Top Fantasy Basketball pickups: Isaiah Canaan among adds to consider

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5204/" data-ylk="slk:Isaiah Canaan">Isaiah Canaan</a> is worth a look in fantasy leagues after landing with the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/teams/pho/" data-ylk="slk:Phoenix Suns">Phoenix Suns</a>. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
Isaiah Canaan is worth a look in fantasy leagues after landing with the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports

The theme of this week’s waiver wire article is temper your expectations (aside from Bobby Portis — he’s very much legitimate).

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Isaiah Canaan was picked up 6,777 times Wednesday after two impressive games but was subsequently dropped 1,743 times by noon Thursday. Sure, some of those may have been leagues that have lineup lock every day rather than every week, but the point is that being too trigger-happy in fantasy basketball can come back to haunt you in the long run.

The temper your expectations theme is also in effect because we’ve gone another week without a major, team-altering injury (assuming Chris Paul is fine). As such, many of the obvious wire options have been snatched up, leaving us with mainly deeper-league or standard league bench options.

If I refer to a player’s fantasy ranking, it’s for 8-category leagues that don’t account for turnovers. Ownership percentages as of Thursday.

Backcourt

Isaiah Canaan, Suns (25 percent owned)

While Canaan’s fantasy value was certainly higher after his first two games in a Suns uniform (16.0 points, 6.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals) compared to his most recent outing (10 points, three assists, two rebounds and one steal), he’s still worth a look. In the three contests since Canaan joined the team, Mike James has played 20 total minutes with one DNP-CD, while Tyler Ulis has seen 62 total minutes.

At the very least, Canaan is worth bringing up for the fact that he may be absorbing some, if not most, of James’ role in the rotation. James was picked up off the waiver wire in many leagues once he started seeing significant run, and if you’re one of those owners, now may be the time to consider other options. Though Canaan was signed to the team under the NBA’s injury hardship exception, GM Ryan McDonough recently noted that Canaan is “likely” to stay on the roster. That certainly doesn’t guarantee James is the one who gets cut — alleviating the logjam at center is the more pressing issue — but the situation doesn’t look promising.

There’s risk involved in picking up Canaan in standard leagues, however. He’s looked good through three games, but this is his fifth year in the league without much to show for it. The most run he’s gotten previously was when he appeared in 99 games for the 76ers and averaged 25.6 minutes per game. In those minutes, he posted 11.4 points, 2.4 threes, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest — numbers which are hardly fantasy-relevant. He’s 26 years old — around the age where players begin to reach their peak — so it’s fair to assume he’s made some strides. That said, I would take a wait-and-see approach with Canaan, especially with Devin Booker (groin) set to return by the end of the calendar year.

Jarrett Jack, Knicks (11 percent owned)

Jack’s numbers aren’t flashy, but he’s managed to rank 17th in the league in assists per game (6.1) this season, which is far too good to be owned in just 11 percent of leagues. He’s more helpful in head-to-head formats considering he’s mostly a single-category contributor, but Jack can certainly be a quality bench option in standard rotisserie leagues, as he’s the 82nd-ranked player over the past seven days. Fantasy owners in deep leagues should especially take a serious look at Jack.

Frontcourt 

Maxi Kleber, Mavericks (7 percent owned)

As shocking as it may be, Kleber is establishing himself as a legitimate rotational player for the Mavericks, seeing 28.5 minutes per game since Dec. 6. In that span, he’s averaged 9.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 threes and 1.0 assists per game. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s been a borderline-top-100 player over the past seven days, making him a legitimate fantasy option in deep formats. Picking him up is still someone of a risk, however, as his scoring has been inconsistent and he averages just 8.5 shot attempts per 36 minutes.

Bobby Portis, Bulls (42 percent owned)

Despite Portis, Lauri Markkanen and Nikola Mirotic all jostling for minutes in the frontcourt, Portis should continue to see significant run, as he’s shown to be a competent backup center behind stater Robin Lopez. In games that Portis has seen between 20 and 29 minutes this season, he’s averaging 14.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 threes. He’s also been the 35th-ranked player over the past seven days and the 70th-ranked player over the past 14. The ball is in his hands often, as he has the third-highest usage rate on the team (25.4%) among players who have started at least three games. If someone in your league jumped ship on Portis in fear that his fantasy value would fall by the wayside when Mirotic came back, now may be a good time to pick him up yourself.

Mike Scott, Wizards (20 percent owned)

Scott’s role on the Wizards was inconsistent for the first 24 games of the year, as he saw just 17.9 minutes and averaging 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. But he’s carved out more playing time recently, and it’s come at the expense of Markieff Morris’ workload. Over the past six contests, Scott is posting 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 threes and 1.0 assists across 25.0 minutes per game. He’s also ranked as the 56th-best fantasy player over the past 14 days. The Wizards have dealt with some minor injuries as of late, which has opened up more time for Scott, but it’s hard to imagine his role falling off completely once everyone is healthy. Don’t drop one of your consistent starters for him, but replacing someone at the end of your bench with Scott could bolster your roster. In deep leagues, especially, Scott is worth a serious look.

Jamil Wilson, Clippers (2 percent owned)

With both Danilo Gallinari (glute) and Blake Griffin (knee) out possibly through January, Wilson has had an opportunity to see extended run with the Clippers. Though his 10.4 points and 3.0 rebounds across 24.6 minutes during the past five games aren’t eye-popping, Wilson’s main fantasy value comes from his three-point shooting. Over that stretch, the Marquette product is averaging 2.4 made threes per game on 5.6 attempts. As underwhelming as his overall numbers are, he’s still managed to rank as the 93rd-best player in fantasy over the past seven days. I’d temper expectations in standard leagues, but he’s far too under-owned in deep formats.

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