As the dust settles after a busy trade deadline, a lot of familiar names are back at the top of this week's waiver wire recommendations. The new rotations are settling, and several players have risen to Fantasy relevance.
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
Chuma Okeke, Magic (68% rostered)
I'm cheating by including Okeke, but he needs to be mentioned. He's a must-add in all settings. He's averaging 16-7-3 on top of 2.0 3s and 2.3 stocks (steals plus blocks) while playing 32.3 minutes per night. You could keep a straight face while arguing that he's the best healthy player on the Magic right now (not sure that you should, but that's a different question). He's the best rest-of-season pickup available, if he's still available at all. He's "go check for him before finishing this column" good. If you miss out on Okeke but still want a piece of the Orlando "wait, who's starting for them?" Magic, Dwayne Bacon (24% rostered) is a solid consolation prize.
Jae'Sean Tate, Rockets (66% rostered)
Will this be the last time I get to sing Tate's praises? He's finally at the roster-rate cutoff for this column. You've heard it all before from me: Tate plays tons of minutes, the tanking Rockets will keep that going, and even when he doesn't score he still contributes in a ton of other areas.
If we're being honest, the main reason I included Tate this week, instead of just rounding up and pretending he was ineligible, is so that I could have a place to talk about his teammate who I'm not recommending, Kelly Olynyk (55% rostered). Olynyk's roster rate is on the rise after a solid first three games with his new team. But when Christian Wood returned to action Wednesday, Olynyk fell out of the starting lineup and played only 25 minutes. He was still relatively effective, but I wouldn't count on him to remain productive when Wood is active.
Hamidou Diallo, Pistons (57% rostered)
Here's another favorite you've heard me drone on and on about before. Diallo finally made his Pistons debut last week. He's still working his way back into shape and was limited in the first game. He was awesome in the next two, though, averaging 19-9-3 with 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.5 3s in just 26.5 minutes. The only reason he isn't this week's top add is that he might sit one game of back-to-backs the rest of the season. But he's a dynamo and his minutes may continue increasing.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Pelicans (54% rostered)
Maybe I have an affinity for people with "Alex" in their name. And also for waiver pickups averaging 20 points per game. Walker's been excellent starting in place of Lonzo Ball (hip), averaging 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 3.8 3s in 34.7 minutes – in addition to those 20 points. His workload will inevitably take a hit when Ball comes back, which could be [waves hands frustratedly] whenever, but he's established himself as a crucial piece as the Pelicans try to surge their way into the playoffs. I'd be shocked if Alexander-Walker went back to less than 23ish minutes per game once Ball is healthy.
Jalen Brunson, Mavericks (26% rostered)
Guys. I thought we talked about this. Two weeks ago, I told you not to be discouraged by a few down games and to hold on. Well, his roster rate went down since then, so I know some of you didn't listen. Hopefully he's still there for you.
Brunson is back to 30-plus minutes in four of his past five games, averaging 18.3 points in those four. The fifth game was a blowout, and no player saw more than 28 minutes. Whatever was happening that led to that small blip in Brunson's workload, it seems to be over now, and we can go back to relying upon one of this season's breakout waiver pickups.
Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (27% rostered)
McDaniels is similar to Brunson in a few ways. Both of them have emerged, somewhat unexpectedly, as players who look like long-term rotation pieces. Both of them are good Fantasy adds, but who probably have more on-court value than translates to our silly numbers game. And, finally, that real-basketball ability extends their Fantasy viability by increasing their minutes on the floor, even if their production lags.
McDaniels' current surge is happening with Josh Okogie (COVID-19 protocols) and D'Angelo Russell (knee) sidelined. Minnesota is doing a good job of keeping up the farce that Russell will return this season, but that's just not happening – the Timberwolves lose their draft pick if it falls outside the top three. To borrow a line from the E-Trade baby, the odds of Russell returning this season are about the same as the odds of getting mauled by a polar bear and a regular bear on the same day.
Okogie's return, which could come as soon as Friday, could hurt McDaniels, but the latter was already averaging 24.3 minutes in the seven games before Okogie's absence. As the Timberwolves lean further into the tank, I expect them to continue giving extra minutes to McDaniels, who now looks like he could be a part of their long-term plans.
Moses Brown (87% rostered)
Isaiah Roby (31% rostered)
Aleksej Pokusevski (40% rostered)
Theo Maledon (44% rostered)
Kenrich Williams (9% rostered)
Svi Mykhailiuk (7% rostered)
The Rockets may have been the first team to embrace tanking this season, and the Timberwolves may need to tank the most, but as with most things involving Sam Presti, the Thunder are more professional about it. Al Horford is shut down. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) is still officially on track to return, which is only slightly more likely than a D'Angelo Russell sighting. And Luguentz Dort (concussion) is also out, though that one might actually be legitimate. Even if Dort returns, however, the structure of this team going forward is an ugly tanky mess.
Brown is the only must-add/auto-start here, if he's still available. Roby and Pokusevski make up the next tier. Roby is a solid floor play likely to remain in the starting lineup and see a lot of minutes down the stretch. Stat wise, he's a classic big man – some points, good rebounds, great FG%, everything else is a bonus. There is some potential that he puts up above-average-for-a-big assists and steals, but I don't think we've seen enough to know if that's a mirage yet. Pokusevski is the variance play. As Michael Jordan once said, his ceiling is the roof. But his floor is a muddy flooded foundation. In some league formats, Pokusevski is nearly as valuable as Brown; in others he's barely rosterable.
I'm not too high on Maledon, Williams or Mykhailiuk, but preferences may vary and all three are worth a look in more competitive leagues.
Other recommendations: Jae Crowder, Suns (40% rostered); Tomas Satoransky, Bulls (27% rostered); Terance Mann, Clippers (20% rostered); Shake Milton, 76ers (30% rostered); Patrick Williams, Bulls (41% rostered); Nerlens Noel, Knicks (45% rostered)
Mo Bamba, Magic (13% rostered)
When I mentioned Bamba last week, I hedged more than a boxwood bush. But he's been OK! He's up to 18.5 minutes and averaging 11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. He's even chimed in a few assists and 3s! And when Wendell Carter got big minutes for the first time Thursday, it cut more into Khem Birch's workload than Bamba's! Sure, Birch was dealing with an illness and missed most of the game, but let's not let silly facts get in the way of all these exclamation points! Bamba is a viable deep-league play!
Dean Wade (3% rostered) and Isaiah Hartenstein (3% rostered), Cavaliers
I'm still firmly in the Wade over Hartenstein camp, but both are addable, especially in deep leagues. Why do I prefer Wade? Very simply: he's getting more minutes, and by a lot. In their first game together, Wade's advantage was 34 to 26. That gap grew in their second game – for which Kevin Love was active – to a 38-20 split. Hartenstein has been more effective on a per-minute basis, but the workload gap is too big for me to get past.