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 imaginary 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 at each position available in free agency in at least a third of ESPN leagues. 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.
Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets (Rostered in 57.5% of ESPN leagues): Undeniably my favorite free agent target of the moment, Porter could thrive in the coming week with Jalen Green ailing. With 21 dimes in last two games and unique freedom to create for a Houston team light on guard depth, Porter could flirt with triple-doubles for the next several outings.
Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic (65.8%): I'd rather roster Giddey than Suggs among these rookie guards, but Orlando's top selection still has another level to his game once his shooting rates normalize. Still struggling to find his touch, a positive correction is coming for a player who made nearly 60% of his two-point field goals in college.
De'Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies (10.5%): It's difficult to fight the temptation to follow the box score see Tyus Jones starting at point guard in the first game since Ja Morant's knee injury, but Melton was far more productive as a scorer in the Sunday's win over the Kings as a key playmaker off the pine. It might just be a frustrating committee approach sans Morant from the lineup, but I'm stashing shares of Melton in deeper leagues given how clear it is that he's the most talented available point guard on the roster.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (29.4%): Likely due for an uptick in usage and shot creation duties with Morant sidelined, Bane provides clean scoring rates and his solid collegiate assist rate could surface in a bigger creation role.
Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls (36.0%): Another week, and another nomination for Caruso as an underappreciated statistical source for fantasy managers to target. Consider that Chicago's new defensive bulldog ranks second in the league in steals per game and paces the league in total steals. A recent scoring binge is likely an outlier for Caruso, but the elite steal rate and respectable rebound and assist results hint at a valuable roto campaign akin to T.J. McConnell's unique opus last season.
Alec Burks, New York Knicks (7.9%): A big line as a spot starter this past Saturday capped a strong stretch for Burks that has included scoring at least a dozen points in seven of his last nine appearances. With strong shooting, scoring, and free-throw rates, Burks could be of help in deeper leagues and is a key streaming option whenever elevated to the starting lineup.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (32.5%): The Grizzlies run a deep rotation that can limit the upside of several starters, but maybe the absence of Morant will inflate Brooks' role in the coming games. With freedom to find his own shot when he is on the floor, it's possible Brooks can be still be a useful bucket despite not playing heavy minutes.
Kelly Oubre Jr. Charlotte Hornets (34.8%): There will be stretches when Oubre can look like a league-winning fantasy force and others when it's tough to roster him. The last week has been the former, with Oubre averaging 19.5 PPG during the last seven days thanks to some big games as the team's scoring microwave off the pine. Almost serving as the jumbo Malik Monk for this rotation in that he's a volatile, scoring-dependent option, Oubre is warming up.
Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers (10.8%): There isn't much here beyond one of the best steal rates in the history of professional basketball. Thybulle leads the league in steals per game despite playing a bench role for Philly. With an elite block rate for a wing, Thybulle makes for a unique roto option.
Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers (45.9%): With Collin Sexton's high-usage shot profile no longer in the rotation, Markkanen is going to shine as a source for scoring and rebounding with Cleveland. Playing well over 30 minutes per game since returning from a bout with COVID-19 and posting strong numbers in this busy role, Markkanen is a savvy addition in all formats.
Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets (41.9%): You'd think that the injuries to Denver's lineup would eventually inspire a leap in production for Gordon. The last week has been good for Gordon's fantasy stock; he's among the most-added players in ESPN leagues thanks to averaging 15.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG with sound passing and steal rates during the last seven days.
Jarred Vanderbilt, Minnesota Timberwolves (11.5%): Few widely-available forwards offer Vanderbilt's blend of rebounding and defensive pop, as he's impressively posted at least 10 boards in six of his last seven games and has averaged 2.8 combined blocks and steals this past week.
Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons (61.0%): The scoring might not surface this season, but worthy rebounding and block production offer enough of a floor to take Stewart on as a depth center. The pivot proves really shallow in most leagues, so getting a young center due for heavy minutes on a lottery-bound team could be a rewarding pursuit.
Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards (11.4%): Finding swats on the wire can prove difficult. Meanwhile, no player has more blocks than Gafford over the last week and he's tallied at least 10 boards in two of the last four.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Brooklyn Nets (34.5%): Can Aldridge sustain such a sizable workload for the Nets deep into his career? The answer thus far appears to be yes, as the steady vet has averaged 30.3 minutes the last week to go with 18.7 PPG and strong rebounding results. For a Brooklyn team that badly needs his post savvy, Aldridge is having a fun renaissance season.
Willy Hernangomez, New Orleans Pelicans (3.7%): Securing the backup center gig in New Orleans has led to some statistical life for Hernangomez, as his volume rebounding has surfaced with 13.8 PPG and 8.5 RPG in just 20.3 MPG during the last week.