Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Dec. 31
It’s the last day of 2017 as I write this, so Happy New Year from the fantasy corner of Off The Glass.
A new year also brings the start of a new week, so here are my five waiver wire adds as the calendar flips to January.
Note: All stats, trends, etc. are through action on Saturday, Dec. 30.
5. Jordan Bell, PF/C, Golden State Warriors
Bell has become a find for the Warriors, with solid across the board production (8.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game) over his last 10 games (seven starts).
Bell has moved back to the bench over the last couple games with Zaza Pachulia’s return from injury. But he seems sure to maintain a solid role, and if an injury opens up playing time again there’s upside potential as even a smaller cog in the Golden State machine.
Bell belongs on fantasy watchlists, at least, but he is a good depth add in most league sizes and formats.
Yahoo! Ownership: 40% ESPN Ownership: 19.7%
4. Tyler Johnson, SG/PG, Miami Heat
Johnson had a season-high 31 points (12-for-18 from the floor, 3-for-4 from beyond the arc), with four rebounds and three assists, against the Orland Magic on Saturday night. Over the last five games, with Dion Waiters and James Johnson mostly sidelined, he is averaging 19.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while also averaging 35 minutes and 15.6 shots per game over that span.
Waiters and Johnson don’t seem especially close to returning, and Justise Winslow is also banged up. So Johnson should keep starting games, with plenty of shots and usage available to take (at least in the short-term).
Johnson is eligible at both backcourt spots, which adds to his fantasy utility. His recent hot streak is not sustainable, but there’s not much standing in the way of solid fantasy value even after Miami gets players back healthy.
Yahoo! Ownership: 49% ESPN Ownership: 21.2%
3. Ish Smith, PG, Detroit Pistons
Reggie Jackson is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a right ankle injury, which open up Detroit’s starting spot at point guard for Smith. Right on cue, in two starts since Jackson was sidelined, Smith is averaging 18 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 16.5 field goal attempts per game while averaging over 31 minutes per contest.
Smith was a useful fantasy point guard a couple years ago with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 12.6 points, 6.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game over 77 games (53 starts). In those 53 starts specifically, he averaged 14.6 points, 7.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Until Jackson returns, which could be the end of February, Smith is in line to be a solid across the board fantasy contributor. That makes him one of this week’s best, and most obvious, waiver wire adds. Yahoo! Ownership: 41% ESPN Ownership: 24.5%
2. Tyus Jones, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
In the four games he has started this season, Jones is averaging 10.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. He will be making a lot more starts going forward, with Jeff Teague out for at least the next few weeks with a left knee injury.
Tom Thibodeau’s reliance on his starters has extended to Jones when necessary, with an average of nearly 39 minutes per game in those aforementioned games.
Jones suffered a dislocated pinkie late in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks last Thursday night, but it is not expected to be an issue.
Jones new role while Teague is out would make him No. 1 on this list most weeks. But this is not most weeks.
Yahoo! Ownership: 30% ESPN Ownership: 12.8%
1. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Thomas is set to make his Cavaliers’ debut sometime this coming week, either Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers or Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics.
Ownership rates in the neighborhood of 50 percent is generally the dividing line for this waiver wire list. But Thomas is an exception, as the third-leading scorer in the league last year (28.9 points per game) while averaging 5.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds per contest.
Just how well Thomas will fit in Cleveland is a question, and he’ll probably be eased back into action. But he should be owned in all fantasy leagues, and it’s worth checking to see if he is available in yours.
Yahoo! Ownership: 92% ESPN Ownership: 89.8%