The most important time to be working the waiver wire is during the first few weeks of the season. That's because there are always players out there who can make an impact for your team for the long haul. Sometimes it's a guy who was cut by an impatient owner following a slow start. Sometimes it's a player whose fantasy potential is just coming to fruition. Other times, injuries open up a bigger role.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the fast-rising players on the waiver wire and other players whose fantasy value is affected by injuries, either to themselves or teammates.
Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns (88.6 percent ownership in ESPN leagues): Normal NBA fans don't waste their time watching awful teams, especially in the waning weeks of the season. Fantasy owners, on the other hand, have a special kind of depravity that makes us do the exact opposite. We didn't need to watch a team like the Miami Heat closely late last season, because there was little to glean from a fantasy perspective.
The Suns, on the other hand, offered us a glimpse at young players like Morris, who was granted extended minutes as their season came to a merciful end. We found out then that he was capable of scoring, knocking down 3s, hitting the glass and racking up hustle stats. That was a small sample size, but it was clear that on the talent-thin Suns roster this season, he would have the chance to establish himself as a statistical threat, even as a reserve.
Sure enough, Morris has scored at least 23 points in each of his past three games, which included a pair of double-doubles. He has chipped in some 3s and a lot of steals, too. Morris also has the ability to block shots (he rejected six in one of those games late last season). If he keeps it up, we may even see him move into a starting role.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats (59.3 percent): The long-term expectation for MKG is that he is the next Gerald Wallace, a small forward capable of racking up boards and hustle stats. Ideally, he will be even better, but that will depend a lot on how well he progresses as a scorer. After six games this season, he has knocked down 56.3 percent of his shots from the field and is averaging 11.5 PPG. Consistency will be the key for MKG, but considering his upside, you shouldn't hesitate to grab him now in case he is in the early stages of arriving as an NBA force.
Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks (47.7 percent): Let's face it: Bargs is going to be a regular in this column, because he is the type of player who has no consistency other than being inconsistent. And that means that he will be on and off the waiver wire all season long as his production ebbs and flows. With Tyson Chandler out for a month, Bargnani should see enough minutes and shots to chip in points and 3s. Just remember that he won't do anything else to help your team.
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets (31.1 percent): Beverley made a quick return from his rib injury, then laid a 1-for-10 egg in his first start of the year Thursday. However, he showed up Saturday evening against the Los Angeles Clippers with 19 points (6-for-13 FG), 3 3s, 5 boards, 3 dimes, 2 blocks and 4 steals. In other words, the cat is out of the bag and you better go get him before he's owned in 100 percent of leagues. There is tremendous fantasy upside in his game this season.
Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns (21.1 percent): There is a reason why Green is on his seventh team in seven NBA seasons: He's not really that good. He's hit just 35.6 percent of his 3-point attempts as a pro, which is nothing to write home about, unless you're on a team that's so bad that you can get off 5.6 3-point attempts per game. So long as he has the *ahem* green light to chuck it, Green can be a cheap source of 3s for teams in deeper leagues.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic (53.0 percent): I don't care if he is nursing a serious ankle injury, there is no reason why Harris should be on waivers in all but the smallest of leagues. The Magic have been tight-lipped regarding details about the injury and his return. However, if it's a high-ankle sprain, those typically take four to six weeks to heal. He sustained the injury on Oct. 20, so even in a worst-case scenario, he should return to the hardwood in the next two or three weeks. Even if you have to hold onto him for another few weeks, the payoff will be worth it. Don't forget that he averaged 17.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 3-PPG and 1.4 BPG after the Magic acquired him last season. Let another owner in your league nab him and you'll be beating yourself up about it the rest of the season.
Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets (54.4 percent): Chandler doesn't have the same upside as Harris, but it's not that far off. He's proved in the past that he can score in the mid-teens with quality percentages and decent production in 3s, blocks, and boards. Chandler will come off the bench initially, but he'll be in the starting lineup sooner than later on a team that ranks 17th in scoring and needs his help putting the rock through the hoop. In other words, he won't be on waivers for long.
J.J. Hickson (47.8 percent), JaVale McGee (42.2 percent), Denver Nuggets: Anyone out there remember Tyrone Hill? The guy basically couldn't help but get a double-double every time he set foot on the hardwood for the majority of his 14-year NBA career, yet he never added any other stats of note. Hickson reminds me of Hill; we won't see him pile up blocks, steals, 3s or assists, but he will be a double-double threat every game he starts a game. With McGee sidelined, Hickson should be a solid add for any team in need of boards or double-dubs.
I understand why people are dropping McGee, since he's out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his leg. However, the injury helps explain his slow start. He had 17 boards in his first five games this season, a number he matched in his second-to-last regular season game last season. However, the fact that he could pull down 17 boards in a game and average at least 2.5 BPG in two different seasons is exactly why I mention him here as a candidate to add to your roster. If you have the space on your bench, McGee makes for a terrific big-man stash until he returns to form.
Steve Blake (20.8 percent), Jordan Farmar (4.8 percent), Los Angeles Lakers: Blake has averaged more than 6.0 APG during partial seasons with a team twice during his lengthy NBA career. So the fact that he has posted dime totals of 9, 7, 8 and 8 early on this season isn't a fluke. And with Steve Nash's long-term situation in doubt, Blake is in position to be a reliable source of assists for the long haul. He can also chip in a fair amount of 3s. Farmar should be in the mix as a source of assists for deep-league teams, too, so long as Nash is sidelined.