During the initial weeks of the season, influential, game-changing players emerge on the waiver wire. This is because it is impossible to predict what teams' rotations and player roles will look like during the preseason, and which undrafted players will surface as legitimate fantasy options as these factors become more solidified. If you were adroit enough to add a player like Chandler Parsons or Jamal Crawford this year, it looks like your foresight will reap season-long dividends that will significantly impact your final standings.
Now things get a little sparse.
Since rotations are more clear and those standings-changers are already owned, it's critical to pay close attention to injuries and pounce upon the players who will benefit. Additionally, specialists emerge that might not be getting the total minutes that allow a player to accumulate well-rounded stats, but they contribute enough in one or two categories that they're worth owning if those are areas your team needs.
If you haven't made a roster move that is significantly beneficial, don't freak -- rotations aren't set in stone. Young players develop, players get on a coach's good or bad side, and injuries, coaching changes, trades and other in-season developments impact the fantasy landscape and allow waiver-wire options to materialize. It's just a bit less obvious now, and more important to comb through players to find the diamonds in the rough.
Here are some widely available options whose stock is on the rise:
Alexey Shved, PG/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (15.0 percent owned): With news of Brandon Roy's arthroscopic knee surgery, Shved is in line for more minutes, and he's capitalizing thus far, displaying a well-rounded, crafty offensive game. He's capable of creating his own shot as well as making plays for teammates, boasts deft passing ability and fits in well with the team-first mentality in Minnesota. His 38.3 percent from the floor is frustrating, but the low mark is primarily due to his 24.3 percent from 3-point range. He nailed 49.3 percent of his 3-pointers last season in Euroleague, a mark he won't match, but his marksmanship from downtown should rise. He attempts 76 percent of his shots either at the rim or from 3-point land, which is a nice recipe for fantasy stats, and is averaging 13.8 points, 5.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 3s and 1.0 steals per game in his past five. His defensive stats won't be very impressive -- the 0.8 blocks is likely an aberration considering he had just four blocks in 21 games in Euroleague last season. But with his ability to score, dish and rebound, along with likely improvement from long range, Shved is already proving to be valuable in the fantasy realm and should continue to improve as he adjusts to the NBA game.
Amir Johnson, PF/C, Toronto Raptors (4.1 percent owned): Johnson is perennially undervalued because his primary strength is in field goal percentage, an often-overlooked category. He finished 96th on the Player Rater last season, and since he essentially doesn't shoot beyond 10 feet from the rim, he should finish in the mid-50s in field goal percentage. The efficiency is legitimate, as he consistently finished with a true shooting percentage above 60 percent, a high watermark for a stat that effectively measures shooting efficiency. His minutes will be erratic with the development of foul-prone Jonas Valanciunas, but he's consistently been a fruitful per-minute player with career averages of 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.5 steals in 19.1 minutes per game to go along with a career 58.1 percent mark from the floor, and he's a critical part of the Raptors' frontcourt rotation. If you're struggling in field goal percentage, Johnson is an ideal add, as he was the 15th-most helpful player in the category last season, and provides just enough rebounding, steals and blocks to make him worth the roster spot.
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Brooklyn Nets (2.5 percent owned): I know, I know, we've all been burnt by him before. But his per-48 minute stats of 25.6 points, 14.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game are better than his career year in 2010-11, when he tantalized us with 19.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game after the All-Star break. His game could be maturing, as he's taking 55 percent of his shots at the rim, compared to 27.6 percent last season when he maddened Wizards fans and coaches with too many jumpers. His field goal percentage should improve if he continues working around the rim, as he's consistently shot over 60 percent at the rim for his career, and is at 52 percent this season. He's likely the most talented player on your waiver wire, and could hit big if his minutes increase. He'll be inconsistent coming off the bench for a Brooklyn team still finding its style, but his offensive upside is clear, and his career 0.9 blocks and 0.8 steals per game in just 22.6 minutes demonstrate his ability to post defensive stats as well.
Linas Kleiza, SF/PF, Toronto Raptors (2.3 percent owned): He's boring, but is a cheap source of points and 3s with low turnovers, and should see his field goal percentage rise, as he's a career 44.0 percent shooter from the floor and is hitting just 38.6 percent so far this season. Additionally, if you're way behind in 3s, starting him at power forward is a nice way to make up ground. He finished 10th among power-forward-eligible players in 3s last season, and should continue providing this out-of-position stat.
Jason Maxiell, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (1.8 percent owned): He's always been a per-minute stud, as his career per-36 translates to around 12 points, 8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.8 steals to complement his career 51.6 percent mark from the floor. He's started every game for the Pistons so far, and provides veteran leadership and hustle this lost team needs. When a player who's always been productive per minute is averaging a career high in minutes, favorable stats follow, and unless you're hurting in free throw percentage, where he can do damage, Maxiell is a serviceable option who scores efficiently, rebounds effectively and provides balanced defensive stats. Plus, he's in a contract year, so he has added incentive to perform.
Daniel Gibson, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (1.4 percent owned): Even though he's better suited for the bench role he was thriving in before Kyrie Irving went down, he'll see increased minutes and usage with the Cavs' star point guard sidelined. He's money from downtown, boasting a career 41.6 percent mark from 3-point range, and has averaged as many as 3.0 assists and 0.8 steals per game at different points in his career. Look for his efficiency to drop and for his field goal percentage to hover around his career mark of 41.1 percent with Irving sidelined, but he could legitimately average two 3s, three assists and a steal per game as he becomes a more focal part of the Cavs' offense.
Marcus Morris, PF, Houston Rockets (1.0 percent owned): He fits the mold of a stretch 4 aptly, and has been thriving recently, averaging 12.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 3s, 0.8 blocks and 0.6 steals per game in his past five on 26.0 minutes per game. He displayed this well-rounded statistical portfolio in college, when he averaged 17.2 points on 57 percent shooting to go along with 7.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.3 3s per game his final season at Kansas, and has excellent 3s/steals/blocks skills from the power forward position. With Morris, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones and Carlos Delfino battling for minutes, his production will be sporadic, but he contributes in enough categories, has enough upside, and is productive enough on a per-minute basis to warrant a roster spot in deeper formats.
Lance Stephenson (0.5 percent owned) boasts excellent size and strength for a shooting guard. His mediocre athleticism and jumper limit his upside, but he's getting run with Danny Granger out and Gerald Green struggling, he worked on his shot all summer, and will contribute modestly in points, 3s and steals if he continues notching 20-plus minutes per night. Derrick Williams (1.6 percent owned) is a monumental disappointment, but is getting enough run and has a varied enough statistical skill set to be worth a roster spot in deeper leagues until Kevin Love returns. Rasheed Wallace (1.1 percent owned) is proving to be much more than a mascot for the Knicks, averaging 5.0 rebounds, 0.6 3s and 1.4 blocks per game in 17.6 minutes over his past five. He's always posted an impressive combination of 3s and blocks, and is worth a look in deep formats. Matt Barnes (0.1 percent owned) has a balanced game, and is a key part of the Clippers' bench squad, as evidenced by his 35 minutes on Monday night. He won't blow you away in any category, but can nail 3s, rebound and provide a decent combination of steals and blocks, and will undoubtedly be worth a deep-league spot if he keeps his minutes per game in the upper-20s. Tayshaun Prince (8.4 percent owned) hasn't been intriguing in years, but simply by averaging 32.1 minutes per game will accrue counting stats and score with some efficiency with a handful of 3s, steals and blocks. Dante Cunningham (0.2 percent owned) won't provide much assistance offensively, but provides some boards, steals and blocks for those searching for defensive stats in deep leagues.