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By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
It’s late enough in the season that fantasy managers are already gearing up for playoff pushes. For most, a week-by-week (or even day-by-day) approach is required, given the level of COVID chaos.
Meanwhile, the elite (and most fortunate) teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack can afford to start thinking about and prioritizing the long haul. As such, this week’s list of recommended waiver wire adds features a mix of both short- and long-term options, as well as a few players who hopefully fall into both camps.
As usual, most of the players mentioned in this article have not been suggested in previous weeks. Without further ado, here are 14 players to consider picking up heading into 2022.
Alec Burks, New York Knicks (49% rostered)
Burks’ rostered percentage spiraled downward recently following a lackluster two-game stretch in which he combined for only 12 points, five boards, and four dimes across 34 minutes. However, he bounced back from that duo of duds during Wednesday’s matchup against the Pistons, producing 34 points (tied-career high), five threes, four rebounds, three steals, and two assists in 27 minutes.
With Derrick Rose (ankle) sidelined for at least the next seven weeks, Burks is absolutely worth adding across all formats despite Kemba Walker’s promising play since rejoining the regular rotation and reclaiming the starting point guard gig. In fact, one might argue that Burks is actually better off now in his current role as sixth man — even if he earns fewer minutes — as he will likely have more opportunities to initiate offense as a member of the second unit than he did as a starter more-so playing off point forward Julius Randle (protocols).
Sporting solid season averages of 12.1 points, 4.1 boards, 2.3 dimes, 2.1 threes, and 1.1 steals in 26.9 minutes, he won’t be this widely available for long, so be sure to double-check your league’s waiver wire in case someone abruptly abandoned the Burks bandwagon.
Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets (45% rostered)
Plumlee may not be anything more than a short-term solution. Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington have both been out for the last two games due to health and safety protocols, and Charlotte plays plenty of small ball when they have the personnel to do so. However, over the last two contests, Plumlee has combined for 23 points, 21 boards, seven dimes, four steals, and three blocks across 60 minutes.
Although he was on a talent-deprived Pistons team, just last year Plumlee provided averages of 10.4 points, 9.3 boards, 3.6 assists, 0.9 blocks, and 0.8 steals in 26.8 minutes. As such, it shouldn’t be all that surprising if he turns in (somewhat) similar stats going forward and bounces back from a slow start in this, his first season with the Hornets.
Nicolas Claxton, Brooklyn Nets (41% rostered)
Small sample size alert! Over the last three contests, Claxton has cooked up averages of 12.3 points, 6.7 boards, 3.3 swats, and 2.3 assists across 31.7 minutes. Claxton even held onto the starting center role for Thursday’s matchup versus the 76ers despite the return of LaMarcus Aldridge (protocols). Frankly, Claxton offers a combination of youth, athleticism, and rim protection that’s otherwise largely lacking among the rest of the Brooklyn big men rotation.
As a result, it seems likely that he will continue to start and play a steady stream of minutes going forward. In terms of short- and long-term upside, Claxton takes the cake and offers the best of both worlds. All things considered, he’s my favorite waiver wire target heading into Week 12.
Malik Monk, Los Angeles Lakers (40% rostered)
Though the Lakers continue to struggle, LeBron James is thriving as the starting center in place of Anthony Davis (knee). Nevertheless, the need for offensive spacing remains the team’s highest priority, especially in lineups featuring Russell Westbrook. As such, it’s not shocking that Monk has been the biggest beneficiary of the squad’s shift to small ball, as he has averaged 20.0 points, 3.0 boards, 2.7 threes, 2.0 dimes, 1.0 block, and 0.7 steals in 35.3 minutes across the last three games.
While it’s possible Monk’s fantasy relevance will be short-lived, lasting only until Davis is healthy, there’s a universe (maybe not this one) in which Monk solidifies his status as a key contributor over the next few weeks. Already averaging a career-high 24.9 minutes per game in 2021-22, coach Frank Vogel has clearly been taking note.
Luke Kennard, Los Angeles Clippers (40% rostered)
Coming off a well-rounded effort in which he compiled 17 points, five treys, four boards, four dimes, two blocks, and one steal across 36 minutes against the Celtics, Kennard is worthy of consideration while Paul George (elbow) is out for the next few weeks. And for those who don’t like to let one good game dictate their decision-making, Kennard boasts December averages of 15.1 points (46.3% FG, 48.9% 3PT, 82.4% FT), 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 threes, and 1.8 assists in 30.2 minutes through 13 appearances.
Patrick Beverley, Minnesota Timberwolves (27% rostered)
While Beverley is shooting a career-low 31.4 percent from three and a career-low 66.7 percent from the charity stripe, he’s maintaining his highest scoring average (8.5 PPG) since 2017-18 — to go along with 4.8 assists, 4.6 boards, 1.2 treys, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks across 26.6 minutes. If Beverley claws his way closer to his career clip from beyond the arc (37.9% 3PT) and from the free-throw line (75.8% FT) as the year goes on, a double-digit points average is in the cards. Having started in 19 of his 23 appearances this season, Beverley’s importance to his team is evident, and his well-rounded counting stats make him worth a look in most leagues.
Gary Payton II, Golden State Warriors (23% rostered)
Payton may come back down to Earth once Draymond Green (protocols) rejoins the rotation. However, during the last five outings, Payton is averaging 14.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.6 threes, 1.4 steals, and 1.2 assists in 26.0 minutes. If there’s any indication that Payton could hold onto a meaningful role even once Green is healthy, it’s his recent success rate from beyond the arc.
Though Payton’s career three-point percentage (32.9% 3PT) leaves plenty to be desired, this season he is knocking down a career-best 0.7 treys per game at a 42.1 percent clip. Coach Steve Kerr generally tries to limit the number of non-shooters sharing the floor at the same time, and Green is often that guy for the Warriors. With that being said, if Payton continues to knock down shots from the perimeter, he becomes significantly more playable, even alongside Green.
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings (21% rostered)
Don’t look now, but Bagley has drawn consecutive starts, replacing Chimezie Metu at the power forward spot. Bagley hasn’t set the fantasy basketball world on fire, but he has competently combined for 20 points, 17 boards, two dimes, two steals, and one three across 56 minutes over the last two outings. With Sacramento several games below .500, it would make sense for the Kings to see what Bagley can do during the second half of the season. There’s no guarantee he will stick in the starting five or become a reliable contributor for the remainder of the season. Still, if you’re searching for upside, Bagley possesses palpable potential.
Aaron Wiggins, Oklahoma City Thunder (14% rostered)
Apart from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (ankle), Josh Giddey (protocols) and Luguentz Dort, there hasn’t been anyone else on Oklahoma City’s roster who can be consistently counted on from a fantasy perspective. However, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the teams with losing records, especially as the year carries on and rebuilding clubs devote more and more time to developing younger players. One Thunder youngster who has emerged lately and could be in the process of earning an increased role is rookie Aaron Wiggins. The 55th overall pick has combined for 60 points, 19 boards, four treys, three steals, two dimes, and one block across 96 minutes during the last three contests. While Wiggins is merely a short-term or speculative add at this point, he’s definitely a player to keep track of going forward.
Doug McDermott, San Antonio Spurs (13% rostered)
McDermott has reached double figures in scoring in 12 of 13 appearances while averaging 2.2 made threes during December. He doesn’t offer much beyond those two categories, but with Dejounte Murray (protocols) out and Lonnie Walker (knee) listed as doubtful for Friday’s matchup versus the Grizzlies, McDermott is likely to be relied upon a bit more than usual in the short-term. Devin Vassell (27% rostered) is also worth considering, but he has been mired in a slump for most of the month.
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks (9% rostered)
Having lost Julius Randle to health and safety protocols, the sophomore is likely to draw a few starts and log fairly heavy minutes at the power forward spot over the next week or so. With Per 36 minutes averages of 19.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 threes, and 0.8 steals this season, the case for turning to Toppin as a short-term streamer is an obvious one.
R.J. Hampton, Orlando Magic (6% rostered)
With Orlando conceding that Cole Anthony’s ankle injury is probably more serious than a mere day-to-day concern, Hampton has stepped up of late. Though he may be best reserved for use in points leagues given his inefficiency from the field, Hampton has shown some flashes, averaging 12.7 points, 4.7 dimes, 2.3 boards, 1.7 treys, 1.3 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 30.7 minutes across the last three matchups. Those searching for a streaming option in deeper leagues could do much worse, especially given that the Magic have four games on tap for Week 12.
Oshae Brissett, Indiana Pacers (3% rostered)
Brissett isn’t necessarily an immediate add. However, he has quietly earned at least 20 minutes in 10 of his last 11 appearances, plus several Pacers (Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, Jeremy Lamb, Isaiah Jackson) just entered health and safety protocols. As a result, Brissett does offer some appeal as a short-term streaming option.
But it’s the Pacers’ big picture outlook that lands Brissett on this week’s list. For those with a short memory, Brissett stepped up and showcased his well-rounded skill set late last season when Indiana dealt with a slew of injuries. For those with an even shorter memory, the Pacers are among the underachieving teams exploring trades that would part with established starters and put the club on course for a rebuild. In the event of a major shakeup, such as a deal involving either Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis, Brissett could be the big winner from a fantasy perspective, depending on Indiana’s return.
Recent recommendations still rostered in less than 50% of leagues: Chris Duarte, Terance Mann, Kelly Olynyk, Eric Gordon, Nerlens Noel, Matisse Thybulle, Gary Harris, Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija, Hamidou Diallo, Herbert Jones, Coby White, Facundo Campazzo, Cameron Payne, Cedi Osman