The first week of fantasy basketball is in the books, and much like the NBA, you’re probably already trying to figure out how you lost to Lauri Markkanen.
More importantly, the league’s injury bug has already begun to take its toll. Early-round picks such as Josh Giddey, LaMelo Ball, Darius Garland, Khris Middleton, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have already or are projected to miss games. That’s where the wire comes in, where the majority of fantasy basketball leagues are won and lost.
Here are some early-season waiver wire targets, along with their rostered percentage in ESPN leagues.
Nick Richards – 6.9 percent
Richards is outperforming all bigs on the Charlotte Hornets roster and should be the starter. He’s inexplicably getting the same amount of minutes (22.7) as the less effective starter Mason Plumlee and is outscoring, outrebounding, and virtually outperforming the veteran in every statistical aspect.
After drafting Mark Williams in the lottery, Richards has done everything to make the center position his, becoming one of the most efficient finishers and offensive rebounders in the league to start the season.
Richards is currently averaging 15 points and nine rebounds per game, and should those numbers continue to soar given the injuries on Charlotte’s roster, and his increase in minutes given his production.
His best performance came against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday night, where he scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes, scoring on all nine of his field goal attempts.
The reason he hasn’t been moved into the starting role yet is his defense can use a lot of work. The good news for fantasy basketball fans, his defense doesn’t apply to us and Richards still gets blocks and rebounds. Besides, Charlotte is supposed to be losing games anyway for Victor Wembanyama.
Do the right thing Steve Clifford and start Nick Richards.
Ayo Dosunmu – 25.8 percent
If Donsunmu is still available in your fantasy league, you better scoop him up quickly. He’s been the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls this season in place of Lonzo Ball and is currently averaging 27 fantasy points per game.
His best game was against the Boston Celtics, where he scored 22 points and added six rebounds. If Dosunmu can continue to build consistency, he may find himself in the starting lineup permanently in Chicago. For now, Dosunmu is an efficient scorer who can also chip in with good rebounding numbers for a guard as well.
Jarred Vanderbilt – 23.6 percent
Utah has played an extra game, which skews statistics early in the season, but Vanderbilt is one of the top scorers early in the season. While Markkanen, Walker Kessler and other teammates are gaining much-deserved hype, Vanderbilt has quietly been a rebounding machine.
Vanderbilt’s value comes from averaging 10.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this season. In standard scoring leagues, he’s currently chipping in about 32 fantasy points per game. If you lost a forward and need a spot start, Vanderbilt is a great first option to grab for a night.
Santi Aldama – 18.6 percent
If you (like me) grabbed Jaren Jackson Jr. as a late-round IR stash pick, Aldama is an excellent fill-in player in the meantime. Early reports are JJJ will be out until any time between November and January which… sounds a lot like the timeframe I give myself for planning my diet. Keep holding out on Jackson Jr., but let’s hope it’s closer to January.
In the meantime, however, Aldama has filled in admirably as the Memphis Grizzlies’ starting power forward and is averaging 29 fantasy points per game. He’s currently averaging 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and if you’re in a categories league, is getting plenty of shot attempts from beyond the arc.
Every season it seems like Memphis finds another young player to add to its rotation. Ziaire Williams still isn’t available and Aldama seems to be well ahead of rookie Jake LaRavia in early season minutes. He’s an easy grab for the time being.
Precious Achiuwa – 6.4 percent
Achiuwa is a double-double machine for the Raptors as long he gets the minutes. For the last two games, he’s had 34 minutes each game and has two of them, including a 10-point, 22-rebound performance with Scottie Barnes out of the lineup.
It remains to be seen what Achiuwa’s role looks like with a fully healthy Raptors squad, but even then, they don’t have a lot of size in the frontcourt. If Achiuwa is given the chance to play in the rotation, he’s going to rack up a lot of opportunities inside and is growing his offensive game. The hope is that Achiuwa’s play earns him more minutes in the rotation.