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 52.3% of ESPN leagues): The Rockets have been patient with their young playmaker as he heals from a thigh injury, but the fact that he's listed as questionable to play to begin the week is a good sign that a return looms. Given how long he's been sidelined, it's easy to forget how productive Porter can be when he's at his best. As the rare high-usage creator found widely available in fantasy leagues, it's worth seeing if "KPJ" can thrive upon return Houston's rotation this week.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (51.6%): Awesomely productive in place of Luke Doncic in recent games, Brunson should sustain enough statistical value as a copilot in the Dallas offense once the heliocentric Slovenian returns. With Doncic recently placed in health and safety protocols, there's still some runway left for Brunson as an interim fantasy star. In this same tier in free agency, Cleveland's Ricky Rubio still remains the best facsimile of the fun fantasy campaign T.J. McConnell produced last season for the Pacers; full of steals and dimes.
Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets (24.2%): The cool kids like to call a player like Mills a "bucket." Never afraid to find his own shot, Mills won't net you many assists in his role with the Nets, but he's topped 23 points in three of the last four for a depleted Brooklyn rotation.
Harden and Mills combine for 70 to drop Lakers on Christmas Day
James Harden scores 36 points while Patty Mills adds a season-high 34 points of his own to defeat the Lakers.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (60.7%): Simply put, this guy should be on more fantasy rosters; Bane is among the best true shooting guards in the league in the sense that he actively spaces the floor and punishes late close-outs whenever possible. Still shining even with Ja Morant back in the mix, Bane is undeniably on the ascent in his second season.
Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves (38.0%): Another bucket makes the cut; Beasley has moved to the fringes of the offense at times this season, but a recent sure in usage amid a depleted roster has him averaging 22.7 points during the last week.
Josh Hart, New Orleans Pelicans (35.5%): Is there a better wing on the waiver wire than Hart? Go and check. See, he's pretty productive for the Pelicans in a unique role that tasks him with increased playmaking from the wing, as he's posted at least four assists in eight straight games exiting the weekend. With a high floor as an elite rebounder for his position, Hart has established himself as a positive fantasy contributor at a somewhat shallow position.
Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic (52.1%): Already a legit 3-and-D option even as a rookie; Wagner has been a really nice source of steals and blocks this season and just recently is finding his way as a scoring force.
Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (57.7%): A positive correction was overdue for Bey in the shooting department. With Jerami Grant sidelined, Bey's been asked to take on a larger scoring load. The second-year forward's shot is finally falling, making him one of the better options for those chasing points.
Jae'Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (29.0%): Despite some quiet recent lines, Tate has the ability to build busy box scores thanks to his ability to challenge passing lanes and even protect the rim for an undersized Houston rotation.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors (54.8%): Don't sweat the recent lack of swat production from Boucher, as the key element to his profile is a recent surge in minutes. Playing time is the critical angle to Boucher's value given he was essentially phased-out of the rotation until the last few weeks. If you need a rim protector, this is your dude.