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 agents to maximize rosters.
A willingness to entertain competition for the last few spots on your fantasy hoops roster can prove rewarding. When curating this fluid collective of statistical contributors, it helps to consider your end-of-bench players in direct competition with the talent floating in free agency.
The goal of this weekly series is to identify players available in at least half of ESPN leagues at each position. Some nominations are specialists capable of helping in one or two categories, while others deliver more diverse and important statistical offerings. In the breakdowns below, I've ordered players at each position with the priority of acquisition in mind, rather than roster percentage in ESPN leagues.
Justise Winslow, Miami Heat (Rostered in 32.3% of ESPN leagues): A concussion earlier in the season, followed by recent back issues, has led to a disjointed first quarter of the season for Winslow. With reports suggesting Winslow could return to action soon, it's worth stashing this unique point-forward until he's back on the floor. Averaging nearly 33 MPG and slashing for 12.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 3.4 APG during his past three appearances, Winslow's ability to drive versatile performances merits more attention from fantasy managers.
Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls (7.7%): With Dunn leading the league in steal percentage, which measures the rate of steals created per opponent possessions, it's wise to look past his sluggish scoring and shooting metrics and instead recognize his Marcus Smart-like defensive proficiency.
Ish Smith, Washington Wizards (2.5%): With Isaiah Thomas likely to miss several more games with a lingering calf injury, Smith should continue to enjoy a rewarding starting role for Washington for at least this coming week. In this starting role for the past three outings, Smith has averaged 16.0 PPG and 6.7 APG on nearly 33 MPG .
D.J. Augustin, Orlando Magic (8.1%): Posting 15 PPG and nine combined assists and rebounds per game during his past three outings, Augustin is beginning to wake up from a long scoring slump. The presence of Markelle Fultz in the starting lineup undoubtedly lowers Augustin's floor and ceiling as a fantasy contributor, but he's worth targeting in deeper leagues if only for his recent hot hand.
Ben McLemore, Houston Rockets (1.1%): Impressively slashing for 22.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 APG and an awesome 5.5 3PG while also providing 1.1 stocks (steals plus blocks) during his past four outings, McLemore is yet another 3-and-D gem unearthed and revived in Houston's fantasy-friendly system. Even if the scoring clip isn't sustainable (it isn't), there is a lot to like about a player regularly afforded the chance to loft double-digit 3-point attempts.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks (14.6%): Impressively averaging 15.5 PPG and 3.3 3PG during the past week, Hardaway's role as a scoring microwave for the Mavericks is proving rewarding of late. Afforded rare freedom to space the floor while playing with a deft creator in Luka Doncic, Hardaway is a fun source of scoring and shooting at a shallow position.
Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers (1.1%): This defensive dynamo is tied with Dunn for the league lead in steal percentage while also posting an elite block rate. Combine this with the fact he's hitting more than 40% of his 3-point attempts for the year and has played at least 25 minutes in three of his past four games and you find a real 3-and-D value for the price of a roster spot.
Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz (48.3%): The absence of Mike Conley from the lineup has Ingles starting and thriving as Utah's top distributor; he's averaged 7.7 APG with stellar shooting and steal rates the past week.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic (30.0%): Found at 14th on the Player Rater among shooting guards during the past week, thanks to averaging 19 PPG, Ross is always worth rostering when he's enjoying a scoring bender.
Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors (12.5%): A stellar source of steals and 3-pointers thanks to earning a steady role in the Toronto rotation, Powell is yet another 3-and-D wing for Toronto, joining OG Anunoby, worthy of your attention.
Davis Bertans, Washington Wizards (22.7%): Only Anthony Davis and LeBron James rank higher on the Player Rater among power forwards during the past seven days than Bertans. Only Stephen Curry during his epic 2015-16 MVP campaign has ever made at least 45% of his 3-point attempts at a volume of at least eight attempts per game, a milestone Bertans is currently matching. A truly elite shooter, Bertans has emerged as a high-end specialist for fantasy purposes.
Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards (41.4%): Bertans' rookie teammate is seventh at the position on the Player Rater during the past week, thanks to efficiently averaging 18.3 PPG and 6.5 RPG during this ascendant stretch.
Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers (55.5%): I'm breaking the rules a bit by including a player rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues, but an exception is necessary to endorse Nance amid swelling trade buzz around Kevin Love. If the Cavs deal Love, Nance becomes an absolute must-own fantasy contributor, given what would be a sizable surge in rebounding volume and offensive equity.
Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans (6.5%): Derrick Favors has been in and out of the rotation throughout the first quarter of the season, affording Hayes an opportunity to earn heavy minutes and grow his game. During the past week, the talented rookie has averaged 12.3 PPG with two stocks per game.
Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder (4.8%): Much like Thybulle, Noel offers somewhat absurd defensive production despite a limited role in the Thunder rotation. Special block and steal rates can help in deeper roto leagues, while Noel is a must-add whenever Steven Adams sits.