In our inaugural 2013 NBA waiver wire column we take a look at three back-court and three front-court players you need to add immediately. We also give you two players to keep an eye that may be in for bump in production.
Early-Season Waiver Wire Finds
Kirk Hinrich: With news that starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler will be out roughly three weeks with a toe injury, Hinrich tops our list of must-add guards. The former Kansas star has been a consistent pro throughout his career, with averages of 12 points, 5.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game. This season, Hinrich has provided a steady option next to Derrick Rose who has been erratic to start the season. He has posted double-digit scoring in three games this year and has also posted seven or more assists in three of his past five games. The best news of all is that coach Tom Thibodeau uses a very small rotation and likes to ride his starters for big minutes– in the first game without Butler, Hinrich was given 31 minutes. Although it may be a short-term bump, Hinrich should provide a great waiver opportunity for return on investment.
Trey Burke: After a stellar season at Michigan, many were excited to see what Burke would do in his rookie campaign in Utah. Those plans were derailed when Burke broke his finger prior to the season and was forced to miss a bunch of time. He returned to the lineup Wednesday, and even though he was limited to 12 minutes, he posted 11 points while tossing in a rebound, a steal and an assist. The main source of optimism for Burke is that the Jazz are in desperate need of a point guard as they have relied on journeymen Jamaal Tinsley and John Lucas III. With the team struggling, Burke should quickly get 30+ minutes a game and be able to boost a team with young stars Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Don’t be surprised if he can post a line in the 14-point, 6-assist, and 2-steal-per-game range.
Jodie Meeks: Coming out of Kentucky, Meeks was always seen as a lethal scorer (he holds the Kentucky single-game record for points at 54), but has always struggled to find consistent playing time in his five NBA seasons. He may have finally found the playing time– and the system– that pushes him into fantasy relevance. In the fast-paced Mike D’Antoni offense, Meeks is averaging 27.5 minutes a game and is making the most of that time. He is shooting 57% from the floor and a blistering 49% from three-point range, leading to a career-high 13.7 points per game. With injuries to players like Steve Nash and inconsistency from Xavier Henry and Wes Johnson, Meeks has been the player to step up and fill the role. Although he will not provide much outside of his shooting and scoring numbers, Meeks won’t hurt you in any category, which makes him ideal in both rotisserie and head-to-head formats.
Guards to keep an eye on:
Ben McLemore: After experimenting with veteran Marcus Thornton starting at the off guard, new coach Mike Malone seems to have firmly committed to rookie Ben McLemore as his starting shooting guard. McLemore was a lethal shooter in college and has shown glimpses this season with four double figure scoring games this year. However, he is still raw (evidenced by four games with four points or less), so now may not be the time to pick him up, but should he reach the 30-minute-a-night barrier, he may become too elite of a talent to leave on the waiver wire.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: The third rookie to make the list, Caldwell-Pope has started to get more minutes for the Pistons. He has taken advantage of Chauncey Billups‘s and Will Bynum’s injuries to earn 25 minutes a game over the last week of games. In that time, he is shooting just 29%, but if he can bump that to the 40%-range he could quickly become a solid fantasy option. With Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond on the team, Detroit needs a solid shooting option and they are hoping Caldwell-Pope can be that player.
Jordan Hill: Hill had been putting up respectable numbers to start the season, but was stuck behind Chris Kaman in the big-man rotation for the first few weeks of the season. After recording two games of 22 rebounds, he was moved into the starting lineup on November 13th, and has clearly shown the Lakers he is their top rebounding big man. In his three starts, Hill has not only averaged 12.3 rebounds, but also contributed 18 points and 2 blocks a game. In those games, Hill has averaged 33 minutes to Kaman’s 10, so it certainly appears as though the team has fully committed to Hill. Even though he is unlikely to keep up these great shooting numbers (66% field goal and 80% free-throw over the last week), Hill should continue to produce double-digit rebounds and moderate scoring totals for the high-scoring Lakers. If he is still available in your league, hurry to snatch him up and you will not be disappointed with his production.
Corey Brewer: After a failed first tenure in Minnesota, Brewer returned to the Timberwolves this offseason and appears to have found a role to excel in. In 13 games this year, Brewer is averaging 33 minutes a contest and has scored in double figures in all but three of those games. He also provides a solid all-around game as he makes over one three-pointer a game and averages just shy of 2 steals and 2.5 rebounds a game. Brewer is shooting 47% on the season and is one of the best corner three-point shooters in the league. With an extremely weak bench, Brewer should continue to see huge minutes and open looks with the creative Ricky Rubio getting him open looks.
Tobias Harris: For a player who has not played in a single game this season, Harris is a must-own in all leagues because of his immense talent and what he proved he could do in Orlando last season. After being dealt from Milwaukee to Orlando, Harris played in 27 games and averaged 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game. A serious ankle injury has kept him out for the start of this season, but reports have come out saying that he has begun to practice and his return to action is inevitable. Orlando has struggled with injuries (Harris and Glen Davis) and poor play (veteran Jason Maxiell) at power forward this season. If Harris is able to return soon, he should instantly be added in all formats, as he can contribute in a big way across the board and will be given every opportunity to prove his worth.
Front court players to keep an eye on:
DeJuan Blair: In his first season in Dallas, Blair was hoping to top his career high of 21 minutes a game; that has not proven to be the case so far, as he has only averaged 20 minutes a game. Blair has tremendous per-36-minute numbers of 15 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals. With only Sam Dalembert to block his path to playing time, be on the lookout to see if Blair can manage to earn more minutes for the Mavericks.
DeMarre Carroll: In Atlanta, Carroll has taken advantage of Josh Smith’s departure to secure 31 minutes a game and provide a solid option at the small forward position. He has been especially hot of late, posting his first double-double of the year on Wednesday, while also throwing in 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. If you are in need of a daily player, Carroll can provide a solid play. If he can keep up his time on the floor, Carroll could be a must add in all formats not just deeper leagues.