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Rivers, Prince and Dunn bring steals to the table, plus other free-agent finds

AP

Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the season, we'll need to source stats from free agency to maximize our imaginary rosters.

A willingness to entertain competition for the last spot or two on your fantasy hoops roster can prove rewarding, even though it's difficult to open up space this early in the season. The final few rounds of a draft are often used for speculation on sleepers, so it can help to consider those end-of-bench players as in direct competition with the talent floating in free agency.

In this weekly series, I 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, I believe the names below -- ordered by the percent of fantasy teams each player is rostered on at each position -- can contribute positively to fantasy rosters.


Point guard

Austin Rivers, LA Clippers (Rostered in 18.6 percent of ESPN leagues): Minutes are often called the coin of the realm in fantasy basketball. It's somewhat simple, since you need minutes to earn fantasy production. With that in mind, Rivers is averaging 34.5 MPG over the past five games and is netting three three-pointers and two steals per game in the process. I'd add and ride Rivers until Milos Teodosic is back in the fold.

Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls (11.2 percent): Steals are nearly as difficult to source as blocks, so it's intriguing to note Dunn is averaging three swipes per game over the past three outings. The point guard depth chart for Chicago is undeniably shallow, so finding this level of defensive larceny from a widely available guard such as Dunn could prove rewarding.

Shooting Guard

Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings (30.9 percent): 17th among shooting guards over the past week on the Player Rater, Hield is enjoying success on the glass of late with at least seven boards in four of his past five games. It's rare to find help from beyond the arc and on the glass, thus Hield is a worthy addition given his success over the past two weeks.

Jonathon Simmons, Orlando Magic (29.2 percent): Known as "Juice" from his days as an energy player off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs, Simmons is living up to his moniker with lively production for Orlando this year. Over his past eight games, including just one start, Simmons is averaging nearly 16 points on healthy shooting rates.

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz (25.8 percent): Supplying needed scoring pop from the wing for the Jazz, Hood has hit on an impressive 41.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts from 3-point range over the past five outings. A new wrinkle in Hood's game might be free throw volume (and efficiency), as he's taken six shots from the stripe per game while hitting 94.4 percent of such attempts over the past three games.

Small Forward

Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks (29.3 percent): I have a feeling Prince will be a popular inclusion in this column this season, at least until the market finally recognizes his valuable contributions. Prince is 23rd on the Player Rater among wings by averages this season, largely thanks to plus contributions in 3-pointers and steals. Prince has taken at least 10 shots from the field in eight straight, averaging 15 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.1 3PFG and 1.3 SPG over this undervalued recent sample.

JR Smith, Cleveland Cavaliers (10.6 percent): Injuries and underwhelming overall perimeter play have defined the Cavs for much of this early stretch of the season, but don't let that keep you from considering Smith as a helpful shooting specialist. Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose simply don't space the floor for Cleveland, but Smith is averaging 2.7 3PFG and 33.2 MPG over his past seven outings, all starts.

Power Forward

Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls (39.7 percent): Ranking 18th in rebounding chances per game (defined as being within 3.5 feet of an available board) and simply feasting on opportunities for a shallow Chicago frontcourt, Portis has averaged 19.3 PPG and 10 RPG while enjoying an added dimension as a stretch shooting threat. Given his ability to maximize this new role, Portis is my favorite addition of the week.

Taj Gibson, Minnesota Timberwolves (30.7 percent): We've long known it's rewarding to roster the frontcourt partner who plays next to Karl-Anthony Towns for the Wolves. Over the past seven games, which were all starts, Gibson is pulling down 8.9 RPG while averaging 12 PPG in 32.1 MPG.

Marcus Morris, Boston Celtics (30.1 percent): Since a limited debut, Morris has averaged nearly 24 minutes over his past three appearances with Boston. Given his ability to work the defensive glass and switch on defense, I'd expect Morris to earn increased exposure over the coming weeks. It already helps that Morris is thriving in the team's space-driven offense by hitting nearly two 3-pointers per game

Trevor Booker, Brooklyn Nets (17.2 percent): Just between Nikola Vucevic and LaMarcus Aldridge getting 13.1 rebounding opportunities per game, Booker is worth rostering in deeper leagues (at least 12 teams), given his ability to build big nights on the glass for a Brooklyn team playing at the fastest pace in more than 25 years.

Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs (9.9 percent): It's worth noting that Anderson has topped 24 minutes in eight games and has played at least 21 minutes in every game this season. You are going to net some light box scores from Anderson at times, but he's in the middle of a Boris Diaw-like run of rebounding and assist production at the moment. Over the past three outings, Anderson have averaged 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 4.3 APG.

Center

Dewayne Dedmon, Atlanta Hawks (24.7 percent): Found just ahead of Ben Simmons, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Draymond Green with 13 rebounding chances per game over the past 10 games, Dedmon is averaging 10.4 PPG and 8.3 RPG with quality shooting rates over a growing sample of success. Even if Dedmon isn't a special talent, the equation of minutes plus opportunity rates almost always fuels fantasy value.

John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks (8.4 percent): Tied with Joel Embiid at 15th in the NBA with 1.5 blocks per game, Henson is averaging 26.4 MPG over the past five contests. With Greg Monroe out of the picture, Henson should continue to offer a top-20 block rate, which we all know is the scarcest of the key categories in fantasy hoops.