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Waiver wire pickups: Quick fixes to add blocked shots

waiver-wire-pickups:-quick-fixes-to-add-blocked-shots
Waiver wire pickups: Quick fixes to add blocked shots
  • Jim McCormick, Special to ESPN.comFeb 12, 2024, 01:00 PM ET

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      Jim McCormick is a fantasy football and fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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 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 men’s basketball leagues.

Point Guard

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons (Rostered in 50.5% of ESPN leagues): The team is finally featuring young playmakers over languishing vets. Ivey has played big minutes of late and the results are emboldening in both real and fantasy terms. We’ve seen such shifts in roles for young talent prove to be league-winning type outcomes, so it’s time to consider Ivey as a difference-maker down the stretch.

Keyonte George, Utah Jazz (5.6%): The Jazz might turn to their young prospects sooner than later in a bid to develop the roster ahead of a big summer of draft picks and cap space. George fits the bill as a rising playmaker, so we should pay attention to a recent uptick in minutes and touches.

Vasilije Micic, Charlotte Hornets (1.0%): Between this former EuroLeague star and the arrival of Tre Mann (2.4%), the Hornets added some interesting talent in the Gordon Hayward deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Micic played big minutes in his debut with the team en route to 18 points and nine dimes, giving him the early edge in what could be a fantasy-friendly gig in the Hornets’ backcourt rotation.

Shooting Guard

Donte DiVincenzo, New York Knicks (46.3%): Realizing his two-way skill set in a big role for the Knicks, DiVincenzo has scored at least 20 points in six of his last seven entering the week of NBA action. Once you earn a major role for this New York coaching staff, it’s likely that major minutes are an enduring reality.

Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings (56.3%): A true scoring savant off the pine, Monk is a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate in such a role for Sacramento. The scoring pop isn’t the only attractive attribute for fantasy outcomes, as the Kentucky alum dishes at an above-average rate and can even surface with a solid block rate at times.

Brandin Podziemski, Golden State Warriors (14.9%): It’s rare that a rookie combo guard is valuable beyond the success of his shot, but “Podz” is unique in that he’s a deft playmaker and atypically good rebounder for the position.

Small Forward

Vince Williams Jr., Memphis Grizzlies (23.0%): Added creation duties with the team missing a bevy of impact offensive contributors signals that Williams could continue as the resident distributor of the Grizzlies’ patchworked rotation.

Josh Hart, New York Knicks (39.4%): With multiple injuries limiting the team’s starting frontcourt, Hart has become a cog in the Knicks’ rotation and most importantly, a vital rebounding source. Averaging a double-double during the past week of action, Hart’s value remains real until we see the Knicks at full strength.

Aaron Nesmith, Indiana Pacers (17.8%): A recent swoon in shooting success has seen Nesmith lose luster in fantasy free agency, but buying is still sound advice when it comes to this two-way wing. After all, his steal rate has remained elite, while the absence of Buddy Hield’s shooting rate should filter into Nesmith’s profile eventually.

Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons (40.5%): Monty Williams is finally empowering young talents such as Ivey and Thompson, and the results are telling. With boundless energy and a rare skill at getting loose balls and long rebounds, Thompson is the type of fantasy option capable of helping across multiple categories, if not in scoring volume.

Power Forward

Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors (57.1%): The Warriors pace the league over the next two weeks of action with six games on the schedule. Remember that the All-Star break cuts each of these next two weeks short, which means volume is king in such shortened windows. Kuminga, after all, can fill box scores with his volume scoring approach and ability to clean the glass when Steve Kerr goes small.

Saddiq Bey, Atlanta Hawks (26.6%): A bucket out of Villanova, Bey’s game can often extend beyond his scoring prowess. An ability to box out and collect boards adds a valuable dynamic to Bey’s profile, one that is likely to sustain given the nature of the team’s undersized rotation.

Kelly Oubre Jr., Philadelphia 76ers (49.8%): Never afraid to find his own shot and with newfound scrappiness on defense, Oubre has emerged as a helpful fantasy candidate for a team that dealt off forward depth at the deadline and is clearly missing the reigning MVP’s high-usage profile.

GG Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies (4.7%): The youngest player in the league, Jackson has earned a sizable role in the team’s eroded rotation. A wave of injuries and even the recent deadline thinned out the team’s frontcourt, aiding Jackson’s bid for more minutes and touches the rest of the way.

Center

Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks (57.2%): Multiple blocks in five of his past six games entering the new week of hoops, Okongwu is a must-roster center until Clint Capela returns to the Atlanta rotation. With an awesome blend of efficient scoring and deft defense, this athletic center is a winning addition in all formats.

Precious Achiuwa, New York Knicks (13.3%): Logging tons of minutes as the rare healthy big on the roster, Achiuwa has become a steady source of scoring and rebounding in recent weeks. Earning the trust of Tom Thibodeau can prove invaluable, thus Achiuwa could be more than merely an interim value to target.

Paul Reed, Philadelphia 76ers (8.5%): The team didn’t add a veteran center via the trade market, but a buyout option could still emerge. This said, Reed is the de facto lead center for the team with Joel Embiid sidelined. You’ll need to survive some leaner lines due to foul trouble or Nick Nurse running small lineups, but Reed’s upside in stocks is worthy of attention.

Nick Richards, Charlotte Hornets (9.9%): A lingering back injury has kept second-year center Mark Williams from seeing the floor for much of the season. Without a defined timeline for return, Williams has ceded important minutes to Richards, who has become a quietly strong source of rebounding and efficient interior scoring.

Special Teams:

This section focuses on specialists; players who flash in a singular category and can provide specific value to those in category and roto formats. Nominations are based on which category such players are helpful in and will rotate throughout the season.

  • 3-pointers: DiVincenzo and Ivey are both ascendent in production beyond the arc via the Player Rater index. Both Tim Hardaway Jr. (26.3%) and Malik Beasley (8.0%) also qualify as specialists in this category.

  • Steals: Toronto’s Gary Trent Jr. (13.4%) is third in the league in added value via steals over the past two weeks, while Indiana’s Nesmith has been among the most larcenous wings during this sample.

  • Rebounds: Hart’s atypically awesome rebounding rate drives value. Charlotte’s Richards is found at ninth in added value via rebounds the past 15 days.

  • Blocks: Achiuwa qualifies thanks to his recent spike in rim protection results, while Richards also merits mention.

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