Fantasy Basketball pickups: Waiver wire targets for Week 5

Eric Bledsoe is now a Milwaukee Buck. I haven’t included new Suns starting point guard Mike James in this week’s waiver wire column because he was featured two weeks ago. However, if he’s still available in your league, certainly consider him (despite his poor field-goal shooting).

To acquire Bledsoe, the Bucks sent Greg Monroe to Phoenix, and he’s unlikely to remain there. If he’s on your team, a wait-and-see approach may be best if you can afford to do so. But, if Milwaukee’s John Henson is on the wire, a simple swap may be the answer if you’re in need of immediate production. Henson, among others, are featured in this week’s column. 

Guards

Marco Belinelli, Hawks (23% owned)

First and foremost, Belinelli’s fantasy value is that of a three-point shooter considering he’s averaging just 2.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game. So, if you’re a fantasy owner in a categorical format and have your “made threes” category sorted out, you can likely skip over this name. However, if you’re lacking in that category, Belinelli’s 2.3 threes per game should certainly provide a nice boost. While his 44.6 percent success rate is probably unsustainable, he’s crossed the 40 percent threshold for an entire season twice in his career and is currently jacking up a career-high 5.1 attempts per game. Plus, with the team lacking offensive options, Belinelli’s role and workload of 25.7 minutes per game seem safe.

Denzel Valentine, Bulls (11% owned)

Though Valentine has been an absolute drag on field goal percentage this season (38.3% FG), he’s hit 51.6 percent of his looks over the past three games and is providing a solid dose of 2.3 made threes per contest. Over the past six games, he’s averaging 11.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, so he’s not purely a three-point shooter putting up zeros across the rest of the box score.

He’s certainly a deeper league pickup, but he’s seeing 26.4 minutes per game on a team without much offensive talent, giving him plenty of opportunities to touch the ball. One concern, however, is the inevitable return of Zach LaVine (knee), who is set to begin taking contact around Thanksgiving. Once he’s back, Valentine’s role will probably change for the worse.

Forwards/Centers

Bobby Portis, Bulls (41% owned)

Portis returned from his eight-game suspension Tuesday, which he earned for punching teammate Nikola Mirotic in the face during an altercation at practice. However, coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t hesitate to deploy Portis for significant minutes, and Portis responded with great production. He posted 21 points (8-13 FG, 3-5 3Pt, 2-4 FT), 13 rebounds and four assists in just 24 minutes.

We shouldn’t be expecting Portis to continue playing at that level, but he’s certainly shown flashes of potential throughout his first two seasons that make Tuesday’s effort seem like more than a fluke. Including this season’s game against the Raptors, Portis has totaled four games throughout his career with at least 20 points, along with 15 games in which he’s collected at least 10 rebounds. Another year of development may have improved his three-point shooting, as well.

Portis shot 33.3 percent from deep last year on 1.5 attempts per game. If he can drill one or two per game on a regular basis, that would certainly boost his fantasy value. The situation will become more complicated when Mirotic returns from his injury, especially with Lauri Markkanen playing well (15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game), but Portis seems like a relatively safe waiver wire addition for now. Given the lack of great scoring options on the Bulls, there’s a strong chance he’ll continue seeing double-digit shot attempts.

Aron Baynes, Celtics (6% owned)

With Al Horford out indefinitely while going through the NBA’s concussion protocol, Baynes will be the team’s go-to option at center. In Horford’s absence Wednesday, Baynes posted a career-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists across 23 minutes. While he may not garner 30 minutes a night, it’s encouraging to see he took 12 shot attempts Wednesday, as his previous season-high stood at eight.

His primary fantasy value will likely be rebounding, as he’s averaging 10.7 boards per 36 minutes this season. Picking Baynes off the wire is a short-term move, but one that could reap benefits for a week or more.

John Henson, Bucks (32% owned) 

With the Bucks sending center Monroe (15.8 minutes per game) to Phoenix as part of the Bledsoe deal, a void has opened up at center. Prior to the trade, Henson had already been filling in for Monroe while he was dealing with a calf injury, posting 5.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks across 24.8 minutes per game. That workload should be set in stone now that Henson and Thon Maker are the only two centers left on the Bucks’ roster. While Maker often draws the start, he’s still quite raw and is averaging just 5.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game — not much of a threat to Henson’s role. Henson is primarily a rebounder and shot-blocker, so don’t expect him to add much to your fantasy team by way of points or assists.