Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the season, a willingness to entertain competition for the last spot or two on your fantasy hoops roster can prove rewarding.
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, I believe the players below can contribute positively to fantasy rosters.
J.J. Barea, Dallas Mavericks (rostered in 18.5 percent of ESPN leagues): It's Barea, and not gifted rookie Dennis Smith Jr., who has been the team's best distributor over the past few weeks. We find this savvy vet at 16th in the league in potential assists per game over the past 10 games, just ahead of Kemba Walker and Dennis Schroder. You won't get much defensive production from Barea, but he's been awesomely productive on offense for several weeks now.
Jarrett Jack, New York Knicks (3.4): For some reason, fantasy managers don't have interest in a starting point guard playing 28.3 minutes with sound assist production. With 11.8 potential assists per game over the past 10, Jack is just behind Walker and Barea in this metric that measures the value of passing efficiency.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets (37.9): Some find Murray frustrating given his scoring production can swing somewhat dramatically from game to game. I think we should embrace the variance of Murray's profile given he has tallied 17.5 points over the past 10 games, and the volatility of his scoring pattern softens if you allow him to play through the rough nights from the field. With Denver still without a pure point guard, we can expect Murray to continue to net plenty of exposure as a lead combo guard; he's averaged 30.9 minutes and 14.6 shots over the past 10 games.
Austin Rivers, LA Clippers (31.5): LeBron James has averaged 82.2 touches over the past five games, 15th in the NBA over this span. Rivers, meanwhile, is 14th in the league with 83.8 touches per game. We also find Rivers seventh in the league in drives per game over the past five, evidence he's become ball dominant in the wake of Blake Griffin's significant injury. With such a rewarding scoring and passing pattern over the past week, Rivers should be picked up in more ESPN leagues.
Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets (11.3): Eligible at both shooting guard and small forward in ESPN leagues, LeVert has become an integral part of Brooklyn's rotation. This role proves rewarding given he's averaging 27.6 MPG, 1.2 3PG and 1.6 SPG over the past five games in Brooklyn's up-tempo scheme.
Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks (26.5): Prince joins James Harden, Stephen Curry, Otto Porter Jr., Paul George, Victor Oladipo, DeMarcus Cousins, Robert Covington, Russell Westbrook, Khris Middleton and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the only players averaging at least 12 PPG, five RPG, 1.7 3PG and 1.3 SPG this season. Prince is clearly several tiers below most of these talents, but he's playing nearly 31 minutes a night and respectably converting his opportunities in helpful production.
Josh Richardson, Miami Heat (8.5): As he warms up from the field lately after a cold start to the season, it's nice to see Richardson playing 31.1 MPG with solid defensive contributions over his past eight starts. Best for deeper leagues and those streaming at small forward, you need to look past his modest scoring results to recognize his value.
Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz (38.9): Combine an atypically high assist rate with one of the NBA's most efficient 3-point rates dating back to the beginning of last season and you have the 2017 version of Ingles. The Jazz forward is found at 15th among small forwards on the Player Rater this season. For the second straight week, I'm endorsing Ingles as the best widely available talent in ESPN leagues.
Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets (37.0): I also consider Anderson to be wildly underappreciated; he's hitting 48.1 percent of nearly seven attempts per game from 3-point range over the past eight outings. With some solid rebounding and scoring rates complementing elite 3-point production, Anderson merits much more attention.
Marcus Morris, Boston Celtics (29.1): Power forward is undoubtedly the richest position on waiver wires in ESPN hoops leagues. Morris is averaging nearly 14 points and 25 minutes over the past nine games, six of which were starts. As a key rotation contributor on one of the league's more efficient offensive schemes, Morris is a great addition to consider.
Ersan Ilyasova, Atlanta Hawks (9.8): Ilyasova is putting up 15.5 points and seven boards per game over the past two games. While this is a small sample to reference, it reflects his growing role as a key perimeter scorer and rebounder for a Hawks team missing Dewayne Dedmon from the frontcourt for several weeks.
Greg Monroe, Phoenix Suns (34.5): Whenever the Suns allow Monroe to play at least 20 minutes, he's been quite productive for fantasy purposes. It's tough to bear the variant minutes Monroe could see on a patchwork Phoenix frontcourt, but I'm interested in using him as a streamer if Alex Len is ailing.
Kelly Olynyk, Miami Heat (18.1): Hassan Whiteside is averaging 20.3 rebounding chances per game. This stat is measured as being within 3.5 feet of an available rebound and reveals just how rich the opportunity rates are for Olynyk as the team's stretch big.
Willy Hernangomez, New York Knicks (13.7): Without many minutes early in the season it was easy to diagnose Hernangomez as a fantasy bust. Given another chance as a key rotation member over the past week, Hernangomez has responded with nice numbers on the glass and a helpful block rate.
Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets (9.0): Deep-league managers might want to consider Plumlee as he's enjoying an uptick in minutes and touches in the wake of Paul Millsap's injury. In a recent win over the Lakers, Plumlee played 30 minutes for the first time this season and flashed his strong passing skills to the tune of six assists.