It's fun and necessary to mine the waiver wire for the latest hot hand, while ditching players on your roster who have gone cold. After all, every little statistical bump you can get will make your team more competitive. However, leagues are more often won by the teams that strike waiver-wire gold in a player who explodes for a month or two. Sometimes a player such as Jeremy Lin will come out of nowhere to fit that bill, but more often than not, we have a pretty good idea who these breakout waiver pickups will be ahead of time. Savvy fantasy hoopsters will roster them before they catch fire or settle into a steady role.
With that in mind, let's take a look at five players you may be able to add right now with the expectation that they will make a significant statistical impact for your fantasy squad in January. Add them now, before they get hot.
Louis Williams, Atlanta Hawks (owned in 15.5 percent of ESPN leagues): It's a little hard to get overly excited about adding a backup guard who is recovering from a knee injury. Yet, he can be a factor for your fantasy squad as the season progresses. It's been 11 months since Williams tore his ACL, so he should be nearing full strength. Before his injury, Williams averaged 14.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.8 3-PPG in just 28.7 MPG off the bench. He has looked pretty good over his first 11 games this season, averaging 9.8 PPG, 3.1 APG, 0.7 SPG and 1.6 3-PPG. He also torched the New York Knicks for 27 points (9-16 FG), 3 dimes and 6 3s on Saturday, which shows the potential he has even at this stage of his rehab. Sure, his upside will be capped so long as he is a reserve, but once he gets up to speed, he should match his production from last season. That makes him a quality addition to round out your starting roster if you need dimes and 3s.
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks (53.2 percent): Ilyasova had his minutes restriction lifted less than two weeks ago. After battling ankle, hamstring and thumb injuries early on this season, Ilyasova is just starting to round into shape physically. That might help explain his horrid production thus far, though nothing will really explain a player with his skills sinking just four of the 25 shots he has taken over the past three games.
Still, there is plenty of upside to be mined from the big fella, if he can stay healthy and find a steady role in coach Larry Drew's rotation. Don't forget that Ilyasova was a mess early on last season, too. Fantasy owners who picked him up off the waiver wire and waited it out last season were rewarded when his production rose each month. Check out his production after the All-Star break last season: 17.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.7 3-PPG, 48.7 FG% and 86.5 FT%.
If you are looking to roll the dice in the next couple of weeks on a player who could make a serious impact for your team in January, Ilyasova has to be on the short list.
Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic (64.7 percent): I've been talking up Harris all season, but his body has not cooperated. After missing five weeks with a high ankle sprain, Harris tweaked it in his return and missed another few weeks. He finally returned to action again Friday and managed to roll again Sunday and Monday without incident. Fortunately for you, he hasn't done anything of note statistically, so he remains available on plenty of waiver wires.
He may not pop off big-time stats in the short term as a reserve, but I do think he will push Glen Davis aside for the starting power forward job sooner than later. Let's put it this way, if I'm going to put my money on one big man to come up big for the Magic and my fantasy squads, it won't be the guy averaging 13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.2 3-PPG and 0.6 BPG this season (Big Baby); it will be the guy who averaged 17.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.0 3-PPG and 1.4 BPG after the All-Star break for the Magic last season.
Go pick up Harris now, so he can help you next month.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (46.3 percent): Coach Gregg Popovich knows how to ride a hot hand, but he also sits players when they turn to ice. Green is like Mr. Cold Miser at the moment, so it's no surprise that as his shooting slumped from 44.9 FG% last month to 37.5 FG% this month, his court time has dropped from 23.8 MPG to 18.7 MPG. It's also no coincidence that when Green shot a season-high 51.9 FG% in February last season, he also played a season-high 30.5 MPG. His 15.1 PPG and 3.5 3-PPG that month were season-high marks by a wide margin. If you have a deep bench, Green is a nice stash for when (not if) he finds his stroke.
Greivis Vasquez, Toronto Raptors (54.8 percent): I understand why Vasquez's ownership has slipped more than 10 percent since his trade to the Raptors. He went from one crowded backcourt to another crowed backcourt and has done nothing of note statistically in his two games with the Raps. However, there are sound rumors that the team is aiming to trade away Kyle Lowry. General manager Masai Ujiri has been very active on the trade market since taking over during the summer, and all signs point to Lowry leaving the team sooner than later. If that transpires, Vasquez should slide right in as their long-term starting point guard.
Remember that no player in the NBA dished out as many dimes as Vasquez did last season. The potential of securing a potential 9.0 APG player for the second two-thirds of the season should be irresistible. Vasquez is one Ujiri phone call away from being in position to do just that.