Working the waiver wire is crucial to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the season, we need to source stats from free agency to maximize our imaginary rosters.
In this weekly series, we identify players available in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues at each position. Some nominations are purely specialists, capable of helping in one or two categories, while others deliver more diverse and important statistical offerings. Either way, we believe the names below -- ordered by ownership rate at each position -- can contribute positively to fantasy rosters.
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets (Owned in 54.4 percent of ESPN leagues): Second among 86 point guards in real defensive plus-minus, Beverley's elite on-ball defense surfaces in his stellar steal rate, as he's tied for ninth in the league among guards since December 1st in steals per game. As the complementary distributor on a Houston scheme that ranks third in offensive rating, it's additionally encouraging to consider Beverley is averaging 34 percent more rebounds than his career rate. For those wavering on acquiring him on the waiver wire, consider that Beverley has impressively averaged 16.7 points, 2.7 made 3-pointers, six boards, five dimes, and two steals over his past three starts.
Austin Rivers, LA Clippers (43.0): Minutes are the key currency in fantasy basketball. It's worth noting then that over the past 16 starts, Rivers has averaged 35.5 minutes. This has led to valuable contributions in scoring (16.8 points per game) and 3-pointers (2.1). The Clippers enjoy a five-game week in the first portion of the fantasy playoffs in ESPN head-to-head formats -- indicating Rivers could prove pivotal down the stretch.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics (36.1): In four of his past 11 games, Smart has produced at least three steals. Fifth in steals among guards over the past five games, Smart can single-handedly fuel a surge in swipes for those in search of this scarce statistic.
T.J. McConnell, Philadelphia 76ers (33.9): Not only is McConnell flashing a rare clutch gene in late-game action of late, he's also leading the NBA in passes per game by 15.8 percent since the start of January. Thanks to such passing volume, McConnell is eighth in assists per game in 2017 and worthy of ownership in all formats.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (50.2): Working his way back to full strength from a significant hamstring injury, Middleton exceeded his minute restriction in just his second appearance this season. It will require patience and roster space to wait on Middleton to resume full-scale usage, but he has league-changing upside for the fantasy playoffs.
Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks (49.2): Since vaulting into a steady starting role a month ago, Curry has averaged 15.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, and 1.2 steals, as Dallas has gone 11-5 over this successful sample. Shooting guard is among the shallowest talent pools in the league, thus our immediate interest in Stephen's talented brother.
Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers (49.8): Covington joins Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza as the only three players averaging at least 1.8 steals and 3-pointers this season. Further exploring Covington's elite defensive potential, Covington is the only player in the league meeting the aforementioned thresholds and 0.9 blocks per game.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (45.6): Amid multiple injuries on Denver's roster, Barton has averaged 18.8 points, seven rebounds, and five assists over the past four games. We don't trust Barton to sustain such production, but he's a worthy depth addition given his ability to enjoy valuable hot streaks.
Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets (32.4): If Barton's variant usage and opportunity rates are tough to stomach for shallow roster, Harris enjoys a steadier diet of shots, minutes, and steals.
Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers (23.5): We find several worthy additions on Philly's roster, especially as they look to prove active in shopping frontcourt options. We know Saric's spot on the roster is safe, so he could potentially earn increased usage and minutes in the wake of a deal. Over the past eight games, Saric has averaged 15.1 points and 27 minutes, evidence he's worthy of a roster spot in 12-team formats.
Matt Barnes, Sacramento Kings (19.8): In the wake of Rudy Gay's injury, Barnes has averaged 31.7 minutes over the past six games. This impressive exposure rate has led to Barnes averaging a double-double over this recent stretch with 3-point and defensive production adding to a valuable blend of fantasy metrics.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers (48.8): The most popular roster for fantasy free agency offers another name to consider, as Noel could earn steadier minutes if the team deals Jahlil Okafor, as rumors suggest. A rare defensive force capable of providing difference-making rates in steals and blocks, Noel is a fine speculative stash as we near the trade deadline.
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers (21.5): Nurkic has been dealt from Denver to Portland, thus the center should assume starting duties for a Portland team in need of interior rebounding and low-post offense.
Frank Kaminsky III, Charlotte Hornets (15.2): Frank the Tank offers investors a unique blend of 3-pointers, steals, and points as a productive option for the Hornets. With more minutes in the wake of a recent frontcourt trade, this Wisconsin product is flying under the radar as a helpful stretch big.