Waiver wire pickups: Look to Thomas Bryant, Markelle Fultz
1: 56 PM ET
Jim McCormickSpecial to ESPN.com
- Jim McCormick is a fantasy football and fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
Working the waiver wire is pivotal to succeeding in fantasy basketball. To maximize fantasy rosters, we will need stats from free agency because of the many games, injuries, and endless shifts in rotations during the marathon campaign.
It can be rewarding to allow competition for the final few spots in your fantasy hoops roster. It is important to compare your end-of-bench players with those available in free agency when curating this fluid collection of statistical contributors.
This weekly series aims to identify players at every position that are available in ESPN leagues’ free agency. Some nominations can help in one or two areas, while others provide more comprehensive and important statistical information. Below are the breakdowns. I have ordered players according to priority of acquisition, not roster percentage in ESPN leagues.
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (Rostered in 25.9% of ESPN leagues): Entering Sunday’s slate tied with Devin Booker for 17th in total assists, Hayes has sustained success as an improved shooter and consistent passer and defender. This is a fairly remarkable feat given he was on the fringes of the rotation earlier in the season, but a season-ending injury to Cade Cunningham has fueled a major role for Hayes.
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic (12.9%): Speaking of former top lottery picks turning things around, Fultz has reinvigorated the Orlando offense lately with savvy transition and half-court playmaking. Fultz has nine steals in his last three games.
While Markelle Fultz may never be a superstar, but he’s getting assists and steals and can certainly help a fantasy team.
De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (41.4%): This is just getting silly. Melton merits much more attention from fantasy managers for as long as Tyrese Maxey is sidelined. For confirmation of his 3-and-D value, Melton is second only to OG Anunoby in steals per game and has made 2.9 3-pointers per 36 minutes. Melton’s statistical value should not be diminished by the recent news that Maxey still needs to heal from a foot injury.
Bruce Brown, Denver Nuggets (23.6%): Capable of filling gaps on both sides of the floor for Denver and with strong passing and defensive rates to his name, Brown’s versatility outweighs his lack of scoring pop.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks (16.3%): If Brown does a bit of everything, Hardaway is a definable specialist in that he’s all about shooting and scoring. Afforded freedom to launch off of Luka Doncic dishes, Hardaway Jr. was tied for 10th in the NBA in made 3-pointers as of Sunday, just ahead of Doncic.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks (47.5%): The Hawks are expecting to have Dejounte Murray back in the rotation this week, but that doesn’t preclude Bogdanovic from continuing to score and create in bunches for a Hawks team that can use his playmaking leading second units. After all, “Bogie” has averaged 26 points and an absurd 5.8 3-pointers over his last four outings entering the new week.
Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets (51.7%): Back in the lineup after battling injuries for the past several weeks, Hayward brings a nice blend of passing and scoring production to both the Hornets and fantasy lineups.
Terance Mann, LA Clippers (4.5%): It can seem that one night Mann is a major cog in the rotation and barely a presence the next time out. Such is the case with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard rotating in and out of the lineup, but Mann has proven productive whenever called on and has recently thrived as a complementary two-way wing for the Clips.
Kyle Anderson, Minnesota Timberwolves (12.1%): This is a good week to pursue power forwards who are available in the vast majority of leagues, such as “Slo Mo” from Minnesota. In the wake of Karl-Anthony Towns‘ injury, Anderson has averaged 10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.8 combined steals and blocks over the last six games entering Sunday’s slate.
Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards (8.2%): A leap in playmaking has this young forward suddenly flashing real passing upside to go with increases in scoring and rebounding rates lately. Avdija is not a great scorer but he does a lot of things.
Moritz Wagner, Orlando Magic (7.2%): It’s quite possible that Wagner’s recent rise in minutes, touches, and production is conditional on Orlando missing Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke from the rotation to respective injuries. Either way, Wagner has thrived since joining the starting lineup to begin December, averaging 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds with solid shooting and defensive rates over his last eight games entering Sunday’s slate.
Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks (58.8%): An early-season injury and some lean returns once he returned around a month ago has deflated Robinson’s roster percentage, but he’s been on the floor more in averaging 28.6 minutes over his last 10 games (compared to 20.6 MPG in his first 11 games of the season). For a player with such elite rebounding ability and block potential, more exposure is always a good thing.
Thomas Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (9.1%): A foot injury to Anthony Davis opens up a key starting role for Bryant in the weeks ahead. Bryant has a history of effective paint scoring and the ability to stretch the floor, despite his low rebounding rates. With gifted pick and roll passers in LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to work with, Bryant could become a nice source of scoring.
Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz (14.2%): Ranked 10th among center-eligible players on the Players Rater over the last two weeks, Utah’s rookie rim protector ranks second in the NBA in blocks per 36 minutes and a recent rise in minutes has seen him produce three double-doubles already in December.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.