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.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers (Rostered in 53.1% of ESPN leagues): The shot-hunting version of Rubio that we’ve witnessed for years in offseason international competitions is surfacing more in the pros. More than a decade since making his debut for Minnesota, Rubio is taking the most shots per game of his career this season in Cleveland. In a reunion with the Timberwolves last year, Rubio consumed a modest and career-low 16.0% usage rate. This season, Rubio’s 24.5% usage rate as the leader of the second unit in Cleveland is the highest of his 11-year career, leading to respectable scoring and shooting results in addition to his strong steal and assist rates.
Seth Curry, Philadelphia 76ers (65.6%): While Alec Burks is a still a reasonable option in deeper leagues given he still played nearly 37 minutes in an ugly one-point showing against the Raptors over the weekend, I’d prefer Curry’s steadiness if possible. Facing older brother Stephen on Saturday in South Philly, Seth posted a quiet 10 points, but he’s posting an awesome offensive season of his own. The Duke product is scoring a career-high 16.0 PPG while posting an elite .634 true shooting percentage.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (36.1%): Speaking of efficient scorers, Bane shot a ridiculous 43.3% from the college 3-point line in four seasons at TCU and is now sporting a career 41.9% clip in the pros. During his last dozen games, Bane has slashed for 18.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.2 3PG, and a stellar 1.8 “stocks” (combined steals and blocks). With Ja Morant sidelined, Bane should continue to shine as a lead option for a fun young Memphis roster.
Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee Bucks (36.0%): Expected to make his season debut on Wednesday against the Pacers, DiVincenzo was fantasy-relevant at times last season thanks mostly to his atypically high rebounding rate from the backcourt. It also helps that the Villanova product claims a stellar 2.1% steal percentage, a rate that would rank 36th in the NBA this season.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (29.7%): With 20.9 field goal attempts per 36 minutes with Ja Morant off the floor the season, Brooks leads the Grizzlies in shot volume in such scenarios. One of the league’s more exciting heat check shooters and defensive trash talkers, Brooks brings a strong enough steal rate to be considered a 3-and-D option along with his perimeter peer Bane.
Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder (32.7%): It’s two-way wing week on the waiver wire, it seems, as Dort has surged as a complementary scorer in recent weeks. It’s worth noting Dort consumes the second-highest surge in usage rate on the team whenever Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is off the floor.
Kelly Oubre Jr., Charlotte Hornets (65.0%): Even if Oubre’s recent offensive bender is unsustainable given it included the team’s top two players in street clothes, but it’s still entirely encouraging that he’s scored at least 18 points in nine straight games and at least 21 in eight of those outings.
Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets (48.9%): A wave of significant injuries to Denver’s rotation have vaulted Gordon into a more prominent scoring role, as he’s scored at least 16 in three of his last four games entering Monday’s action.
Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (48.9%): An ugly outing spent chasing around Kevin Durant on Sunday likely has Bey at his fantasy nadir entering the week, but a long-term injury to Jerami Grant is likely going to change things for his statistical value. After all, Bey has averaged a whopping 6.8 more DraftKings points per 36 minutes with Grant off the floor this season while producing 3.9 dimes and nearly eight rebounds to go with 17.7 points per 36 minutes in such scenarios. Once his shot starts falling with more consistency — and it should given his collegiate career and rookie rates — Bey could become a factor.
Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards (24.0%): Doing almost all of his offensive damage at the rim, Gafford has made 67.6% of his shots this season. The real key is just how special Gafford has become a source for blocks; he’s fifth in blocks per game entering Sunday’s slate.
Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons (63.8%): Most helpful for fantasy purposes as a rim protector with respectable rebounding numbers, Stewart could also see a few more touches in the paint now that Grant’s scoring pop won’t be in the rotation.