Waiver wire pickups: Look to Al Horford, Royce O'Neale

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 widely available in free agency in 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.

Point guard

Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns (Rostered in 17.2% of ESPN leagues): The Suns won't have team leader and star point guard Chris Paul in the lineup for the next several games as he continues to heal from a foot injury. Payne has been relatively great in his place from a fantasy perspective, averaging 20 points and 5.8 dimes with awesome shooting metrics during his past five games entering Sunday, all starts. For as long as Paul is sidelined, Payne is a fantasy starter.

Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets (17.7%): The Nuggets are missing Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic at the moment to Covid protocols, shifting Hyland into a more prominent offensive role in the meantime. Entering Sunday's slate, the second-year guard has averaged 19.7 points, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, and a whopping 4.5 3-pointers across his past six outings.

Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (8.3%): The Pistons have turned to Hayes as the starting point guard with Cade Cunningham facing a serious shin injury. Hayes will struggle to score efficiently at times, but strong assists and steal rates drive value while he's getting so many minutes and touches for Detroit.

Shake Milton, Philadelphia 76ers (2.6%): The Sixers lost yet another star guard to a foot injury with Tyrese Maxey suffering a fracture over the weekend, vaulting Milton into a big scoring and creation role for a suddenly depleted Philadelphia rotation.

Shooting guard

De'Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (20.6%): In the wake of injuries to James Harden and Maxey, Melton is among the league leaders in steals and rated really well as a rebounder for the position in his time with Memphis. Expect Melton to play heavy minutes through the end of the calendar year.

Malik Beasley, Utah Jazz (45.0%): A confident bucket with the freedom to hunt for his own shot, Beasley has turned it up lately with some signature scoring performances. Utah will continue to feed Beasley on the second unit, making him the rare bench scorer with some level of consistency.

Derrick White, Boston Celtics (44.9%): No single stat will wow you with White, but his assists are up, his block percentage is atypically high for a guard and this blend has him 12th among point guards on the Player Rater the past two weeks.

Alec Burks, Detroit Pistons (3.7%): A scoring guard capable of posting some strong rebounding rates to go with his confident shot, Burks should be busy scoring in place of Cade Cunningham in the coming days.

Small forward

Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (54.0%): With Desmond Bane sidelined and the Grizzlies running out a tighter rotation this year, Brooks will command a heavy offensive workload in the games ahead. Thankfully, as you might know, Brooks is a huge fan of his own game.

Royce O'Neale, Brooklyn Nets (35.3%): Fresh from his first career triple-double, one that included hitting the game-winning shot for the Nets, O'Neale has filled in the gaps capably for the Nets amid some serious roster issues this past month.

Bruce Brown, Denver Nuggets (11.4%): The do-everything guy that O'Neale is replacing in Brooklyn this season is Brown, who is now bringing his versatile floor game to the Nuggets. With star teammates sidelined, Brown has upped his playmaking on both sides of the ball.

Caleb Martin, Miami Heat (4.5%): Another capable wing from Miami's assembly line, Martin has surfaced as a nice streaming option during Jimmy Butler's absence. This is merely an interim addition, but it's worth noting Martin has averaged nearly 41 minutes in the past three games entering Sunday, supporting an awesome two-way line.

Power forward

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies (61.5%): Don't worry about some missed games to injury management, as the elite block rate and potential for some offensive upside remain present. Jackson, after all, led the entire league in blocks last season.

Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder (19.1%): A recent ankle injury could get in the way of brimming fantasy value, as "Poku" was beginning to combine big defensive results with usable offense outcomes.

Marcus Morris Sr., LA Clippers (39.6%): This steady vet doesn't do a ton beyond hit 3-pointers for the Clippers as their resident stretch four, but he at least claims his highest rebounding rate in four years and enough of a steal clip to matter.

Torrey Craig, Phoenix Suns (2.7%): A glue guy for the Suns playing heavy minutes with Cameron Johnson ailing, Craig averaged 13 points, 8.3 boards, and two combined steals and blocks during his last three games entering Sunday's slate.


Bol Bol, Orlando Magic (49.9%): This guy shouldn't be on this list much longer; Bol is among the elite fantasy contributors over the past month thanks to a unique blend of blocks, boards, and efficient scoring. Make room for him now, as there is league-winning statistical upside with how well Bol is playing lately.

Al Horford, Boston Celtics (51.3%): After a quiet October, Horford has slashed for 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and solid defensive results in November. There will be some quiet lines, but Horford still has a fun 3-and-D profile.

Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets (25.2%): Between Plumlee and Utah's Kelly Olynyk (31.7%), fantasy managers have some helpful depth options at the pivot to consider. Both are solid passers for the position, while Plumlee is the better source of rebounding and shooting efficiency and Olynyk provides an atypically high steal rate.