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Kemba’s out, and players to add for now AND later

Natty talks fantasy basketball waiver wire.

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Kemba Walker will sit for the rest of the season, making him the second point guard we’ve lost for the fantasy season in less than a week (Chris Paul’s out for 6-8 weeks with a thumb injury). Kemba’s fantasy loss is less devastating, but he’s still a player who’s rostered in 59% of ESPN leagues, and fantasy players will need to replace his mediocre production. Derrick Rose (32.5% rostered) is nearing a return from injury, but Coach Thibodeau may bring him off the bench, per usual. Despite this, DRose should accrue minutes and shots if he’s healthy enough to play, and could end up starting at some point in the future if the other PG candidates don’t work out.

Alec Burks is currently listed as the starting point guard for the Knicks (12% rostered), but also keep your eyes on the youngins: Immanuel Quickley (2.1% rostered), Quentin Grimes (1% rostered), and Cam Reddish (6.3% rostered), as well as Obi Toppin (1.5% rostered). The youth may take center stage on basketball’s Broadway if the Knicks lean, or fall, into a tank. They’re currently in the 12th seed in the East, two games out of the tenth spot (held by the improving Hawks), and dem Knicks just don’t look good, especially since the rest of their schedule is fairly difficult. There could be a lot of fantasy opportunity on the Knickerbockers, though, so keep your eye on who’s getting minutes and counting stats.

Here are some other players to add to your fantasy squads. Some of these players should be added for this year AND for dynasty teams, and if they’re available in your league, you should pick them up pronto.

HERBERT JONES, NOP, SF/PF, 19.3% ROSTERED (ESPN), #48 PLAYER RATER (SEASON)

Young Herb is a rookie and he’s a top 50 player in fantasy on the entire season. He should be rostered on many, many more teams. I think folks might be scared off by his points per game on the season, which is merely 9.6 PPG, and even though they like his strong defensive stats, fantasy managers don’t want to get stuck with a player who can’t score in double-digits, which: fair.

HOWEVER: since December 1st Jones has averaged 11+ PPG on 50% shooting from the floor, along with 2+ 3PA per game and a 37 3PT%, which is totally fine, especially for a rookie. He’s also grabbed 4+ rebounds, 2+ assists, 1+ steal, AND a block per game since 12/1/21. Lemme tell you something, only 12 players in the NBA average 1+ RPG, 1+ APG, 1+ SPG, and 1+ BPG this season: Joel Embiid, GIANNIS, LeBron, the Big KAT, Anthony Davis (also out injured), Jerami Grant, Nikola Vucevic, Jaren Jackson, Jr., Mr. Patrick Beverley (not rostered in nearly enough leagues, IMO), Draymond Green, Robert Bob Covington, and Matisse Thybulle, who can’t score, at all. Think about how coveted Covington was in fantasy circles from a few years back: that’s what Young Herb is heading for, I think/hope. He’s played the second MOST total minutes for the Pelicans this season, and he’s improved as the season’s gone along. What if next year he’s averaging 15-5-3-1-1? And, you coulda had him a bona fide top 50 player IN HIS ROOKIE YEAR. Jones is one of the best young defenders in the NBA, and I have no doubt that he’ll have a strong fantasy future. I honestly wish I had him in my leagues, he seems like an extremely fun player to roster. Alas.

Jones also has a 59.1 True Shooting percentage. Out of all players this season who take at least 7 shots per game, that’s the 45th best TS%. For context, that puts him right between Trae Young at 44th and Jimmy Buckets Butler at 46th. Not bad company.

Anyway, he’s good this year, he’s getting better, and he’s young so should improve even more as the years go on. Invest in Young Herb. (Also, he’s getting a bunch of minutes on a bad team, so there’s volume involved, which makes it even better.)

JAE’SEAN TATE, HOU, SF/PF, 32.4% ROSTERED, #83 PR (SEASON)

Tate’s on one of the worst teams in the NBA, but he’s been a top 100 player and he’s just entering his prime at 26 years old. While he may never reach All-Star level, he’s still a solid player and a good fantasy asset. His season line is 12+ PPG on 50% shooting, with 5+ RPG and 3+ APG. He doesn’t take threes, which is good because he’s bad at them, but his overall efficiency and contributions in counting stats puts him in elite company. Only 10 players are averaging 12/5/3 on at least 50% shooting: Jae’Sean, Josh Hart (who’s now in Portland and is also a must roster player), Bam Adebayo, Domantas Sabonis, Big KAT again, Nikola Jokic, DeMar DeChozan, LeBron again, Kevin Durant, and Giannis (again).

Tate’s another solid wing player (a trend you’ll notice in this piece) who doesn’t wow you with his scoring, but who provides a solid base for a fantasy team. These are players you don’t really need to worry about: they play every game and their stats even out over the course of the season, with a couple of high-scoring nights every now and then, if we’re lucky. He’s been a top 100 player this season, and I think he’ll do that again next season, as Houston will still be bad, and they’ll still need his skills on the wing. Top 100 is Top 100.

CAMERON JOHNSON, PHX, SF, 11.4% ROSTERED, #97 PR (SEASON)

Chris Paul is out for the rest of the regular season, so other Suns will have to shine while their guiding star is out. Could Cam Johnson be one of those players? He currently comes off the bench, but Cam’s been a top 100 player despite this. He’s one of the BEST 3-point shooters in the NBA this season: of all the players who take over five 3-point attempts per game, Cam Johnson has the FOURTH BEST 3PT%. He’s 11th best in TS for players who take 8+ FGA per game, at 62.2 TS%. In his third season he’s averaging 11+ PPG, 4+ RPG, 1+ APG, and since December 1st he’s played the fifth most minutes per game for the Suns. If Devin Booker takes over as the point guard, will Cam Johnson start? It doesn’t cost you much to find out; plus, if he comes off the bench, at least you still get elite 3PM production. Again, top 100 is top 100, and Cam may be in store for even more minutes with CP3 gone.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

LU DORT, OKC, SG/SF, 30.8% ROSTERED, #103 PR (SEASON)

Lu’s similar to Jae’Sean, except he doesn’t give you the efficiency that Tate provides. However, Dort’s scoring more, and he’s giving you 3PM, something Tate does not. Dort’s line on the season is 17-4-1 with 2+ 3PM, good enough to put him right on the cusp of being a top 100 fantasy player. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is back from being injured, while Dort’s currently out with a shoulder stinger, but Lu should soon return to a suddenly rejuvenated Young Thunder team. Dort’s a heavy minutes guy, so his counting stats should maintain for the rest of the season (and his efficiency could improve with SGA back).

DEVIN VASSELL, SAS, SG/SF, 15.2% ROSTERED, #123 PR (SEASON)

This is an opportunity play. Derrick White was traded to the Boston Celtics, and now Vassell is in the starting five, it’s as simple as that. Fantasy players have patiently waited on Vassell, San Antonio’s next great player development story (we hope), He’s been a top 125 player on the season despite coming off the bench, but over the last 30 days he’s been a top 100 player. That level of fantasy play should continue for the foreseeable future, I think. He went for 15-5-6 with a block in the Spurs’ final game before the break, and he went for 20 against the Hawks a few games before that. He’s only 21 years old, too. Add him now before other owners notice his increase in playing time.

Here are a few players who you should keep your eye on, or consider picking up:

AYO DOSUNMU, CHI, SG/PG, 25.9% ROSTERED, #54 PR (LAST 30 DAYS)

He’s starting until the Bulls’ backcourt gets healthy. He provides elite counting stats, 7+ APG over the past month, along with 10+ PPG and 3+ RPG, 1+ SPG, and 1+ 3PM. He’s a big reason why the Bulls have been able to maintain their record atop the Eastern Conference. I don’t know how Chicago will handle things once Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso return, but I’ve seen enough from Ayo to know that he’s a genuine NBA player. I think he has a bright future ahead of him, and I’ve rostered him everywhere I can in fantasy. Who says Lonzo and Caruso come back soon, or come back healthy?

ALPEREN SENGUN, HOU, C, 10.2% ROSTERED, #144 PR (LAST 30 DAYS)

He’s the heir apparent in the paint in Houston. He’s not a must-roster player, but his per-36 numbers are interesting to say the least: 16-9-5, with a block and a steal. You can’t win fantasy seasons with hypotheticals, but you can build your fantasy dynasty roster with potential, and Sengun has that in spades. He succeeded in Europe, and once he gets a chance here in the NBA, I think he’ll succeed here, too. He’s definitely a paint-bound big, he’s not going to gives you any threes, but that doesn’t mean he can’t deliver fantasy value.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

CAM THOMAS, BK, SG, 14.5% ROSTERED, #110 PR (LAST 30 DAYS)

I mean, whether Kyrie can play or not, Cam Thomas has shown he can score. I can’t believe he’d lose ALL of his minutes to a returning Ky and a recently-acquired Ben Simmons, right? I think Cam Thomas and Patty Mills share the Brooklyn Joe Harris and Sixth Man roles once the Nets are “healthy,” if such a thing actually exists for the Nets. Thomas has put up BIG scoring numbers before the break, and I have him on my main team in the hopes that he can keep putting up those buckets.

CAMERON PAYNE, PHX, PG

VICTOR OLADIPO, MIA, SG

Just remember these two guys exist. Cam Payne may end up inheriting a lot of Chris Paul minutes once he’s healthy enough to return, and Dipo is actually travelling with the Heat, so his return may be imminent, too. Both could have big roles for the second half of the season, if they’re healthy enough. Keep them on your watch list, at least for streaming purposes.