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Fantasy basketball waiver wire finds

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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. 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.


Point Guard

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic (Rostered in 52.2% of ESPN leagues): A statistical eruption against the Knicks last week included 29 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, as Anthony finished just two dimes shy of a triple-double. Proving it wasn’t an outlier, Anthony has topped 20 points in two of his three games since while sustaining an atypically high rebounding rate for a guard. The Magic appear intent on empowering their young talent this season, suggesting Anthony should have the opportunity rates required for a strong season.

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder (33.9%): A premier performance from this teenager against the Lakers in a rousing comeback put Giddey on the map as a fantasy force. Still underappreciated by the fantasy pool, Giddey has slashed for 13.5 points, 6.8 dimes, and 5.8 rebounds to go with 2.3 combined steals and blocks

Ricky Rubio, Cleveland Cavaliers (49.1%): Tied with Ja Morant for seventh in total assists entering Sunday, Rubio has scored at least a dozen points in all but one game this season. With enough rebounding and steal production to complement his passing volume, Rubio is firmly entrenched as the Cavaliers’ third guard and presents T.J. McConnell-like value in this role.

Shooting Guard

Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies (37.3%): An undeniably potent shooter, Bane is up to an absurd 43.2% from 3-point range for his career. Making a massive leap in scoring output from last season and somehow improving efficiency in the face of a significant surge in volume, Bane is a becoming a must-add option at a relatively shallow position.

De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies (17.1%): His strong scoring clip in the first week of the season was buoyed by unsustainable shooting success, but busy defensive metrics have kept his fantasy stock afloat, as Melton has posted nine steals and four blocks in his last three games.

Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls (29.0%): It’s tough to imagine Caruso sustaining steady value once Coby White is back in the rotation, but this defensive guard’s elite steal rate has him with multiple swipes in all but one outing this season. As long as Caruso is flirting 30 minutes per game, he has a place on rosters.

Small Forward

Will Barton, Denver Nuggets (40.2%): The absence of Jamal Murray means Barton is tasked with more creation and playmaking duties for Denver. Barton is currently leading the team in drives per game, which Murray led the team in by a wide margin last season. With at least five assists in three appearances already, Barton’s ability to find both his own shot and facilitate for others is rather unique for a wing.

Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors (23.4%): Turning it on as a source for shooting and scoring production in recent games, Trent is surprisingly pacing the NBA in steals entering Sunday’s schedule. Once the shot starts falling closer to his career clip, Trent could provide worthy 3-and-D value.

Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers (5.4%): A statistical gem from The Athletic notes that, in the last two seasons, there have been only six performances of at least three steals and three blocks in less than 25 minutes, and Thybulle now has two of those six. Thybulle ranks fifth in total steals entering Sunday despite hovering around 20 minutes played in most outings. With his signature recovery blocks on jump-shooters, Thybulle is also averaging 1.5 blocks. You won’t get much offense, if any, but such historic defensive rates continue to prove valuable in roto formats.

Power Forward

Kelly Oubre Jr., Charlotte Hornets (37.5%): This one is more about opportunity and talent than actual production, which has at times been the conundrum with Oubre from a real NBA perspective. Which is to say, he’s not playing very well or consistently for Charlotte, but he’s also playing 32 MPG and lofting seven 3-pointers per game, evidence of a potentially valuable fantasy profile for a guy who has flashed some fun defensive rates throughout his career.

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Kelly Oubre Jr. catches his teammate’s miss and throws it down.

De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (16.2%): Like Oubre, eyeing Hunter is more about his potential than current production, but there are things to like about his profile. Namely he was flashing several signs of a leap a two-way difference-maker last season before suffering a knee injury, so getting ahead of a potential return to prominence could pay off.

Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers (44.0%): When he’s warm from the floor, there is some actual fantasy appeal to Anthony’s role with the Lakers; he has posted at least 24 points twice already as a microwave with the second unit. The holdup in really trusting Anthony for fantasy purposes is just how low the floor proves for a player who doesn’t provide much outside of scoring pop.

Center

Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic (58.5%):The goal is to discuss players available in more than half of ESPN leagues, but Bamba merits an exception given just how undervalued he is at the moment; entering Sunday, the Texas product was fifth in the league blocks while sinking nearly 45% of 4.1 shots from beyond the arc per game. A career-high rebounding rate fleshes out a valuable fantasy profile. Maybe things change when Jonathan Isaac is back in the rotation, but for now, Bamba is fifth among centers on the Player Rater and should be rostered in nearly every fantasy league.

Kelly Olynyk, Detroit Pistons (38.6%): We should be past the point of questioning Olynyk’s statistical value whenever he’s getting steady minutes. He’s an atypical center in that he sinks threes, compiles assists and notches more steals than blocks. Keep an eye on Olynyk, especially as Detroit is starting to carve out more minutes for the stretch big.

Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets (38.7%): If things are thin for you at center, at least Plumlee plays plenty of minutes and has compiled at least 10 boards in four of six appearances as Charlotte’s starting center. There’s also some defensive value to consider, with Plumlee posting at least one steal in all but two games and at least one block in all but one appearance this season.

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LeBron James addresses criticism of Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — LeBron James said he and his teammates have to play better when asked about the scrutiny facing Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel.

“I think criticism comes with the job, you know?” James said after practice on Monday. “Frank is a strong-minded guy. He has a great coaching staff. And we as his players have to do a better job of going out and producing on the floor. We’re a team and an organization that don’t mind some adversity, that don’t mind people saying things about us, obviously, because it comes with the territory.”

L.A. is 12-12, which would put it as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and in the play-in tournament if the season ended today.

For a roster chock full of future Hall of Famers, playing for an organization that has made no secret about its championship aspirations for this season from the front office down to the locker room, .500 ball simply will not cut it — even though the team has navigated myriad early-season injuries.

James said the stature that players like himself, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo have achieved in the game has made them impervious to the backlash that inevitably arises when expectations — fair or not — are not met.

“We have a lot of guys on this team that have been bulletin-board material for quite a long time, so it don’t quite bother us,” James said. “Everything that we do stays in house when it comes to our preparation and how we prepare for our next opponent and how we prepare to get better. Frank doesn’t care and we don’t either about what people are saying.”

It was just 14 months ago that Vogel guided the Lakers to the championship to cap his first season coaching the franchise.

He has a 106-61 record (.635) since coming to L.A., the sixth-best winning percentage of any coach in Lakers history with at least 100 games on the sidelines. His playoff coaching record winning percentage, 18-9 (.667), puts him third behind only Pat Riley (.685) and Paul Westhead (.684), and ahead of Phil Jackson (.652), who is fourth.

“There’s going to be criticism with this job,” said Vogel, who is in his third opportunity as head coach, following six seasons with the Indiana Pacers and two with the Orlando Magic. “It’s something we’re all accustomed to. And I’ve been a coach for 10 years, I’ve seen it all.”

Vogel said the Lakers’ stage only amplifies the noise.

“Is it more national? Yes, it’s more national,” Vogel said. “Is there a bigger fanbase in this market in L.A.? Yes, there is. But it’s been there for every head coach, and it’s something I’m not unfamiliar with. So it just comes with the job.”

Vogel is the eighth head coach in James’ 19-year career, following Paul Silas, Brendan Malone and Mike Brown in Cleveland; Erik Spoelstra in Miami; David Blatt and Tyronn Lue during his second stint with the Cavaliers; and Luke Walton in L.A.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo back in Milwaukee Bucks’ lineup for his 27th birthday after 2-game absence

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is celebrating his 27th birthday by returning to the Milwaukee Bucks‘ lineup after a two-game absence.

The two-time MVP is listed among the Bucks’ five starters for their game Monday night with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Antetokounmpo had been listed as questionable due to a sore right calf that knocked him out for the previous two games.

“We’ll see how he feels when he warms up and determine it,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Monday before the lineups were released.

The Bucks split the two games Antetokounmpo missed last week.

In their first game without him, the Bucks lost 97-93 at Toronto on Thursday to snap an eight-game winning streak. They rebounded at home two nights later by rolling to a 124-102 victory over Miami.

Antetokounmpo is scoring 27.6 points per game this season to rank second in the NBA, behind Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant. He’s also averaging 11.8 rebounds and six assists.

Denver’s Nikola Jokić is the only other NBA player averaging at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists this season.

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Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan enters health and safety protocols

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Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss Monday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets.

DeRozan becomes the third Bulls player currently in the health and safety protocols, joining Coby White and Javonte Green.

DeRozan was recognized earlier in the day as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for averaging 30.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and shooting 58.7% from the field while the Bulls went 3-0 last week with wins against the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.

DeRozan is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 26.4 points per game in his first season with the Bulls.

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