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.
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic (Rostered in 63.0% of ESPN leagues): Deeper into the fantasy playoffs and with game limits relevant to roto leagues, it's worth consolidating rosters, purging injured stars such as Karl-Anthony Towns in favor of bankable players like Fultz. It's almost remarkable that this once volatile talent has now found his footing as the steady hand on a young Orlando offense. A strong statistical profile includes improved scoring, volume passing production, and a special steal rate that consistently surfaces.
Talen Horton-Tucker, Utah Jazz (14.9%): Coming through in the clutch in a big win over Boston is just part of Horton-Tucker's recent rise as one of Utah's premier playmakers. The Jazz could continue to sit Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton with respective injuries, signaling sustained value for this unique player.
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (18.4%): It's sort of a last point guard standing thing with Hayes, but the recent assist production (nine dimes per game over the past week) is atypical for a player this widely available.
Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder (61.0%): Arguably the top rookie over the past few months, Williams brings productive two-way play to the court every time out. There's no reason he's not rostered in nearly every competitive format. Teammate Luguentz Dort (25.6%) is also on the rise and merits some attention amid a hot stretch from the floor.
Caris LeVert, Cleveland Cavaliers (47.5%): Whether there is a trend developing or merely an outlier run, LeVert has some of the stickiest hands in the league lately with three steals per game over the past week. Even if he doesn't sustain the defensive pop, it appears the team is working him back in as a top offensive wing ahead of the playoffs.
Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers (13.3%): The Lakers simply need Reaves' scoring and passing creation in a lineup that simply doesn't have a healthy LeBron James. Even upon James' return, Reaves should see enough work to help in deeper leagues or for streaming purposes.
Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers (6.8%): With multiple impact injuries influencing the Pacers' rotation, Nembhard has seen his minutes and offensive responsibilities surge in recent games. For context, he enters the having produced at least 19 points in three of his past four with impressive passing production.
Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves (27.7%): Positioned to take off in the coming days for a Timberwolves team likely down its top two offensive stars, this 3-and-D talent has some of the best block numbers for a wing this season.
Aaron Nesmith, Indiana Pacers (3.9%): An injury to Bennedict Mathurin opens a real role for Nesmith to shine; he's played at least 31 minutes in four of his past five games and has found his shooting touch from outside during this stretch.
Jordan Nwora, Indiana Pacers (2.5%): This Pacers rotation is proving valuable for plug-and-play options during these lean final weeks of the marathon. Nwora has stepped up as a complementary scorer for Indiana with double figures in 10 straight while flashing nice rebounding and assist rates in recent games.
Kyle Anderson, Minnesota Timberwolves (40.5%): Just a week ago, Anderson was rostered in a fifth of ESPN leagues and showed up in this space as a player to acquire. He's flirted with triple-doubles in most outings over the past two weeks and now could take on even more work with Anthony Edwards ailing.
Cameron Johnson, Brooklyn Nets (32.7%): The shift to Brooklyn includes more minutes, shots, and rebounding chances. The market is still sleeping on the versatility of Johnson's recent numbers; nearly 16 PPG with strong rebounding and defensive rates during the past week.
Trendon Watford, Portland Trail Blazers (3.0%): A rare mix of defense and hustle has helped Watford surface as a helpful fantasy contributor over the past several games.
Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets (47.6%): Even as his offense has cooled a bit lately, the rebounding and rim protection rates should keep Smith relevant into the final games of the season. It's also helpful that the rookie claims eligibility at center.
Zach Collins, San Antonio Spurs (21.9%): Last season saw Kelly Olynyk become a fantasy star down the stretch for a lean Houston roster. This seems to be Collins' turn, as he's getting gobs of minutes and touches as the primary big for the Spurs these days.
James Wiseman, Detroit Pistons (24.5%): The Pistons are giving Wiseman the runway the Warriors simply couldn't as they continue to contend. Plenty of minutes and pick-and-roll work should see Wiseman finish strong.