Are you looking for a big man? I hope you're looking for a big man. Because bigs dominated the waiver wire this week, while very few guards and wings warrant much attention.
As always, the players in this article must be rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues. Players are listed in the order that I recommend adding them, assuming they are equally good fits for your team.
Adds for All Leagues
Hope for the best but plan for the worst. The oft-injured Derrick Favors (hamstring) suffered a soft-tissue injury and has already missed one game. They are dealing with him on a game-to-game basis, so could return as early as Monday, sapping most of the value out of a Hayes pickup. But my expectation is that Favors will miss at least a few more.
Without Favors on Saturday, the Pelicans went with a wing-heavy rotation, and Hayes played 26 minutes and was the only power forward or center to play more than 20. Hayes is a great defender and a pretty good scorer and rebounder. If he can keep his minutes in the high 20s while Favors is out, he should average roughly 12 points, six rebounds, and two stocks (steals plus blocks) per game. That's assuming the rookie lottery pick maintains his season-to-date per-minute production.
There's a chance he does even better than that. Over his last three games – the game before the Favors injury, the game Favors got injured, and the game without Favors – Hayes is averaging 17.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.
Blake Griffin (foot) underwent surgery last week. The team didn't give a specific timeline, but it seems likely he'd miss a month at the absolute minimum, and probably more like two or three. His absence creates a massive hole in the Pistons rotation, otherwise known as a massive Fantasy opportunity. Yet, while the surgery was last week, Griffin has already missed seven games due to the injury. Doumbouya jumped from out of the rotation to Griffin's replacement in the starting lineup, and he's had inconsistent success in his new role. That said, for a rookie campaign that's basically just six games in, there's reason for optimism: double-digit points in five of six games, two double-doubles, and the potential to be a "1-1-1" (one steal, one block and one three per game; he's averaging 1.0, 0.5 and 1.3 as a starter). Assuming he keeps this starting role while Griffin is out, Doumbouya looks like a solid add with a lot of upside.
If Doumbouya starts to falter, then Christian Wood (39 percent rostered) would be the pickup here. He's just as inconsistent as Doumbouya, but Wood's per-36 production is decisively better. Since Griffin went down, Doumbouya is averaging 30.2 minutes to Wood's 21.9. Wood will need that to flip to be worth rostering in most leagues, though it's okay to pick him up on a speculative basis if you have a free roster spot.
All three of theses Wizards' backcourt players are close to the border for inclusion in this article, and none of them feel likely to maintain their recent production. That said, all three are on a solid run of late, and warrant attention. Brown has the most appeal, scoring in double-digits in 13 of his last 15 games and averaging an all-around solid 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds. 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 threes. He also has three double-doubles in his last four games
McRae is the one I'm least confident in long-term, but his current value is arguably the highest. In seven games since returning from injury the day after Christmas, he's averaging 20.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 threes – and that includes his minutes-restricted first game back. As skeptical as I am that he can keep it going, it's pretty rare to find a 20-point scorer on waivers, and he should be added for as long as it lasts. Smith's value might be the most stable, though it's probably lower than the other two. Since returning to the plays-the-most-point-guard-minutes-but-comes-off-the-bench role eight games ago, he's averaging 17.0 points, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals. That scoring figure is inflated by two weird games where the 10-year vet scored the most and third-most points in his career. That said, Smith is still a solid source of assists who can help out in scoring, rebounding, and steals without hurting in FG% or threes.
Another injury fill-in situation, Gafford and Young have been the main beneficiaries of the Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) injury. Carter has already missed three games, and he is expected to miss four-to-six weeks. Young started in the first game without Carter, while Gafford started the next two. Both have put up one great game and two bad games during this stretch, but despite that it's highly likely that at least one of these will become a solid Fantasy guy as long as Carter is out.
My guess is Gafford wins out, but it could still go either way. Gafford saw the bigger increase in minutes during the game Carter got hurt, and he started two of the three since, so the team has shown more interest in making him the guy here. Looking only at the games Gafford has played more than 17 minutes, he scored in double-digits in all but two and averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Young was a top-70 player as recently as last season, so it's reasonable to assume he still has the ability to put up good numbers, but he'll have to win the minutes battle to become the better add, and his minutes have gone down in each of the three Carter-less games.
Other recommendations: Darius Garland, Cavaliers (58 percent rostered); Jae Crowder, Grizzlies (55 percent rostered); Jarrett Culver, Timberwolves (40 percent rostered); Trevor Ariza, Kings (7 percent rostered); Kris Dunn, Bulls (44 percent rostered)
I've been a pretty big Powell booster since the preseason. I've repeated my, "He was a top-40 player after entering the starting lineup last season" stat so many times I don't even need to look it up anymore. So, you can imagine my delight at seeing Powell's recent uptick in play. He's back into the top-80 over the last three weeks. Maybe I over-hyped him, but finally some vindication – I wasn't crazy after all!
But Powell's surge isn't so clear cut. Most of this improved play has come with Kristaps Porzingis (knee) out, and it seems like Porzingis might be close to a return (NBA injury reporting remains The Worst). Is Powell's surge just a reaction to Porzingis' injury, and he's destined to become a drop once Porzingis returns? Or was Powell in a prolonged slump, and he's finally breaking out of it?
On the pro-Powell side, the best evidence is that Powell's surge started before the Porzingis injury. Powell was actually better in the last four games with Porzingis than he's been in the seven games without. Furthermore, Powell's workload hasn't really changed because of the injury. Powell averages just 3.7 extra minutes when Porzingis is out, and the change is even smaller if you just compare the last seven games with Porzingis to the last seven without him. The recent boost in Powell's play isn't due to a roughly 10% boost in minutes – his rebounds are up 42%, his blocks up 62%, and his steals up 80% over the last 11 games. He's playing much better.
On the other hand, it's easy to tie Powell's increased scoring to Porzingis' absence. Furthermore, there is a ton of evidence implying that steals and blocks are heavily influenced by a player's role, so it's possible that Powell's increases in those stats are also more about Porzingis' absence than a resurgence in play – but that's something we just won't know until Porzingis is back.
The bottom line: I'm willing to add back Powell in almost all leagues, but I see a very reasonable counter-argument in favor of ignoring him. There is considerable upside, but there are also some high value pickups this week that you'd probably have to pass on in order to get Powell.
Deep League Special
It's not really clear how much of Spellman's current value is related to the Warriors' letting go of Marquese Chriss last week. Chriss was getting solid minutes in arguably the league's least intimidating frontcourt, but they had to let him go in order to make room for guard Damion Lee. Whether or not Chriss' release is relevant, Spellman has averaged 14.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals over his last five games. There's plenty of reasons to doubt his ability to keep this going – he's playing only 22.0 minutes, and Spellman hasn't shown any of this ability in his previous season and a half – but in a deep league, you take this kind of production where you can get it.