29 Nov 2021 | 10:25 | Basketball
Congratulations, everyone, we made it. Where did we make it, you ask? We made it to the point in the season where Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen no longer qualify for this article. I’m proud of all of us. (Well, all of us except for the roughly one in four leagues who are still ignoring this pair, but at some point you have to just declare victory and move on – it’s The American Way.)
Though our Bucks pair is no longer eligible, we still get to start off with some major contributors to legitimate contenders. Eventually this article will get overwhelmed by tanking teams, so it’s exciting that we can still focus on actually competitive rosters.
As usual, the players in this article must be rostered in less than two-thirds of CBS leagues. Players are listed in the order that I recommend adding them, assuming they are equally good fits for your team.
Adds for all leagues
Kevin Huerter, Hawks (30% rostered)
The Hawks were in the Eastern Conference Finals and didn’t lose a single rotation player in the offseason. They count as contenders. We’re not arguing about this. We’re here to talk about Huerter and your Fantasy Basketball team. They should be together.
Huerter joined the Hawks for two extended stretches last season. During the first one, which lasted just over two months from mid-January to late-March, Huerter was a top-100 player in both eight and nine-category leagues. During the second stretch, which lasted almost all of April, Huerter was top 75 in 8-cat and top-60 in 9-cat. After De’Andre Hunter’s wrist injury, which is expected to keep him sidelined at least another six weeks, Huerter is back in Atlanta’s starting lineup.
Huerter has started four games without Hunter, though he had to leave one early due to a minor injury. In the three games he played start to finish, Huerter is averaging 19-5-2 to go with 1.0 stocks (steals + blocks) and 4.0 3s in 34.7 minutes. He’s a no-questions-asked, all-leagues add.
Alex Caruso, Bulls (43% rostered)
That’s right, I’m calling the Bulls a contender! We’re 20% into the season and they’ve won two-thirds of their games! They have three All-Stars, a solid bench, and a good coach! What about this team is definitively worse than the 2019-20 Heat, who made the NBA Finals, or the 2020-21 Hawks, who made the ECF? The Bulls are not favorites, nor should they be, but they have a shot!
And Caruso is a big part of why the Bulls are playing so well. Before Nikola Vucevic (COVID-19 protocols) was sidelined, Caruso was averaging 9-3-4 with 2.6 steals in 27.5 minutes off the bench. That’s rosterable for most teams, and a borderline must-add for teams punting points. With Vucevic out, Caruso has stepped into the starting lineup, nearly doubling his rebounds while increasing his assists and maintaining his excellent defense. Vucevic’s return will hurt, but he’s a clear all-leagues add until then.
Josh Hart, Pelicans (51% rostered)
Ok, enough good team talk. The Pelicans are on a hot streak lately, by which I mean they have won one game out of their past 12, enough for them to pull ahead of the Rockets and claim the 29th spot in the NBA standings. But don’t blame Hart for New Orleans’ struggles – he’s one of their only players who is exceeding expectations.
In the nine games that Hart wasn’t limited by injury or ejection, he’s averaged 14-7-4 in 34.0 minutes. He’s shooting incredibly – unsustainably? – efficient, averaging 49.4% from the field and 85.7 from the free throw line. He doesn’t do much in steals, blocks, or 3s, but isn’t a total zero either. With the obvious exception of Zion Williamson (foot), the Pelicans have been fully healthy for the past three games, and Hart has maintained his massive starting workload. Hart should stick on Fantasy rosters at least until Williamson returns, and we still have no idea how far off that will be.
Nah’Shon (Bones) Hyland, Nuggets (27% rostered)
Hyland is a speculative add, not someone teams should be looking at if they need immediate production. His workload is still inconsistent, and coach Michael Malone has seemed reluctant to increase his minutes. But, reluctance aside, Malone has increased Hyland’s minutes, and the rookie has been making an impact. He went on a three-game run averaging 15-4-4 in just 22.0 minutes before an ankle injury forced him to exit early in the fourth game. He didn’t miss any games, but the magic seemed gone in his ineffective 14 minutes on Thursday (though that was a blowout loss and most of the Nuggets played poorly).
The Denver beat writers seem almost unanimous in their excitement over Hyland’s potential, and his per-minute effectiveness during last week’s three-game stretch demands attention. Realistically, the most likely scenario is that Hyland bounces on and off of waivers for a few months, but there’s a window right now for a scorer to step forward for the short-handed Nuggets.
Chimezie Metu, Kings (23% rostered)
In a move almost no one saw coming, the Kings elevated Metu into their starting lineup this week despite a fully healthy roster. Even more surprising, at least in my opinion, is how well he played in that role. He’s averaging 11-8-1 in 27.0 minutes, has blocked a shot in each of his three games as a starter, and has made five 3s. I have no idea if the fourth-year veteran and former second-round pick can keep this up – and, as general policy, I never trust the Kings to do things that make sense. But it’s worth adding Metu for now while we wait to find out. Luke Walton said Metu will start the next two games before he’s “reassessed,” whatever that means.
Talen Horton-Tucker, Lakers (60% rostered)
Another add who may have a short shelf-life. Horton-Tucker might not be rosterable in standard sized leagues when LeBron James (abdomen) is active, and James has a chance to return Friday. But Horton-Tucker is still worth discussing for two reasons:
I might be overstating the impact James’ return will have on Horton-Tucker, who averaged 23-7-2 with 2.0 blocks and 2.7 3s across his first three games of the season last week; and
James might not return Friday, giving us at least one more game of excellent production from THT.
Herbert Jones (9% rostered)
I mentioned in the Hart section that the Pelicans have been fully healthy for the last three games (excepting Zion Williamson). Jones has averaged 24.0 minutes during that stretch. His production in those games has been mostly uninspiring – 8-4-0 and 1.0 3. But three things keep Jones firmly on my radar.
First, he’s a solid defensive contributor. He’s averaging 1.8 stocks in 24.8 minutes on the season, and he’s matched that pace exactly over the last three games. Second, I’m intrigued by a second round pick who can impress the coaching staff so much that he is named a starter in his second NBA game. Finally, third, the Pelicans’ current almost-clean bill of health is unusual, and injuries should increase Jones’ opportunities (the Pelicans’ have a well-earned reputation for struggling to keep their players healthy).
Grant Williams, Celtics (6% rostered)
This one could be super-short lived, as Robert Williams (knee) is being treated as game-to-game and might return within a few hours of this article getting published. But Robert (hereafter referred to by his given name, Time Lord), has a lengthy injury history and is a pivotal piece of the Celtics’ short- and long-term plans. They are likely to err on the side of caution. My completely uninformed guess is that Time Lord misses at least both games in Boston’s Friday-Saturday back-to-back, as well as Monday’s cake-walk against the Rockets. With Time Lord sidelined Wednesday, Williams put up 18 points, six rebounds and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes.
Patrick Beverley, Timberwolves (24% rostered)
Unless this is one of your first seasons playing Fantasy basketball, you’ve probably added and dropped Beverley dozens of times. Given the 33-year-old’s history, we have to assume that the wheels will fall off eventually – but that history is the primary reason Beverley isn’t one of this week’s top adds. He’s been in the starting lineup for eight games now, putting up a solid 9-6-5 in 29.6 minutes and adding some occasional steals, blocks, and 3s. On top of that, his field goal attempts and scoring have been increasing through this stretch, to the point where he’s added double-digit points in three of his last four.
Other recommendations: Devin Vassell, Spurs (53% rostered); Pat Connaughton, Bucks (38% rostered); Gary Payton, Warriors (9% rostered); Larry Nance, Trail Blazers (29% rostered); Kevin Love, Cavaliers (57% rostered); TJ McConnell, Pacers (53% rostered); Herbert Jones (9% rostered); Ivica Zubac, Clippers (58% rostered); Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Thunder (9% rostered)
Deni Avdija, Wizards (15% rostered)
If you have any friends who are Wizards fans, you’ve probably heard a lot about Avdija. Two or three weeks ago, the tenor of those comments did a complete 180, from “ugh classic Wizards reach blowing a draft pick” to “this Avdija guy is actually good now?” Not only has the sophomore made a big leap in the eye test, but the stats are starting to turn as well.
The biggest improvement is coming on the glass, as he’s snagged at least six rebounds in six of his last seven games, nearly doubling his per-game average compared to his first seven games this year. He’s providing relatively stable blocks, and his scoring has increased slightly. The improved play has brought with it an increase in minutes, and as long as he can maintain that he should be able to help some rosters.