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 our 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 available in at least half of ESPN leagues at each position (although I will make some exceptions for players hovering right around this threshold). 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.
Elfrid Payton, New York Knicks (Rostered in 29.1% of ESPN leagues): After averaging just 20.2 MPG and 3.5 PPG in the first two games this season, Payton has emerged as a fixture of Tom Thibodeau’s rotation during the past week. During a recent four-game sample, he has slashed for 18.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 5.8 APG in 30.5 MPG. Given just how wholly scarce the waiver wire proves for assist production and point guard play at this early stage of the season in ESPN leagues, Payton makes for a savvy pickup in most formats.
Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs (19.2%): In an 11-game stretch to finish the 2019-20 season with San Antonio, White averaged 17.6 PPG and 2.2 “stocks” (combined steals and blocks) while making 2.5 3PG. A lingering toe injury has slowed his start to this season and resulted in White floating around in free agency in many leagues — but soon enough, he’ll make a meaningful statistical impact for the Spurs and fantasy rosters.
George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder (16.7%): Playing at least 24 minutes in each of four appearances with the Thunder thus far, as a steady hand for this young roster, Hill has impressively averaged 15.3 PPG and 6.5 combined rebounds and assists to go with solid shooting results (2.3 3PG). You’ll need to endure some missed games due to rest for the veteran guard, but his floor is proving relatively high when he’s active.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic (38.6%): The list of players currently averaging at least 22 PPG, 2.8 3PG, and 1.2 SPG this season includes Malcolm Brogdon, CJ McCollum, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum … and Ross. Just this past Saturday night, Ross delivered 26 points off the bench as Orlando’s offensive microwave, marking his 20th game in the past five seasons — and third this season — with at least 25 points off the bench, good for third most in the NBA during this sample. On a Magic offense in need of his spacing and perimeter creation, Ross is an awesome scoring and shooting specialist to target.
Josh Jackson, Detroit Pistons (30.6%): With a steal in each of his six appearances this season and a block in four games thus far, Jackson is combining fun defensive rates with an improved offensive arsenal this season in Detroit. A post-hype sleeper of sorts, the former lottery pick has scored in double-figures in all but one game this season and makes for a solid addition for managers seeking defensive output at the wing.
Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors (8.0%): It’s admittedly been a brutal start to the season for Powell, but the larger sample of scoring success last season suggests he’s due for a positive correction in the coming weeks. With his defensive rates mimicking last season’s solid results and comparable usage, Powell is a worthy stash for fantasy managers who are willing to be patient with him on the pine.
Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs (37.9%): A revelation so far for the Spurs, Johnson followed up a performance on Friday that included his first pro game with at least 25 points and 10 boards with a solid 22-point showing against Utah’s deft defense on Sunday. Stellar defensive rates are also part of Johnson’s profile, making him the premier pickup of the week.
Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies (46.7%): Since a quiet start to the season, “Slo Mo” has produced at least 18 points in four of his past five games and at least 10 boards in half of his games this season. With the team’s top two stars sidelined for the foreseeable future, Anderson will enjoy healthy usage and lots of playmaking opportunities in the weeks ahead.
Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder (24.1%): Fantasy investors were rightfully keen on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in drafts this season, but Dort was mostly an afterthought despite some strong playoff performances over the summer. The second-year defensive stopper is averaging 1.6 “stocks” and 2.4 3PG as a 3-and-D wing for Oklahoma City this season and merits more attention, given how steady his role is proving for the Thunder.
Darius Bazley, Oklahoma City Thunder (13.7%): The list of players averaging at least 1.2 BPG, 11.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 1.0 3PG includes Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Christian Wood, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Bazley. As the team’s top rebounding force and key rim protector, Bazley is a fun fantasy option still floating around the waiver wire in the vast majority of ESPN leagues.
De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (26.5%): Sort of a forgotten man in fantasy terms heading into the season, given Atlanta’s heavy investments in Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic over the offseason, Hunter has been an impressively steady presence for the Hawks through the first few weeks of the season. The Virginia product can provide solid shooting and rebounding rates, especially as the team needs his defensive presence against larger scoring wings.
Marcus Morris Sr., LA Clippers (5.5%): Like with the Spurs’ White, you’ll need to have patience with Morris as he continues to heal from a knee ailment, but there is real upside in this 3-and-D force, given what should be an important role as a floor-spacer and frontcourt defender for the Clippers. Morris averaged more than one combined steal and block per game last season and has made a solid 38.5% of his 3-pointers dating back to the start of the 2018-19 season, confirming his ability to help fantasy teams
Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls (37.2%): Even as he’s still enduring some growing pains contending with NBA bigs, Carter Jr. has double-double potential in most outings and should continue to see steady minutes as long as he stays out of foul trouble.
P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets (47.2%): A thumb bruise surfaced over the weekend and could limit Washington in the coming games, but the second-year frontcourt talent is helpfully eligible at center and power forward in ESPN leagues and is the rare player capable of helping rosters in 3-point shooting and defensive rates from these positions.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors (32.4%): Even as his playing time remains a bit limited (just 20.2 MPG), Boucher has been quite helpful for fantasy purposes in delivering strong block numbers and efficient scoring. As Toronto’s best rim protector, Boucher could earn more time as the season unfolds, all while helping fantasy rosters.