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 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 widely available in free agency in 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.
Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors (Rostered in 29.8% of ESPN leagues): This situation is admittedly odd in that Trent seems unlikely to open the season as a starter for the Raptors. Then again, Toronto’s rotation remains relatively shallow in the backcourt and Trent has one of the best 3-and-D profiles over the past several seasons. Add in the potential for increased playmaking in the wake of Fred VanVleet‘s departure and his eligibility at point guard, and we have a solid early-season stash on our hands.
Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs (9.8%): Ok, let’s get weird; Sochan is the rare point-forward type serving the honorary Boris Diaw role for the Spurs. The coaching staff’s plans to empower Sochan as a starting playmaker for this ultra-sized San Antonio lineup could drive some truly unique fantasy fun in these first weeks of the season. As a result of Sochan’s exciting new playmaking role, it’s likely going to cost Tre Jones significant value in regard to fantasy impact.
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Jevon Carter, Chicago Bulls (0.2%): Those in deeper leagues might want to consider Carter, a player signed to play real minutes for a Bulls team in need of veteran distribution skills. Assists are simply hard to find in this heliocentric era of the sport.
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (52.2%): The hot finish to the season provides a preview of what Sharpe might do with increased shooting and scoring freedom for a suddenly young Portland rotation. Be patient with this scoring maven, as the numbers will eventually surface.
Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards (2.1%): Another unique young talent likely to start for his team, Coulibaly was a top-10 pick this past summer and figures to be among the league leaders in steals from the jump. Maybe this is a bit premature of an endorsement, but it’s best to be ahead of the curve when it comes to surprising young starters.
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers (29.0%): One of my favorite second-year targets and a player, who like Sharpe, could really emerge as a scoring force as early as this season, the math for Mathurin begins with earning big minutes for a Rick Carlisle team likely to finish in the top 10 in offensive efficiency.
Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons (37.1%): The Pistons are another youth-movement team likely to lean on their top pick; with Thompson starting in the preseason and likely to enter the regular season in such as role. The two-way potential he and his twin brother (who plays for the Houston Rockets) claim inspires real interest in category-driven formats.
Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets (58.7%): We’ve endured summer-driven Simmons hype before, but this time it seems appropriate in that he’s seemingly regained some of the downhill transition speed and quick-decision making that was his All-Star trademark in years prior. The Nets will need to navigate his offensive spacing issues along with Nic Claxton, but elite steal and assist rates are likely to resurface.
Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic (20.4%): It’s been literally years since we last saw Isaac play steady NBA minutes. Injuries have ravaged this gifted defensive force, but his preseason tape screams upside. Will he ever play enough to help fantasy rosters? Time, as in minutes, will tell, but he has undoubtedly posted historic defensive rates already in his career.
Saddiq Bey, Atlanta Hawks (17.2%): The Hawks might have a seeming glut at forward, yet the departure of John Collins serves to drive a potentially large scoring role for Bey, who has the requisite skill set to be a high-volume catch-and-shoot option for an offense that figures to prove borderline special.
Mark Williams, Charlotte Hornets (50.4%): The Hornets trusted low-ceiling veterans over Williams last year, but that appears over now that he enters his second season as a likely starter and the team’s top lob threat and rim protector.
Zach Collins, San Antonio Spurs (15.1%): Playing next to a super rookie should help Collins see single coverage and plus matchups throughout. A versatile Olynyk-like skill set often drives fun box scores.