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.
Barton ices game with a corner 3
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.