The first three days of NBA ball have taught us much. The CBS community is quick to pick up the best options, but hopefully, I've got a few names below to help everyone, regardless of how deep, shallow or sharp your league is.
Our annual cautionary note: don't panic-drop your middle-round picks. Al Horford and Isaiah Jackson put up disappointing stats in their first games, but there's a reason they were widely hyped by analysts and went inside the top 100 in every industry draft I was a part of. If you want to drop Mo Bamba after he saw fewer minutes than Bol Bol (12 vs. 18), fine. But don't panic about earlier picks with tremendous upside after one disappointing night.
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.
Double-check your league
Players rostered in over two-thirds of leagues but still under-rostered. Double-check to make sure they aren't available.
In many cases, these players qualified for this article before big opening night performances, meaning managers with once-weekly waiver runs are particularly likely to see these players still available.
Jalen Smith, Pacers (78% rostered)
Extra attention required
These two players are widely rostered but available in more than one of every five leagues.
Ayo Dosunmu, Bulls (70% rostered)
The health updates on Lonzo Ball (legs detaching) seem to always be going in the wrong direction. He "has a chance" to return this season, which means he's out for a long while. On top of that, Zach LaVine (knee) missed the opener and will have his workload managed – including sitting out back-to-backs – for an undisclosed period of time. Dosunmu played 36 minutes in the opener, a sign of a likely massive workload he'll shoulder for the next few months. His production profile is modest, but the opportunity demands attention.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Pistons (81% rostered)
The Fantasy community was too cavalier about Bogdanovic's trade to Detroit last month. He should have been a borderline top-100 pick. Instead, he usually lasted another 30-plus picks (or more). Detroit wants to win! The Pistons are not tanking! And Bogdanovic fills a key role for them, replacing Jerami Grant and stepping in as the veteran scorer. He may average more points per game than any other waiver pickup all season.
Adds for all leagues
Jalen Duren, Pistons (64% rostered)
Duren was one of my favorite picks this offseason. He was my most drafted player across all my managed leagues. I was delighted when the center put up 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in just 22 minutes during his NBA debut. He's talented, and the Pistons have shown a willingness to give big minutes to young players who show they can hang. I don't expect every night to go as well as Wednesday, especially while he's playing less than 25 minutes. Still, I expect him to do enough to remain rosterable in the short term as he develops into a Fantasy stud as the season progresses.
Santi Aldama, Grizzlies (62% rostered)
Jaren Jackson Jr. (foot) is out for at least a few more weeks, and his inevitable return will hurt Aldama. That said, Aldama is an absolute must-add and must-start in all leagues while Jackson is out, and he's got a good chance to remain rosterable playing alongside JJJ. Aldama played 39(!) minutes as a starter in the opener, putting up an 18-11 double-double with good efficiency and supplemental stats.
Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (55% rostered)
It took McDaniels longer than many of us wanted, but he eventually emerged as a solid contributor last year. Though he struggled early, he averaged 11-5-2 with 1.1 blocks in 29 minutes across his last 20 starts of the season. Then, this offseason, the Timberwolves made a big deal of holding onto McDaniels as they revamped their roster, shedding some forward depth and a boatload of picks to acquire Rudy Gobert. Now, McDaniels looks to be a permanent starter with less competition for minutes as he enters his 22-year-old third season. And the forward looked great in the opener, putting up 19-6-3 with five "stocks" (steals + blocks) in 36 minutes.
Nicolas Claxton, Nets (61% rostered)
Claxton is the Nets' only option at center, and he still has that incredibly enticing per-minute production. Throughout his career, he averages 10-7-1 with one steal and two blocks per 24 minutes, and he should finally be in line to play meaningfully more than that. He could be a defensive stats monster.
Ivica Zubac, Clippers (62% rostered)
Zubac played 35 minutes Thursday, a number he's only topped five times in his career. The heavy load is a good sign of his Fantasy prospects for the season but an overestimate of what is likely to come. He should be an excellent source of rebounds, blocks and FG%, with the benefit of usually non-disastrous FT%, but the minutes will probably settle down as things roll along. A very good pickup, but not quite as good as his opening night's 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks might imply.
Isaiah Hartenstein, Knicks (39% rostered)
You're not going to believe this, but Mitchell Robinson was in foul trouble again Wednesday (among players who saw at least 1800 minutes last season, Robinson ranked eighth in fouls per minute). Hartenstein probably doesn't play a full 40 minutes if it weren't for overtime and Robinson's foul troubles. On the other hand, foul problems are going to be a regular occurrence. Even when Robinson stays out of trouble, Hartenstein will likely see at least half the minutes at center. As the full-time starting center last season, Robinson played less than 20 minutes exactly as often as he played more than 30, and that was with worse depth behind him. Hartenstein probably won't set the Fantasy world on fire, but he should be a steady source of rebounds with good FG% and blocks to go with decent scoring.
Cam Reddish, Knicks (25% rostered)
Reddish's 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left pushed the Grizzlies to overtime in the Knicks opener. That's fun, but no different than any other 3-pointer from a Fantasy perspective. The reason it matters isn't that the shot went in but because Reddish was on the court and in the position to take that shot in the first place. Despite the Knicks trading a (heavily-protected) first-round pick for Reddish last January, he was barely in the rotation before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, leading to Reddish publicly angling for a trade during the summer. However, something appears to have changed, as he was the first wing off the bench and played the entire fourth quarter and overtime Wednesday. His stats were good – 22 points, five rebounds, three steals – but the opportunity is the key variable to watch. He can be a viable Fantasy depth option if he maintains 25-plus minutes per game.
Jeremy Sochan, Spurs (20% rostered)
Points league managers can skip this one. It's been a while since Fantasy has had a viable prospect as unlikely to score as Sochan. But the 2022 lottery pick profiles as a highly effective rebounder and defensive stats guy, and his opening night workload blew my expectations out of the water. I – along with most analysts (Fantasy, NBA, and Spurs' beats alike) – thought Sochan would see a limited bench role for months before maybe creeping onto the Fantasy landscape in the spring. Nope. He started and played 27 minutes. I'm very intrigued, especially in keeper or Dynasty formats.
Bruno Fernando, Rockets (15% rostered)
Fernando got the start over Alperen Sengun in Wednesday's opener -- a blatant travesty for those of us on Team Sengun. But I also like Fernando! Regular readers of this column's Deep League Special section may be among the only NBA followers who'd even heard of him before his surprise start Wednesday. His seven assists were an obvious outlier, but his nine rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes are reproducible if he can hang onto his role. I think he's a solid NBA role player. The biggest concern is whether or not he can hold onto this workload.
Other recommendations: Isaiah Stewart, Pistons (55% rostered); Lonnie Walker, Lakers (18% rostered); Max Strus, Heat (18% rostered); Walker Kessler, Jazz (54% rostered); Onyeka Okongwu, Hawks (44% rostered); Brook Lopez, Bucks (48% rostered); Terrence Ross, Magic (4% rostered); Monte Morris, Wizards (62% rostered); Nah'Shon Hyland (66% rostered); Trey Murphy, Pelicans (23% rostered); Norman Powell, Clippers (63% rostered); Nick Richards, Hornets (8% rostered); Jalen Williams, Thunder (33% rostered); Joshua Primo, Spurs (33% rostered); Kendrick Nunn, Lakers (50% rostered);
Popular pickups I'm avoiding
Note: all of these players have Dynasty value. In redraft leagues, however, they're not worth rostering right now.
Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies (74% rostered)
Love the player, hate the role. If Aldama is going to play twice as many minutes as Clarke, and if Clarke can only manage 19 minutes despite Jaren Jackson Jr being out of the lineup, then Clarke is not relevant to standard Fantasy leagues.
Tari Eason, Rockets (61% rostered)
Eason is a long-term upside project. He will not get enough minutes to matter (at least, not for a few months). If injuries hit or tanking-inspired "injuries" hit, I could see Eason developing into a solid late-season pickup. But there is no reason to miss out on the many good pickup opportunities available right now, wasting a roster spot on someone likely to be dead weight for half the season.
James Wiseman, Warriors (80% rostered)
Again, the workload is key. The Warriors have the deepest roster in the league. Based on his 2021-22 numbers and factoring in a slight improvement in per-minute efficiency, Wiseman would still need to average at least 25 minutes per game to be a top-150 Fantasy player. He saw 17 minutes in the opener. His long-term (like, future seasons) potential looks much better now than it did a few months ago, but he's still hands-off this Fantasy season.
Shaedon Sharpe, Trail Blazers (35% rostered)
I'm incredibly high on Sharpe in keeper and Dynasty formats. I also think there is a good chance he becomes a solid Fantasy contributor later this season – even more so than the other players in this section. But if you're in a roughly standard-sized (10-12 teams) redraft league, I don't think a 19-year-old rookie who took last year off and is currently fourth on the depth chart has any Fantasy value. Portland views Sharpe as a critical piece of their long-term plan, and I think that's well-founded. But it will be a while before they're ready to trust him with more than minutes in the mid-teens.
Take note: some players listed in the "other recommendations" section above are likely to be available in many deep leagues (Strus, Ross, Richards, etc). I would recommend those players above the names listed below. This section is for widely available players who, for one reason or another, are not well suited to most standard-sized leagues but make intriguing options given the different strategic considerations of a deeper league.
Daniel Gafford, Wizards (16% rostered)
This one is a two-for. First, Gafford is useful now. He put up a solid line (12 points, seven rebounds, one steal, one block) in 16 minutes in the opener. He's got a track record as a good per-minute producer, and he appears entrenched as the Wizards' backup center. Second, Gafford's upside is way higher than your typical under-20%-rostered pickup. If anything happens to Kristaps Porzingis, Gafford instantly becomes a top-100 (top-70?) player, and Porzingis isn't exactly the NBA's Iron Man. Over the first three months of last season, Gafford was inside the top 100 while starting and playing just 22 minutes per game, and the Washington depth chart this season would likely lead to more minutes than that if Porzingis went down.