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.
De'Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (Rostered in 33.6% of ESPN leagues): A career scoring and shooting showing against the Lakers this past Friday highlighted Melton's ceiling as an offensive option, while his steady defensive production continues to drive value, as well. Likely to start and play plenty of minutes while Tyrese Maxey heals from a fractured foot, Melton ranks second only the O.G. Anunoby in steals per game and lead the NBA in steal percentage on the season.
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (25.3%): For as long as Cade Cunningham is sidelined, Hayes figures to play an important distribution role for Detroit's offense, evidenced by leading the team in passes and assists per game over the last two weeks.
Malik Beasley, Utah Jazz (42.4%): A bucket with freedom to hunt for his own shot, Beasley is enjoying the microwave role Jordan Clarkson thrived in the past several seasons in Utah. As a shooting specialist, it's helpful to note Beasley is fifth in the entire league in 3-point attempts entering Sunday's slate.
Jordan Goodwin, Washington Wizards (1.4%): With Bradley Beal sidelined by a hamstring injury, Goodwin has emerged as a helpful scoring and defensive contributor for the Wizards. The second-year undrafted wing has an awesome 11 steals over his last two games and should play heavy minutes for a thin Washington backcourt until Beal's return.
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers (55.6%): Never afraid to find his own shot, Mathurin is a fun fantasy addition given both his current and long-term potential as a scorer. The rookie has averaged nearly 16 points over his last 10 games and could become an even higher-volume scoring threat if the team deals Buddy Hield at any point.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks (22.2%): Even as he's cooled from the floor in recent games, Hardaway remains confident in his shot, confirmed by lofting 10.3 3-pointers per game during his last seven games. THJ, meanwhile, has averaged 20.3 points and an absurd 4.9 3-pointers during this stretch.
Caleb Martin, Miami Heat (11.0%): Maintaining a busy role even as the Heat have gotten healthier of late, Martin brings a helpful mix of shooting and defensive success to the floor.
Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets (40.0%): Playing heavy minutes and beginning to find his touch from beyond the arc in recent weeks, Smith has averaged 15.8 points, 6.9 boards, and 3.0 3-pointers across his last nine outings entering Sunday's slate. Given his potential to protect the rim as a wing (one swat per game), Smith claims real potential as a rising rookie.
Kyle Anderson, Minnesota Timberwolves (8.3%): With Karl-Anthony Towns ailing, "Slo Mo" has taken on more minutes and touches in the frontcourt for the Timberwolves. Scoring pop has never been Anderson's thing, as he created fantasy value while with the Grizzlies thanks to atypically strong passing and defensive rates. The same can be said of his recent play, with Anderson averaging nine dimes and two combined steals and blocks over his last two outings. Until Towns is back, Anderson could deliver his own brand of versatility to box scores.
Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic (23.9%): Recently sent to train and play with the Lakeland Magic of the G League as a runway to his long-awaited return to NBA action, Isaac is a worthy speculative addition if you have the roster space or an IL spot to stash him.
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz (51.2%): Let's have this be the last week it's necessary to endorse Olynyk as a key acquisition. A classic case of a player who doesn't score very much being overlooked by the fantasy market, Olynyk ranks sixth among center-eligible players on the Player Rater thanks to ranking fourth at the position in added value in 3-pointers, eighth in assists, and first in steals.
Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz (8.3%): Even backing up Olynyk bears some value for this rookie, as he's averaged 9.8 points, 8.3 boards, and, most valuably, 2.8 blocks during his last six appearances. The floor for production can prove pretty low, especially once Lauri Markkanen returns this week, but it's still rare to find such an elite block rate on the waiver wire.
Moritz Wagner, Orlando Magic (7.1%): While his younger brother has emerged as a fantasy force during his sophomore season, Wagner is only recently delivering relevant results. With Wendell Carter Jr. ailing, Wagner has served a larger role for Orlando in averaging 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in 33 minutes per game during the last week.