Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the marathon campaign, we'll need to source stats from free agency to maximize our rosters.
In this weekly series, I will identify players available in at least half 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.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets (Rostered in 28.3 percent of ESPN leagues): Usage rate is an estimate of the team plays -- such as shots, turnover and assists -- an individual player consumes while on the floor. During the season and especially amid these early weeks, we can leverage usage as a useful indicator of just which busy players, or point guards in this context, are worth targeting from fantasy free agency. For instance, Dinwiddie is found behind Kyrie Irving in usage rate among point guards during this early-season sample.
Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves (11.1 percent): It won't always prove as fun or efficient as this past Saturday night's 28-point opus, but Rose led the team in shots and is found just ahead of Mike Conley and Jamal Murray in usage rate (24.9 percent), which indicates he's consuming a meaningful share of touches and shots. We all know Tom Thibodeau trusts a tight rotation, with Rose already earning integral involvement. Rose's fantasy value is a bit scoring-driven, and thus potentially hollow, but he's also due for enough opportunity each night to help offset such concerns.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors (6.3 percent): No single statistic will wow you, but the cumulative value of VanVleet's full floor game merits more interest in deeper fantasy leagues. For confirmation of his rising role, VanVleet has enjoyed a 33.5 percent leap in minutes per game and a 56.9 percent jump in shots per game during this early start compared to his more compartmentalized bench role last season. I find assists to prove relatively difficult to find in bunches outside the top 100 players in average draft position.
Deep additions (players available in at least 90 percent of ESPN leagues): The point guard conundrum in Phoenix was never really resolved this past offseason, which has afforded Isaiah Canaan plenty of minutes and shots in the early going. ... Detroit's Ish Smith is widely available despite what appears to be a steady role hovering around 28 MPG as a combo guard in Motown. ... It's unlikely Frank Ntilikina will emerge as a meaningful fantasy value in 10 or even 12-team leagues given a still-raw offensive game, but there is a viable shot at 1.5 steals per game thanks steady minutes and busy hands -- something just 17 players accomplished last season.
JJ Redick, Philadelphia 76ers (42.3 percent): The 76ers, for as talented as the young core proves, still struggle with shot creation, which is why we'll still find Redick running an elaborate maze of screens on his way to a ton of attempts from beyond. Don't let his new role off the bench throw you off the trail -- Redick remains an elite shooting specialist in both real and fantasy regards. Charlotte's Malik Monk (15.6 percent) represents similar utility for those in deeper leagues.
Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks (31.6 percent): It appears wise to consider last season's injury-plagued campaign an outlier in Brogdon's profile, as he's looking far more comfortable as a complementary playmaker for what is an exciting and emergent Bucks' offense. It's time to capitalize on Brogdon's availability, as you'll net a nice blend of assists, steals and 3-pointers on clean shooting percentages.
Josh Hart, Los Angeles Lakers (25.1 percent): Awesomely efficient scoring at the rim and with deft cutting skills, it's easy to see why Hart will fit well as a complementary piece next to LeBron James. Capable of helping in 3-point production and in both steals and blocks, Hart has all of the ingredients for fantasy success.
Deep additions: Danny Green is averaging 2.3 "stocks" (steals plus blocks) and 2.7 made 3-pointers in what should be another quietly strong 3-and-D effort from the steady vet. ... Netting a whopping 36 MPG with the Heat facing multiple backcourt and wing injuries, Rodney McGruder's stock is surely inflated by simply playing a ton of basketball early this year. We won't really know what his real role is until guys like Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow return, making McGruder a speculative addition for now.
Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks (49.2 percent): Let's make this first and only time we nominate Prince this season -- as he should be rostered universally as a key breakout candidate for the Hawks. Afforded awesome shooting freedom on a young roster, Prince is a royal value going forward.
Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic (46.8 percent): Simply put, Fournier deserves to be rostered over the likes of Jordan Clarkson (73.6 percent of ESPN leagues) and Rodney Hood (55.9). I think there is a bit of market fatigue with Fournier given a frustrating season health-wise in 2017-18 and offensive rates that have plateaued since breaking out as a scorer in his early 20s. With the Magic getting very little scoring output or expected value from their point guard depth chart, it's realistic to expect Fournier to consume more touches and shots, as his 25-percent spike in shooting volume this season reflects.
Cedi Osman, Cleveland Cavaliers (39.5 percent): Let the market chase shares of Hood and Clarkson and instead pursue Osman, who is flashing valuable shooting efficiency and a full floor game as arguably the key beneficiary of the usage void left by LeBron James.
Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers (33.2 percent): The league leader in both deflections (which has a strong positive correlation to steal rate) and catch-and-shoot 3-pointers made last season, look past Covington's variant shooting results and instead value his atypically strong skills as a dual-threat specialist.
PJ Tucker, Houston Rockets (10.9 percent): Tied with Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine in 3-point attempts per game, Tucker is enjoying the awesome shooting volume vacated by Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza from last season. You'll find throughout my endorsements in this series that I value dynamic defensive rates, as the sum of several of such contributors can provide you with meaningful margins in category-driven formats.
Deep additions: Wesley Matthews is another veteran widely available due to market fatigue, despite looking as good as he ever has in a Dallas uniform.
Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls (42.2 percent): I enjoyed the Portis experience live in Philadelphia this past week, and it was honestly fun to see him regularly stretch his game out past the 3-point line in addition to banging on the glass. Among the league leaders in potential rebounds (within 3.5 feet of an available rebound), Portis might just be the most valuable fantasy contributor from Chicago's young frontcourt.
Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors (36 percent): The sample is obviously quite small, but Ibaka has flashed strong defensive rates and improved offensive usage (22.1 percent would mark a career high) as a key part of what could be the league's most dynamic defense outside of Salt Lake City.
Deep additions: It doesn't appear Dirk Nowitzki is coming back very soon, while Dorian Finney-Smith, or "DFS" as the cool kids say, has an awesome nickname and rewarding role for fantasy nerds to appreciate. The Mavericks appear intent on getting Finney-Smith steady opportunities early this season, which could help him become a helpful contributor in deeper fantasy leagues.
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks (47.9 percent): It might be tough to rely on Lopez in leagues that start just a single center, especially given his lack of rebounding production. For those in deeper leagues or those with diverse roster options, Lopez could be the rare player to average at least two 3-pointers and one block this season.
JaVale McGee, Los Angeles Lakers (32 percent): Eight blocks in his first two games reveals just how much freedom McGee is afforded to chase shots at the rim early on for the Lakers. McGee will often play right around 22 MPG, but there is enough upside in blocks, boards and alley-oop efficiency to make him a profitable addition for fantasy managers.
Boban Marjanovic, LA Clippers (12.9 percent): Not only will you lead your league in meme-worthy moments, Boban will also provide incredible shooting efficiency. If your team is loaded with high-usage playmakers prone to lower shooting efficiency (the Donovan Mitchell ilk), Marjanovic could provide helpful balance at the end of the bench.
Deep additions: Zach Collins has been solid in the Ed Davis role for the Portland Trail Blazers. Center is simply a uniquely shallow position, which makes a player with Collins' potential as a shot-blocker relevant.