Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the marathon campaign, we’ll need to source stats from free agency to maximize imaginary rosters.
A willingness to entertain competition for the last few spots on your fantasy hoops roster can prove rewarding. When curating this fluid collective of statistical contributors, it helps to consider your end-of-bench players in direct competition with the talent floating in free agency.
The goal of this weekly series is to identify players at each position widely available in free agency in ESPN leagues. Some nominations are specialists capable of helping in one or two categories, while others deliver more diverse and important statistical offerings. In the breakdowns below, I’ve ordered players at each position with the priority of acquisition in mind, rather than roster percentage in ESPN leagues.
Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns (Rostered in 23.9% of ESPN leagues): Chris Paul is working his way back from a lingering heel injury, but it doesn’t sound like his return is either imminent or likely to include heavy minutes and usage right away, signaling extended fantasy value for Payne as long as he’s starting for Phoenix.
De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (26.9%): Likely to continue to play heavy minutes even upon James Harden’s return to the rotation given Tyrese Maxey is still weeks from a return, Melton brings one of the best steal rates in the league along with some helpful shooting and rebounding rates for a combo guard.
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (19.6%): With at least six assists in eight of his last nine games, Hayes has established himself as one of the best widely-available sources of assists. A clutch performance against the Mavericks a few nights ago confirms that Hayes is making a leap of sorts in his third season.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks (11.2%): Few players claim as much shooting confidence, irrational or otherwise, as Hardaway Jr. when he’s in the middle of a hot streak. Now is one of those times, as “THJ” has dropped at least 22 points in three straight exiting the weekend.
Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings (17.9%): There will be some quiet lines when Monk isn’t a primary part of the Sacramento offense, and there will be some massive scoring performances mixed in, as well, for the Kings’ microwave. If you can handle the inherent variance of Monk’s production pattern, he’s a fun player to roster.
Jaylen Nowell, Minnesota Timberwolves (4.3%): You wouldn’t think the injury to Karl-Anthony Towns would influence a backup scoring guard very much, but Nowell has actually handled increased minutes and shooting duties in recent games with real success, posting at least 21 points in his last past three straight exits the weekend.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (59.4%): A scorer by trade, Brooks has upped his creation and passing production with Desmond Bane sidelined, producing at least four dimes in seven of his last eight games.
Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans (20.4%): Providing efficient perimeter scoring and awesome defensive rates in playing more in place of an injured Brandon Ingram recently, Murphy has proven he’s worth rostering whenever he’s a major part of the Pelicans’ rotation.
AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks (1.6%): Injuries to the Hawks’ frontcourt, namely to John Collins and De’Andre Hunter, have afforded this rookie more exposure in recent games. The results have been impressive, with Griffin proving capable of scoring and defending at this level.
Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings (59.7%): Strong play over the weekend should see this gifted rookie become a more popular fantasy option, especially if he can get closer to averaging 30 minutes per night like he had earlier in the season.
Royce O’Neale, Brooklyn Nets (41.6%): A connector capable of filling gaps as a cutter or playmaker on offense and as one of Brooklyn’s few accomplished perimeter defenders, you need to overlook O’Neale’s modest scoring rate and instead consider how he does a bit of everything else.
Marvin Bagley III, Detroit Pistons (15.0%): Found at 15th among centers during the past two weeks on the Player Rater, Bagley has strung together some strong lines thanks to rich rebounding and is eligible at both frontcourt positions in ESPN leagues.
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz (47.3%): Don’t let Olynyk’s modest rebounding rates throw you off; he’s ranked among the most valuable centers on the Player Rater last week thanks to contributing across the board in categories such as assists, blocks, and shooting results.
Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons (22.7%): Adding some 3-point production to his fantasy profile has made Stewart a more interesting option, especially now that he’s playing heavy minutes and seeing gobs of rebounding opportunities for Detroit again.
Pistons center Isaiah Stewart recently returned from injury and with the surprising addition of 3-point shooting to his game this season, he’s a candidate for much bigger numbers in fantasy.