Working on the surrender wire is critical to success in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries, and endless shifts in rotation throughout the marathon campaign, we need to pull stats from free agencies to maximize imaginary squads.
Being willing to entertain a competition for the last few spots on your fantasy hoops list can prove rewarding. When curating this fluid collective of statistical contributors, it helps to see your back-bank players in direct competition with the talent floating in the open.
The goal of this weekly series is to identify players at each position that are prevalent in free agency in ESPN leagues. Some nominees are specialists who can help in one or two categories, while others provide more varied and important statistical offerings. In the breakdowns below, I’ve ranked players at each position based on acquisition priority, rather than roster percentage across ESPN leagues.
Cameron Payne, Phoenix Suns (listed in 17.2% of ESPN leagues): The Suns will not have team leader and star point guard Chris Paul in the lineup for the next few games as he continues to heal from a foot injury. Payne has been relatively great in his place from a fantasy perspective, averaging 20 points and 5.8 dimes in his last five games on Sunday with fantastic shooting stats. As long as Paul is sidelined, Payne is a fantasy starter.
Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets (17.7%): The Nuggets are currently absent Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic due to Covid protocols, which sees Hyland shift to a more prominent offensive role in the meantime. The sophomore guard, who joined the table on Sunday, has averaged 19.7 points, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals and a whopping 4.5 3-pointers in his last six games.
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (8.3%): The Pistons have turned to Hayes as a starting point guard while Cade Cunningham is dealing with a serious shin injury. Hayes will struggle to score efficiently at times, but strong assists and steal rates add value while getting so many minutes and touches for Detroit.
Piston’s PG Killian Hayes may not be a great marksman, let alone a passable one, but he shows solid point guard skills, and that may be enough for fantasy managers to count on him.
Shake Milton, Philadelphia 76ers (2.6%): The Sixers lost another star guard to a foot injury, with Tyrese Maxey suffering a fracture over the weekend and catapulting Milton into a big scoring and creating role for a suddenly exhausted Philadelphia rotation.
De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (20.6%): After the injuries to James Harden and Maxey, Melton is a league leader in steals and was rated really well for the position as a rebounder while at Memphis. Expect Melton to play heavy minutes through the end of the calendar year.
Malik Beasley, Utah Jazz (45.0%): Beasley is a confident bucket of freedom to seek his own shot and has been cranking it up with some signature hits lately. Utah will continue to feed Beasley in the second session, making him the rare bench goalscorer with a measure of consistency.
Derrick White, Boston Celtics (44.9%): No single stat will excite you with white, but his assists are up, his block percentage is uncharacteristically high for a guard, and that mix has propelled him to the 12th point guard position in the Player Rater over the past two weeks.
Alec Burks, Detroit Pistons (3.7%): Burks is a goalscorer who’s capable of some strong rebound rates that come with his confident shot. Burks should be busy scoring goals in place of Cade Cunningham in the coming days.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (54.0%): With Desmond Bane on hiatus and the Grizzlies on a tighter rotation this year, Brooks will be commanding a heavy offensive workload in the upcoming games. Thankfully, as you may know, Brooks is a huge fan of his own game.
Royce O’Neale, Brooklyn Nets (35.3%): Fresh from his first career triple-double, one in which he hit the game-winning shot for the Nets, O’Neale has expertly filled in the gaps for the Nets amid some serious roster issues over the past month.
Bruce Brown, Denver Nuggets (11.4%): The jack of all trades that O’Neale replaces at Brooklyn this season is Brown, who now brings his versatile ground game to the Nuggets. With Star teammates sidelined, Brown has improved his playmaking on both sides of the ball.
Caleb Martin, Miami Heat (4.5%): Another capable wing of Miami’s assembly line, Martin has popped up as a nice streaming option during Jimmy Butler’s absence. This is just an interim addition, but it’s worth noting that Martin has averaged almost 41 minutes in the last three games starting on Sunday, supporting a great two-way line.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies (61.5%): Don’t worry about a few missed injury management games given the elite block rate and potential for some offensive upside. After all, Jackson led the entire league in blocks last season.
Aleksey Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder (19.1%): A recent ankle injury could get in the way of the effervescent fantasy value as “Poku” began to combine great defensive results with usable offensive results.
Marcus Morris Sr., LA Clippers (39.6%): This enduring vet doesn’t do much more than 3-point hits for the Clippers as their resident stretch four, but he at least claims to be clinching his highest rebound rate in four years and stealing enough of a clip to matter.
Torrey Craig, Phoenix Suns (2.7%): Craig, a glue guy for the Suns who played tough minutes with the battered Cameron Johnson, averaged 13 points, 8.3 boards and two steals and blocks in his last three games on Sunday.
Bol Bol, Orlando Magic (49.9%): This guy shouldn’t be on this list much longer; Bol was among the elite fantasy contributors last month thanks to a unique mix of blocks, boards, and efficient scoring. Now make room for him as there is a statistical uptick in how well Bol is playing lately.
Al Horford, Boston Celtics (51.3%): After a quiet October, Horford has 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and solid defensive results in November. There will be some quiet lines, but Horford still has a fun 3-D profile.
Mason Plumlee, Charlotte Hornets (25.2%): Between Plumlee and Utah’s Kelly Olynyk (31.7%), fantasy managers have some helpful depth options at the pivot to consider. Both are solid passers for the position, while Plumlee is the better source of rebounds and shot efficiency, and Olynyk offers an uncharacteristically high steal rate.
https://www.espn.com/fantasy/basketball/story/_/id/35073009/mens-fantasy-basketball-waiver-wire-pickups-royce-oneale-deanthony-melton-al-horford-nba-week-6 Fantasy basketball waiver wire pickups: Look to Al Horford