his 3-point game and that will be an area of focus moving forward. In his 32 games with the Thunder this season, Diallo never made more than one 3-pointer in a game. He did show some offensive upside, though with double-digit points in 20 of those 32 games. Before playing minimal minutes in his final two games with OKC, Diallo averaged 27.4 minutes over a 17-game span and produced 13.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Like the Rockets, the Pistons are simply playing for the future for the rest of this season, so look for them to give Diallo a significant workload and plenty of chances to excel in their remaining games.
C Dwight Howard, Philadelphia 76ers, (vs. NYK, vs. MIL, vs. SAC, at NYK)
The 76ers avoided disaster since Joel Embiid (knee) didn’t sustain any structural damage to his knee on Friday night against the Wizards. However, the star center is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks, which will give Howard plenty of playing time for coach Doc Rivers in the short term. Tony Bradley is another solid option to add if you need center production, but I think Howard will end up with more of the work even though Bradley started Thursday when Embiid was in the health and safety protocols.
Howard played 24 minutes in that game Embiid missed and finished with a solid double-double of 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks. He played 18 minutes on Friday and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with six points and a block as well. Howard is reliable to be a monster on the glass when he’s on the floor and is producing 16.7 rebounds per 36 minutes this season, which would actually be a career-best rate for the eight-time All-Star. While he won’t be playing 36 minutes and probably can’t continue that pace, he should be a double-double threat and provide plenty of rebounds and blocks for the next few weeks. He isn’t a long-term option but can be a great stop-gap while Embiid is out.
PG/SG Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (vs. LAC, vs. LAC, at POR, at POR)
The Mavericks’ rotation has been tough to get a firm grasp on all season with multiple players injured or dealing with health and safety protocols. Brunson has been steady throughout, though, and he should continue to be a good source of production down the stretch, especially if the Mavs start managing Luka Doncic’s minutes and workload to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Brunson started in Doncic’s spot on Thursday and went off for 26 points, four rebounds and three assists, but he has also been regularly contributing off the bench.
Over his past 12 games, Brunson has averaged 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 28.1 minutes. He has averaged just under two three-pointers per game and scored at least 11 points in all but one of those 12 games. His usage rate obviously spikes when Doncic rests, but that usage rate sits at a solid 21.8% over those dozen games as he continues to show he has the trust of coach Rick Carlisle. Brunson is still widely available and one of the few PG pickups with both a high ceiling and a regular role on a good team.
Other options worth watching
- PF/C Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat
- SG Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota Timberwolves
- PG/SG De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies
- PG/SG Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets
- PF/C Maxi Kleber, Dallas Mavericks
- C Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs
- PG Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
- C Robert Williams, Boston Celtics
- PG Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder
- SF KJ Martin Jr., Houston Rockets
- SF/PF Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs
- PG/SG Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns
- C Tony Bradley, Philadelphia 76ers
- C Justin Patton, Houston Rockets
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