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 available in at least half of ESPN leagues at each position. 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.
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers (Rostered in 27.2% of ESPN leagues): With 19 dimes to just two turnovers over his last three appearances, Maxey is shining as the team’s top distributor sans Ben Simmons. With at least 14 points in all but two appearances this season thanks in part to an uptick in drives and free-throw volume, Maxey merits more attention from fantasy managers.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers (37.5%): Assists can prove scarce on the wire, but Rubio provides enough dimes and steals to make up for modest scoring rates, albeit he was a difference-maker as a shooting force against the Knicks on Sunday.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (23.1%): The league defines the all-in-one advanced metric Game Score as a statistic that attempts to give a total perspective on a player’s statistical performance in a given game. I’ve heard the model described as a linear, single-game representation of PER (player efficiency rating). Either way, it’s a rough estimate of player impact and is relevant in that Brunson has produced Games Scores of 20.3 and 26.2 in two of his last three outings. Brunson produced a Game Score of at least 20 just four times last season. Taking on a larger workload with Jason Kidd at the helm, Brunson is beginning to flirt with fantasy value.
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors (51.0%): Hot again from the floor with 23.7 PPG in three games prior to Sunday’s tilt against Houston, Poole is tied with Zach LaVine and Joe Harris in 3-point attempts on the season. A volume shooter is mostly a scoring and 3-point specialist for fantasy purposes, so Poole should sustain value until Klay Thompson is back in the mix.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (34.3%): He’s cooled from the floor after a torrid start to the season, but Bane is still playing plenty of minutes and lofting a helpful rate of 3-pointers. Due for some better shooting nights given his awesome career efficiency from beyond the arc, it could be wise to consider Bane as a specialist.
Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers (37.4%): Second among all rookies in scoring with 16.1 PPG, this 24-year-old is uniquely ready to contribute to an NBA rotation right away. With the Pacers proving thin on the perimeter most nights, Duarte has lofted 13.8 shots per game, with just under half of those coming from beyond the arc.
Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls (28.8%): Tied with Jimmy Butler for third in the league in steals per game, Caruso is mostly a defensive specialist in both real and fantasy regards. The assist rate is encouraging enough to rely on Caruso in roto or category formats.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (45.9%): Find room on your roster for this playmaking wing. Barton is up to a career-best 4.3 dimes per game while also taking the most shots and 3-pointers per game in his career. With Denver’s need for his blend of scoring and distribution, Barton should continue to play a big role.
Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors (47.9%): Among the most-added players in ESPN leagues during the last week, Trent paces the NBA with 3.1 steals per game and has made multiple 3-pointers in all but two appearances this season. Likely to hover around 15 shots per game for Toronto this season — with roughly half coming from deep —
Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers (9.9%): While he’s likely to miss a few games due to being in COVID-19 protocol, it’s worth targeting Thybulle upon his return in roto leagues and even in deeper category formats given his absurd defensive rates. During his last four games, Thybulle has somehow registered 11 steals and nine blocks.
Robert Covington, Portland Trail Blazers (55.1%): Undeniably struggling as a shooter thus far, given the larger sample of success as a floor-spacing and dynamic defender, this 3-and-D forward likely deserves some patience.
Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers (44.0%): Sidelined in the league’s health and safety protocols at the moment, Markkanen flashed some fun rim protection and scoring metrics in his first few games with the Cavs. Even if the fit in Cleveland’s oversized starting lineup could prove wonky, Markkanen could deliver top-100 value once back in the starting lineup.
Thaddeus Young, San Antonio Spurs (48.3%): On a young Spurs team focused on developing talent and likely angling for draft success as a goal this season, the minutes aren’t always there for this steady veteran. That said, he’s a busy defender with multiple turnovers forced in two games entering Sunday’s matchup with the Thunder. Given last season’s awesome assist rate with the Bulls and the potential to build some big lines when afforded minutes, Young is an older guy worth targeting.
Kelly Olynyk, Detroit Pistons (37.7%): While we might never again see Olynyk play a sustained high-usage role like he did with Houston last season, he brings just enough of a steal rate and enough shooting volume to help teams as a streaming or insurance option.
Precious Achiuwa, Toronto Raptors (7.2%): This guy hasn’t played very efficiently season, but the team continues to give him a busy role around the paint that leads to some solid rebounding rates (9.0 RPG the last seven days).