Injuries are the leading story on the Week 8 waiver wire. A wave of injuries have opened up several great opportunities around the league, and many players have quickly asserted themselves as worthwhile pickups. While most of the key injuries are only temporary, at least one – Rodney Hood – is out for the rest of the season.
It's a straightforward week, schedule-wise. The Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Spurs and Wizards each play only two games, which hurts their appeal in weekly lineups leagues. However, since all four play on either Tuesday's or Thursday's short slates – the Blazers play on both – they maintain some attractiveness in daily leagues. Just over half the league, 16 teams, plays four games.
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.
Mo Wagner, Wizards (51 percent rostered)
Thomas Bryant (foot) was off to a great start this season before suffering a "stress reaction" last week. He is likely to miss about another month, if not more. Wagner had already become a regular in this column, though usually with the caveat that he was only worth it in deep leagues. Well, with Bryant's injury, Wagner has been promoted to the starting lineup and has seen his workload increase from 19.4 to 28.5 minutes per game. He's already averaging 12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in those games, and that's despite a limited offensive load in his first game as a starter when he was focused more on trying to limit Joel Embiid. Wagner should be rostered in all leagues until Bryant comes back.
Wagner isn't the only beneficiary here, however. Davis Bertans (75 percent rostered) was already widely rostered and highly valuable as one of the league's best 3-point specialists, and Bryant's injury bumps him up to an all-leagues must-add. He's too widely rostered to qualify for this article on his own, but he's still available in a quarter of leagues, so he's worth mentioning. He's up to 21.7 points, 5.3 3s and 1.3 blocks in 36.7 minutes without Bryant.
Kent Bazemore, Trail Blazers (28 percent rostered)
I've never been a big Bazemore booster, but the Trail Blazers are going to need him over the next few months. Rodney Hood (Achilles) had been starting and averaging 30.5 minutes per game, but he's now out for the year. Bazemore is the next man up, and he's one of the few members of Portland's wing depth chart who has looked competent over the first month and a half of the season. Hood suffered the injury Friday, and the Blazers haven't had another game yet, so this is technically all speculation. That said, it would be shocking to see anyone other than Bazemore enter the starting lineup, and his per-minute production implies that he's likely put up something in the range of 11-ish points, sixish rebounds, twoish assists and 3s, and roughly one steal and one block per game going forward. He's a rest-of-season add.
De'Anthony Melton, Grizzlies (15 percent rostered)
We don't know how long Ja Morant (back) will be out. The team's updates over the weekend imply that he could be close to returning. But he's only missed four games, and his initial prognosis was that he was "week-to-week" with back spasms. Given that the Grizzlies are one of the worst teams in the league, and that they need to stay in the bottom six of June's draft to keep their pick, many (myself included) assumed that "week-to-week" meant "we're definitely holding him out for several weeks". And as long as he is out, Melton and Tyus Jones (26 percent rostered) are worthwhile pickups.
Melton has been the better option so far, averaging a well-rounded 9.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals, despite seeing limited action in one of the four games due to early foul trouble. If Melton is already unavailable, or if you are specifically focused on bolstering your team's assist numbers, then Jones is a solid option. He's taken over as the starter in Morant's absence, averaging 5.8 assists per game. Jones hasn't done much else, though he was a solid source of steals earlier in his career, so maybe those will increase as we get a larger sample size.
Ish Smith, Wizards (31 percent rostered)
Always a backup, never a bride. Or something like that. Once again, an injury above him on a shallow depth chart has elevated Smith into a bigger role in the rotation, and a bigger role in our hearts. Or lineups. Trying to keep the forced wedding analogy going, you know? With both Jordan McRae (finger) and Isaiah Thomas (calf) out the last two games, Smith has averaging 17.0 points, 8.0 assists and 2.0 3s in 33.0 minutes per game.
McRae is out for a minimum of two weeks due to a minor surgery. Thomas' timeline is less certain, but the last time the former All-NBA point guard rushed back from an injury it ruined two years of his career. Thomas is already out for at least one more game, and it seems likely he'd miss more. We won't care about Smith once the wedding celebration – or his time as a starter – is over, but for now he's an excellent source of assists and points.
If Mo Bamba was getting more minutes, he'd be listed before Smith, but Smith pulls ahead due to Bamba's recent minutes dip.
Khem Birch (10 percent rostered) and Mo Bamba (31 percent rostered)
On a per-minute basis, Bamba would be the easy choice here. He's averaging 12.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 1.7 3s per-36 minutes, all of which significantly outpace Birch. But in the eight games since Nikola Vucevic (ankle) went down, Birch has taken a massive lead in workload.
Over the first three Vucevic-less games, the margin was 26.3 minutes for Birch compared to 21.3 for Bamba – at that split, Bamba was still the better Fantasy option. But over the last five games, the margin has spread to 29.0-17.0. At that split Birch finally becomes rosterable, averaging 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steals – though he remains a massive scoring negative with just 4.6 points per game. Bamba is so talented that, even at just 17.0 minutes per game, he remains a waiver wire target, primarily on the strength of his 1.6 blocks and the fact that all it takes is a tiny boost in court time for him to rank among the league leaders in rejections. Vucevic is expected to miss at least another week and a half, and potentially longer.
Adds for all leagues
P.J.Tucker (62 percent rostered) and Danuel House (55 percent rostered)
These two are available in less than half of leagues, but they still qualify for this article – and they shouldn't. Both of them rank in the top-55 in per-game production for nine-category leagues, and top-80 for eight-category leagues. It's obvious why their roster rates are still low: they don't score much. But, in the context of their major contributions everywhere else, they score more than enough to hold water.
Norman Powell, Raptors (43 percent rostered)
Kyle Lowry has been back for two games, and he immediately returned to his full workload – he's played more than 40 minutes in both games. While Lowry was out, I though his return would doom Powell's Fantasy value, but – at least so far – I appear to have been mistaken. Powell moved to the bench, but he still averaged 29.5 minutes, 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Granted, the first of those games went to overtime, and Powell's minutes dropped in the second, but Powell only added two points and one rebound in the extra period, so it barely made a difference. It looks like Powell will maintain a major role in this rotation, meaning he should maintain a role in your roster.
Duncan Robinson, Heat (18 percent rostered)
Like Powell, Robinson is someone who's value has unexpectedly survived the improving health of his teammates. Earlier in the season, Robinson was banished to the bench in games when both Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow were active. But Robinson has apparently moved himself ahead of rookie Tyler Herro on the depth chart, as it has been Herro who has suffered from the return of Butler and Winslow.
Since Thanksgiving, there have been four games with all four players active. In those, Robinson averaged 14.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 3s in 27.5 minutes; Herro averaged just 8.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 3s in 21.5 minutes. Robinson remains wildly inconsistent, but his good nights make up for his bad ones and his averages are worth rostering for most managers.
Other recommendations: Garrett Temple, Nets (25 percent rostered); Jaxson Hayes, Pelicans (24 percent rostered); Damian Jones, Hawks (9 percent rostered); Terrence Ross, Magic (26 percent rostered); Kris Dunn, Bulls (26 percent rostered); Ben McLemore, Rockets (13 percent rostered)