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 54.5 percent of ESPN leagues): It's all about the larceny with this guy, as an elite steal rate drives value for Beverley as a fantasy option. Forgive the meager scoring results and instead focus on career-high rebounding production and a difference-making steal rate.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics (45.4): This combo guard is even more dependent, and arguably more valuable, than Beverley's relationship with steals. Smart is averaging 2.8 steals over the past nine games, to go with more than eight combined assists and rebounds per game. Even when Avery Bradley is back, Smart is a wise addition for those in need of support in steals.
Yogi Ferrell, Dallas Mavericks (41.4): Advanced metrics support Ferrell as a worthy starting option in both real and fantasy hoops; his offensive rating of 110 (points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor) over the past nine games proves emboldening. Simply based on the most important and simple stat -- minutes -- we find Ferrell netting 31 per game over the past nine, including consecutive starts after Deron Williams' departure.
TJ McConnell, Philadelphia 76ers (38.6): McConnell continues to dominate the league in one simple statistic: passes per game. The Arizona product has averaged 79.1 passes per game over the past 15 games, nearly six more than the Kings' Darren Collison over this sample. With an assist-to-pass ratio of 9.6 percent, McConnell is producing 14.7 potential assists per game for teammates and 18.7 points created from assists per game. These are comparable rates to some of the top names in the league over this span, such as Kyle Lowry and Eric Bledsoe. With a clear path to minutes, touches, and passes, McConnell is essentially a specialist in dimes at the helm of a Philly offense that rates third in pace over the past 10 games.
Jameer Nelson, Denver Nuggets (30.8): Nelson was recently named the team's enduring starter at point guard, but in actuality he's started 16 straight games when we consider the injury to Emmanuel Mudiay. Over this stretch, Nelson has averaged 30.1 minutes, 11 points, 6.3 assists and 1.8 3-pointers. Daily fantasy investors can tell you how hot Nelson has been of late, upping his rates to 14.5 points and 2.7 3-pointers made per game over the past six starts. The ceiling isn't very high with Nelson, but steady stats sourced from free agency can help in deeper leagues.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (58.7): Over the past two games, Middleton has averaged 25 minutes. As Joe Kaiser identifies in tabbing the Milwaukee guard as a breakout candidate, "The Bucks will be counting on Middleton to score points" over the final weeks of the season.
Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks (45.9): I'd rather use my roster spot on the guy below from Denver, but for those in need of shooting support and respectable assist and steal peripherals, Curry remains a worthy utility asset. The Mavericks have turned their roster over to Dirk Nowitzki and a core of young players, with Curry afforded 5.4 3-point attempts and 34 minutes per over the past 14 games -- all starts.
Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets (40.6): One of my favorite young perimeter players in the league this season, Harris blends a valuable balance of steals and efficient scoring at a shallow shooting guard position. The Denver backcourt gains some clarity with Mudiay playing in a limited role and Harris averaging 33.3 minutes and 18.9 points over the past eight starts.
Kyle Korver, Cleveland Cavaliers (34.4): The hottest hand from beyond the arc in the league of late, Korver has hit 55 percent of his 5.9 3-point attempts per game over his past 19 appearances for Cleveland. For those seeking an infusion of shooting, Korver's value as a specialist has been revitalized in this rewarding role for the Cavs.
Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers (57.2): This is getting ridiculous, as Covington's ownership rate is bafflingly low for a player sustaining an entirely rare blend of blocks and steals amid an uptick in minutes, shots, and scoring over the past two weeks. Over the past five games, Covington has averaged 19.8 points, 8.4 boards, 3.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 3.8 made 3-pointers per game. This is some silly prime Shawn Marion stuff from the emergent Sixers' wing, as Covington is sixth on the Player Rater among small forwards over the past 30 days and he's first overall at the position over the past 15.
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings (38.2): The Kings are nearly destitute at the wing at this point; with Rudy Gay out for the season and Omri Casspi and Matt Barnes no longer on the roster. Evans has averaged 24.1 minutes, a 30 percent assist rate, 26.3 usage rate and an offensive rating of 105 in two games with the Kings. The wing is fairly thin when it comes to the wire in ESPN leagues, and thus, Evans merits real consideration in weekly leagues for a volume-driven finish to the fantasy campaign in Sacramento.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic (14.9): In two games with Orlando since being traded for Serge Ibaka, Ross is averaging 34.1 minutes, 18.5 points, 16 shots, 2.5 steals and 7.5 3-point attempts per game. It's a small sample, but also uniquely encouraging when you consider Ross' offensive rating of 113 and a 22 percent usage rate as a premier scoring weapon in Orlando. I suggest acquiring Ross in all formats, as he could enjoy rare offensive freedom on the perimeter for the Magic over the final six weeks.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic (56.9): Consistent minutes and a clear role haven't proven consistent elements of Gordon's young career, but it appears he'll earn steady exposure in the wake of Ibaka's shift to Toronto. Gordon has averaged 28.8 minutes over the past four games, evidence that a steady identity could emerge to conclude the campaign.
Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers (56.6): Owners are scooping Saric up en masse of late. The "Homie" is averaging 20.3 points, nine rebounds, and 1.7 3-pointers made over the past seven games. Saric has at least 11 boards in four straight and has played at least 31 minutes in each game over this stretch. Philly cleaned out the frontcourt rotation at the deadline, so Saric's emergent game will be fed with plenty of minutes and touches.
Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls (15.0): The deadline quietly vaulted Mirotic into a valuable role in the Chicago frontcourt; he produced 34 points and 18 boards over the weekend. We chase minutes as much as if not more than talent in fantasy hoops, and Mirotic might actually claim a blend of both at this point.
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers (51.3): Over the past two games, Nurkic is seventh in the NBA in rebounding chances per game -- defined as being within 3.5 feet of an available board. With 28 minutes per game over this small sample and a valuable interior role on the glass for the Blazers, Nurkic is a worthwhile addition at a shallow center position.
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers (46.5): I'm an admitted skeptic of Okafor's game, but must recognize he's a uniquely skilled interior scorer, if nothing else. With increased exposure whenever Joel Embiid sits, which could be often over the final weeks, Okafor can help in points and blocks for those in need of frontcourt depth.
Frank Kaminsky III, Charlotte Hornets (32.7): The Wisconsin stretch big has enjoyed awesome freedom recently, as "The Tank" has averaged 17.7 points, 6.8 boards, 1.3 steals and 2.4 3-pointers made over the past nine games. The Hornets' depleted frontcourt depth chart affords Kaminsky a really nice stream of opportunities each time out.
Willy Hernangomez, New York Knicks (29.6): Another stretch gem for the Knicks' frontcourt, Hernangomez has produced at least nine boards in six of the past seven and is providing help in blocks and assists of late. Kristaps Porzingis is banged up and there are enough minutes and touches for Hernangomez to at least claim streaming value, in the interim.