Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the season, we'll need to source stats from free agency to maximize our imaginary rosters.
A willingness to entertain competition for the last spot or two on your fantasy hoops roster can prove rewarding. It can help to consider your end-of-bench players in direct competition with the talent floating in free agency.
In this weekly series, we identify players available in at least half of ESPN leagues at each position. Some nominations are purely specialists capable of helping in one or two categories, while others deliver more diverse and important statistical offerings. Either way, we believe the names below-ordered by ownership rate at each position-can contribute positively to fantasy rosters.
Rajon Rondo, New Orleans Pelicans (Rostered in 49.7 percent of ESPN leagues): It's not as if Boogie's opportunity rates will go directly to Rondo, as Jrue Holiday is sure to take on an increased workload as well, but we can safely speculate a surge in touches and passes for him going forward. DeMarcus Cousins is, after all, third in the NBA with 89.5 touches per game this season and eighth in the NBA with 60.1 passes per game. If you can forgive his utter lack of outside shooting, Rondo is a fun free-agent acquisition or affordable trade target for the coming months.
Ish Smith, Detroit Pistons (25.5 percent): Found at 10th in potential assists over the past five games -- which is regarded as a pass that leads directly to a possession event, as in a shot, foul or turnover -- Smith should remain helpful for fantasy managers until Reggie Jackson's eventual return (which is still weeks away).
Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics (12.2 percent): Marcus Smart is due to miss a few weeks with an off-court injury, which means Rozier is due to take on an uptick in minutes, touches and shots in the interim. A solid steal rate and rewarding 3-point freedom is a fun combo for a streaming guard such as Rozier.
Trey Burke, New York Knicks (2.2 percent): In his past two games with the Knicks as a recent call-up from the G League, Burke has consumed a rich usage rate of 28.1 percent while averaging 18 PPG. This could be a complete aberration (and likely is), but Burke could be worth a flier in deep and competitive leagues with daily transactions.
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs (42.3 percent): Averaging 13 rebounding opportunities per game over past five games, which ranks third among guards behind only Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, Murray has become a valuable, if atypical, fantasy prospect. You won't get solid shooting metrics or big scoring nights from Murray, but he could be a gem for those in need of defensive and rebounding numbers.
Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings (29.8 percent): The Kings' deliberate agenda to get their young players heavily involved clearly benefits Hield's statistical stock; he's reached double figures in scoring in 10 of his last 11 games and has averaged 2.3 3PG and 14 PPG during this successful stretch.
Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat (18.5 percent): Ellington leads the entire NBA in catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts this month and is tied with Klay Thompson for second in the league with 9.1 points per game from such attempts in January. There are few better-shooting specialists in the entire league than Ellington.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (4.6 percent): Trade speculation swirling around Tyreke Evans and James Ennis III means Brooks could inherit awesome opportunity rates if the Grizzlies are sellers at the deadline.
DeMarre Carroll, Brooklyn Nets (49.6 percent): Since returning from injury earlier this month, Carroll has been somewhat prolific as a fantasy producer; he's averaged 15.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG and 2.0 3PG over this nine-game sample. The Nets are undeniably thin in the frontcourt, which should serve Carroll's fantasy stock well down the stretch.
Wesley Johnson, LA Clippers (7.5 percent): Injuries throughout the Clippers' rotation have resulted in Johnson earning serious exposure of late; he's averaged 29.6 MPG during his past eight outings. While Johnson is averaging just 8.5 shots and 11.4 PPG over this stretch, he's proved quite valuable as a versatile defensive commodity, with 1.5 SPG and 1.6 BPG over this recent surge.
Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs (26.4 percent): We essentially need to overlook Anderson's modest scoring results and instead focus on his defensive results and full floor game; he's produced 12 steals during his past five games and has at least 12 combined assists and rebounds in three of his past five. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined indefinitely, Anderson remains a solid utility asset.
Danilo Gallinari, LA Clippers (23.8 percent): Nearing a return after a long absence, Gallinari's offense could help this Clippers team that appears intent on contending for a playoff berth. I expect Gallinari to consume a healthy offensive role once he's back in the lineup, thus it's a good time to proactively stash this capable scorer.
Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets (18.9 percent): Trade buzz around Kemba Walker has cooled, but if the high-usage combo guard is dealt, I think it could result in Williams becoming a fantasy difference-maker down the stretch. Even with Walker in the mix, Williams has averaged a rewarding slash during his past nine games that includes 12.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 2.3 3PG as a productive stretch forward.
Skal Labissiere, Sacramento Kings (5.1 percent): It's unclear why the Kings won't completely unleash this talented young big, but it's still nice to see him earn more work lately. With real potential as a defensive fantasy force akin to the rates Collins has flashed in Atlanta, I'm currently chasing cheap shares of Labissiere across several leagues.
John Collins, Atlanta Hawks (44.3 percent): Yet another productive rookie from this inspired 2017 class, Collins is 10th among power forwards in added value in blocks during the past 15 days. In terms of speculating for players who could benefit from the trade deadline, Collins could enjoy more minutes and touches if the Hawks end up dealing Ersan Ilyasova to a contender in the coming weeks.
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks (25.7 percent): Ninth in added value in blocks among centers over the past 30 days and 11th at the position in this regard for the season, Henson is a defensive specialist for fantasy purposes. The Bucks could be buyers in pursuit of a rim-running center at the deadline, but for now, Henson is their key rim protector and is 14th among centers in added value in field goal percentage for the season.
Ed Davis, Portland Trail Blazers (6.6 percent): Found just ahead of Draymond Green and just behind Blake Griffin with 15.1 rebounding chances per game during the past 10 games, Davis has been key to the Blazers' recent success; he's averaged a block and 9.7 RPG with a ridiculous 70.4 percent shooting clip during his past six games.