By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
It’s that time of the year when the days get shorter, and the sun goes down earlier. The fantasy basketball waiver wire seems like it’s beginning to thin out, but that may be a mirage. This week’s column features three solid short-term options who might help get you through December, plus three players with long-term upside whom you may want to add sooner rather than later.
Here are six players to consider picking up heading into Week 9.
Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns (46 percent rostered)
Chris Paul (heel) struggled in his return to the lineup following a 14-game absence, totaling four points, four boards and four dimes in 24 minutes during Wednesday’s loss to Boston. Meanwhile, Payne posted 12 points, three boards, three dimes and one steal in 16 minutes.
Paul has appeared in at least 65 games in each of the last three seasons, and he may avoid the injury bug for the remainder of the campaign. Still, it’s surprising that fantasy basketball managers are jumping off the Payne train so quickly (-13% Last Day), given how well he played while the 37-year-old star was sidelined.
Sporting career-best averages of 13.0 points and 5.7 assists across 25.9 minutes, Payne is worth picking up in case Paul doesn’t stay healthy. Those already rostering Paul shouldn’t hesitate to scoop up Payne if he becomes available.
Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz (42% rostered)
Kessler had some stellar showings to start the season before settling into a modest reserve role behind Utah’s more seasoned veteran big men. However, the rookie center has been impressive lately, recording 2.9 rejections across 17.8 minutes per game over the last eight matchups. He has also turned in a double-double in two of the previous three contests, collecting 20 points, 11 boards and two blocks in 25 minutes versus the Pacers last week, and more recently logging 10 points, 12 boards and five swats in 24 minutes against the Warriors on Wednesday.
If Utah falls out of the playoff picture as the year progresses, Kessler could be in line for increased playing time. As such, he is worthy of consideration not just in dynasty leagues but for those who can afford to stash a player with long-term upside who could be stuffing the stat sheet on a nightly basis during the second half of the season.
Moritz Wagner, Orlando Magic (38% rostered)
Wendell Carter (foot) has missed 10 straight games and counting. It didn’t happen right away, but Wagner has stepped up and seemingly snatched the starting center spot until Carter returns, having averaged 13.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 30.4 minutes across the last five contests. Carter may be fully recovered soon, although likely not imminently, and Wagner seems like an excellent streaming option until further notice.
Jalen McDaniels, Charlotte Hornets (38% rostered)
Over the last five games, McDaniels is averaging 16.4 points, 4.4 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.6 threes and 1.0 steals across 31.6 minutes. Gordon Hayward (shoulder) remains without a timetable to return. Meanwhile, McDaniels is managing career-high averages of 10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 dimes, 1.2 threes, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks in 26.8 minutes. If you can cope with the occasional dud, McDaniels is a quality add in most formats until Hayward is healthy.
Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota Timberwolves (32% rostered)
Nowell has been helping pick up the slack offensively since Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) went down, scoring 19.6 points per night with 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.6 threes in 25.8 minutes during the last five games. Given his propensity for putting the ball in the basket, Nowell should continue to see ample minutes while Towns is sidelined. Along with Kyle Anderson, Nowell has seen the most sizable spike in involvement during Towns’ absence, though Anderson has never been one to pour it on from a scoring standpoint.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers (4% rostered)
Rubio (knee) is nearly ready for five-on-five, so it may not be long before he’s dishing out dimes and racking up steals off the bench for the Cavaliers. Rest assured — by the time Rubio is set to make his season debut, he won’t be this widely available. Dimes and steals are not easy to find on the waiver wire, and Rubio has been delivering on those fronts for over a decade. Add him now before it’s too late.