Early waiver-wire pickups
Keep eye on players such as Reggie Jackson, Spencer Hawes, Andrea Bargnani
These are three of my all-time favorite free-agent pickups. I hit the jackpot with Lin in 2011-12, Diaw in 2005-06, and Jamison in 1999-2000. I won multiple leagues with these ballers simply because I put in a waiver request or pulled them off the free-agent market.
You can't always score that big, but the odds of landing a game-changer are better early in the season when there are so many unknowns and team roles still are being developed. Even if you don't catch lightning in a bottle, culling the hottest players off the waiver wire each week will make your team more competitive and give you the best chance of winning in any format.
Since the season is just getting underway, many players are free agents in some leagues but not others. With that in mind, I'm going to go with a bulk approach this week and focus on three different types of free agents: hot adds (players who are being added quickly in most leagues), speculative adds (players who could get going in the near future and are worth a roll of the dice) and deep league adds (for those of you scraping the waiver-wire barrel in leagues with at least a dozen owners).
Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers (58.6 percent ownership in ESPN leagues): He's given us ample reasons to be skeptical about a genuine extended statistical explosion. On the other hand, the Sixers are so bereft of talent that Hawes has a wide-open window to make a mark. He's also playing for his next contract, so he should be motivated.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder (55.6 percent): No one knows when Russell Westbrook will show, so the starting point guard job is Jackson's. He's a former first-round pick and is running the court with Kevin Durant. In other words, he's all upside. In fact, in our season-opening episode of the Fantasy Focus podcast, Doug Kezirian boldly predicted that Jackson will remain in the starting lineup all season. There is plenty of long-term value here.
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks (51.8 percent): He may not crack the teens in scoring, but if things click for Shumpert, he could be a threat for two 3s and two steals per game. He's the only guy on the Knicks besides Metta World Peace who actually plays defense, so he should see a lot of minutes every game.
Nick Young, Los Angeles Lakers (34.5 percent): Young is going to sport a bad FG%, but he loves to chuck 3s and is now in Mike D'Antoni's 3-chucking offense. If he gets in an early rhythm, Young could score 16-17 PPG and top 2.0 3-PPG. He's worth a look.
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks (29.9 percent): As I told someone recently, "Even though I didn't draft Bargs until the very last round, my self-loathing began immediately thereafter." You, too, may experience self-loathing by adding him off the wire. Nonetheless, despite his propensity for injury, his often poor shooting and his inability to rebound (despite being 7 feet tall), he is a center who shoots 3s and can score in the upper teens. That's a unique value.
Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers (25.6 percent): The addition of Jarrett Jack during the offseason should put a cap on Waiters' statistical upside. That doesn't mean he doesn't have value, though. He was the No. 4 overall pick last season and, despite struggling for stretches, still averaged 14.7 PPG as a rookie. There is potential here.
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets (12.3 percent): People better get hip to Beverley now before he wrestles the starting point guard job away from Lin. It's worth adding him now and being patient. I fully expect his role to grow as the season progresses. Even as a reserve, he will offer scoring, dimes, 3s and steals.
Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls (5.6 percent): Joakim Noah has shown in the past that he can't stay healthy for the long stretch, and now he's already injured. Noah owners will want to have Gibson rostered as a handcuff. He's a double-double waiting to happen.
Metta World Peace, New York Knicks (4.9 percent): No one knows what to expect from MWP from minute to minute, much less what to expect from him statistically on a new team with his role yet to be determined. It wouldn't surprise me if balling in the Big Apple brings a renaissance campaign out of him. He could be a sneaky source of hustle stats this season.
Fantasy Focus Basketball
Doug Kezirian and Tom Carpenter discuss how different scoring systems impact different players, talk about the biggest players coming off injury and much more.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons (2.9 percent): He's my dark horse for Rookie of the Year. KCP may not get enough shots off on the suddenly talented Pistons to win the award, but I think he's going to surprise a lot of people. We know he is going to be a 3-point threat and can be a scorer, but he will also swipe a lot of balls and rack up a lot of rebounds for a 2-guard. In fact, he pulled down pulled down six to seven rebounds five times in eight preseason games.
Boston Celtics frontcourt -- Jared Sullinger (4.8 percent), Brandon Bass (2.9 percent), Kris Humphries (2.2 percent), Vitor Faverani (0.5 percent), Kelly Olynyk (4.1 percent): I'm guessing that we will be discussing the C's frontcourt a lot, as these guys probably will be on and off the waiver wire all season. On the other hand, any one of them could step up and be a factor. I currently rank them in the above order. Somebody has to score and rebound on the Celtics, right?
Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Bobcats (1.9 percent): He's done so little since being taken seventh overall in 2011 that people forget how raw he was then and that he is barely 21 years old now. There remains a ton of rebounding and blocking upside here, even though he is (ironically enough) blocked by Al Jefferson on the depth chart. With Big Al sidelined in the preseason, Biyombo blocked 2.0 shots per game and had rebounding efforts of 20, 13, 11 and 21. Even in a reduced role, he can help deep leaguers.
Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns (0.4 percent): It's debatable how much upside he offers, but Plumlee has the most important element in fantasy: opportunity. With Marcin Gortat out of the picture, he will get all of the minutes he can handle. He could well push up on a double-double and a block or more per game.
Marcus Thornton, Sacramento Kings (0.8 percent): He may have rookie Ben McLemore nipping at his heels sooner rather than later, but he's in position to start when the season gets underway. We all know he can score, bang down 3s and swipe balls. Fantasy owners in all formats should at least keep a close eye on him.
Thomas Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers (0.7 percent): He's destined for a reserve role with his newest team, but Robinson could be a solid rebounding threat if injuries in the frontcourt open up a bigger role.