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 available in at least half of ESPN leagues at each position (exceptions are made). 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.
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors (Rostered in 51.2% of ESPN leagues): The fantasy market is finally warming up to Poole’s potential; with deep range and the ability to shoot off the dribble, Poole should play a prominent scoring and spacing role for the Warriors in the coming weeks. Empowered to find his own shot — confirmed by a career-high usage rate — Poole’s scoring pop appears real.
De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies (15.7%): Awesome scoring efficiency has defined Melton’s strong start to the season. The minutes and shots could dip once Dillon Brooks is back in the mix, but it’s worth seeing if Melton can offset competition for minutes and touches with the sheer improvement of his game.
Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers (38.5%): With 28 dimes and four steals through three games, Rubio is delivering strong numbers while Darius Garland heals from an ankle injury. Rubio’s role won’t be so robust once Garland is back orchestrating the first-team offense, but the interim value is undeniable.
Seth Curry, Philadelphia 76ers (44.5): Philly’s current lack of a proven point guard should see Curry enjoy an uptick in distribution and creation duties. The real key is if Curry’s capable of delivering highly efficient scoring and enough shooting volume to offset his lack of defensive production.
Chris Duarte, Indiana Pacers (33.9%): With at least 15 points in each of his first three NBA games and a clean 20.3 PPG during this sample, Duarte has thrived in Rick Carlisle’s system. Like with some of the names above, Duarte’s opportunity rates are buoyed by an injury to a key teammate in Caris LeVert, but this shallow Pacers rotation will likely find room for the rising rookie.
Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls (20.4%): Somewhat like how T.J. McConnell emerged as a quietly productive fantasy force last season thanks to an atypically high steal rate, Caruso currently paces the league in total steals and should see enough playing time to help roto managers at times this season.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (26.9%): An awesome assist rate for a wing has always helped Barton’s fantasy profile. Now tasked with more playmaking duties with Jamal Murray on the mend, Barton is one of the more undervalued forwards in fantasy at the moment.
Will Barton knocks down the 3-pointer, forcing a Suns timeout and clinching the win for the Nuggets.
Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors (15.4%): Due for a spike in scoring given his career shooting rates and his recent shift into the starting lineup, Trent brings enough steals and 3-pointers to the floor to flirt with fantasy value.
Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves (3.0%): Don’t sweat the lack of scoring with McDaniels, as the transcendent skill he brings to the floor is defensive activity and acumen. League average from 3-point range last season and with special steal and block rates reminiscent of Robert Covington‘s fun fantasy profile, McDaniels is worth sticking with in deeper leagues.
Kelly Oubre Jr., Charlotte Hornets (33.5%): Likely due for a positive correction in scoring efficiency this season after struggling for long stretches with Golden State last year, Oubre brings enough defensive diversity and scoring pop to merit more interest from fantasy investors.
De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (23.0%): The premier perimeter defender for the Hawks, Hunter was brilliant in slowing down Luka Doncic over the weekend. If he can recapture last season’s offensive metrics, Hunter could emerge at a shallow fantasy position.
Steven Adams, Memphis Grizzlies (50.8%): Tasked with some fun distribution duties out of the high post as the veteran bruiser on a young Memphis roster, Adams is providing some helpful passing production to go with volume rebounding and respectable defensive rates.
Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets (29.0%): Taking the honorary Cody Zeller role as a helpful, if unexciting, statistical contributor with Charlotte. Plumlee, after all, was 12th in the league in rebounding chances per game entering Sunday’s tilt with Brooklyn.
Andre Drummond, Philadelphia 76ers (53.0%): Even in a limited capacity as a true understudy to Joel Embiid, there is enough rebounding and steal potential present in Drummond’s game to merit some attention in deeper fantasy formats.
MRI shows no structural damage to knee of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine
LaVine will be reevaluated early next week, the team said. LaVine did not travel with the team for its game Saturday night in Boston, and he will begin targeted therapy on his knee before the Bulls can offer a more definitive timeline.
“Well, obviously very optimistic and very grateful that it wasn’t something more,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s why they wanted to do the MRI, so he’ll continue to get therapy and we’ll re-evaluate him after a period of time. I don’t think it’s something that’s long-term, which is a good thing. So the biggest thing is how does he respond to therapy, treatment, those kinds of things.
“I think once they see how he responds to the therapy there will be a clearer view of when a return date will be possible.”
LaVine landed awkwardly while grabbing an offensive rebound during the first quarter of Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. He took an intentional foul on the next play before taking himself out of the game.
The Bulls were optimistic after Friday’s game that LaVine had avoided a major injury, but wanted to proceed with caution considering LaVine tore the ACL in the same knee in 2017 while playing for the Timberwolves.
In 38 games for Chicago this season, LaVine is averaging 24.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 49% from the field.
In addition to LaVine, the Bulls will also be without Lonzo Ball on Saturday night as he is experiencing left knee soreness.
“(Saturday) morning when we met he still had some soreness in that joint and just wanted to rest him and have him sit out,” Donovan said. “I don’t want to say day-to-day … when I say day-to-day, it’s not like this game, and he’s back for Memphis. I think right now for the Memphis game he would be doubtful until he goes through treatment and therapy and see how he feels and if the soreness subsides and how quickly it subsides.”
Dallas Mavericks get Kristaps Porzingis, coach Jason Kidd back from health and safety protocols
DALLAS — Mavericks power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols after missing the past seven games and is expected to play in Saturday night’s home game against the Orlando Magic.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd also cleared the protocols.
Dallas won six of the seven games missed by Porzingis, who is averaging 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. The Mavs went 3-1 during Kidd’s absence, when defensive coordinator Sean Sweeney served as the acting head coach.
A source said Porzingis felt well in recent days and had been able to do individual workouts.
Porzingis’ clearance makes center Marquese Chriss ineligible to play for the Mavericks while he remains on a 10-day hardship deal that expires Thursday.
Sources said the Mavericks are considering their options to sign Chriss for the remainder of the season, which would require a move to create an open roster spot.
Chriss has played in 12 games over three 10-day deals with the Mavericks, averaging 6.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per game while shooting 63% from the floor.
Chicago Bulls star guard Zach LaVine to have MRI on injured left knee
LaVine did not travel with the team to Boston for its matchup against the Celtics on Saturday night, and instead will remain in Chicago to receive an MRI. There’s initial confidence that he hasn’t suffered a serious injury, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
LaVine appeared to begin laboring after grabbing an offensive rebound with just under nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. On the next play, he took an intentional foul on Warriors guard Stephen Curry before taking himself out of the game.
He immediately walked toward the Bulls’ locker room with a team trainer, but LaVine was able to move under his own power.
“The MRI will tell a lot more once he gets that done,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said after the game. “I don’t want to sit here and speculate … he kind of came down a little funny, and he’s got some discomfort there right now and they want to take a look. He didn’t feel like he could return.”
LaVine is averaging 25.6 points on 49% shooting (41% from 3), 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 37 games for the Bulls this season.
The Warriors took over following LaVine’s injury, closing the first half on a 64-37 run. The Bulls lost by 42 points on Friday after losing by 26 points to the Nets on Wednesday. It’s the first time a conference leader has lost consecutive games by an average of 30 points since the NBA went to two conferences in 1970, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
“These two games should be all the motivation that we need to step up, play hard, play for one another,” Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said. “It’s just another challenge that we got to face. We can’t complain about it. Can’t whine about it. Can’t look for no extra help. It’s on us.”
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