Waiver wire pickups: Best players to add for steals

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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

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic (Rostered in 43.0% of ESPN leagues): A recent injury to Jalen Suggs could mean even more minutes and touches for Anthony as the team’s lead guard in the coming games. With the team’s glaring lack of guard depth, Anthony should continue to sustain a major perimeter creation and scoring role for Orlando.

Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons (12.4%): Second on the Pistons with 8.4 potential assists per game and with six rebounding chances per game, Hayes sees enough opportunity rates for the Pistons to support fantasy value. After all, Monty Williams keeps trusting Hayes with big minutes, driving a stable floor for the former lottery pick.

Dante Exum, Dallas Mavericks (1.2%): Speaking of former lottery selections, Exum is back in an NBA rotation and beginning to thrive with the Mavericks. This endorsement is somewhat tied to Kyrie Irving’s recent foot injury, as any limitations or absences for the superstar guard should lead to more meaningful outcomes for Exum. With Irving hurting lately, Exum has tallied 28 points and 14 dimes across his past two games

Shooting Guard

Coby White, Chicago Bulls (47.8%): Arguably the top fantasy producer this widely available in league, White is up to fifth in the entire NBA in made 3-pointers on the season, tied with Paul George and Michael Porter Jr. in this regard. The Bulls won’t have Zach LaVine for what seems like at least the rest of this calendar year, while White’s ascent is likely the best progress the team can claim amid another down season.

Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings (33.0%): The premise with Monk’s role is simple; be the scoring microwave for the team’s second unit. The reality is that he’s more than just a scorer, as his strong assist rate drives increased fantasy impact. With reasonable defensive rates complementing his strong offensive profile, Monk makes for a solid depth addition to fantasy rosters.

Matisse Thybulle, Portland Trail Blazers (1.6%): Up to ninth in the NBA in steals per game and third in overall steal percentage, Thybulle’s recent surge in playing time helps his amazing defensive rates really surface. For context, he’s played at least 30 minutes in the past three straight games, his longest such 30-minute streak of the season, and has averaged an absurd 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks during this sample. As long as he’s playing heavy minutes and willingly taking catch-and-shoot looks, Thybulle becomes a relevant player in category and roto leagues.

Small Forward

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans (23.4%): A league-winning option last year thanks to a breakout 3-and-D effort down the stretch, Murphy is finally back from offseason surgery and should gain statistical momentum as he rounds into form. The Pelicans are already empowering Murphy in big moments, so the minutes will follow.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks (56.6%): Serving the Monk role for the Hawks, Bogdanovic is a key playmaker and scoring source off the pine for Atlanta. We know he can shoot and score in bunches, but the defensive rates are even solid, as Bogdanovic rates 15th in the entire league in total steals.

Caleb Martin, Miami Heat (5.9%): A key part of last season’s surprise Finals run, Martin is averaging nearly 18 points over the past six games as a key two-way wing for Miami. While rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. has also been strong for Miami of late, it’s Martin who is likely to sustain value even when Tyler Herro returns to the rotation.

Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards (2.8%): A recent leap in minutes and production has been a fun trend for this exciting, if still raw, rookie. As the Wizards continue to compile loses, it’s possible we see more of this ascendant defender in the coming weeks.

Power Forward

Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons (46.9%): Back from injury and averaging 30 minutes for this young Detroit team right away, Bogdanovic should provide strong shooting and scoring results for fantasy managers. Will Detroit eventually trade the steady vet? Time will tell, but his value seems fairly resilient given his stable skill set.

De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks (16.1%): The Hawks are still missing Jalen Johnson, but his absence often leads to more minutes and opportunities for Hunter. Recently, Hunter has responded with 18.6 PPG over his past eight outings.

Obi Toppin, Indiana Pacers (15.6%): A bouncy forward who mostly just scores in bunches and has respectable block results, Toppin is the classic plug-and-play option whenever he’s hot from the floor.

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls (7.5%): One of just a handful of players averaging at least a block and a steal this season, Williams is finally delivering worthy results on offense, as well. The floor can prove low for a player not known to be aggressive on offense, but with LaVine ailing and the team’s need to develop sustainable young talent, Williams could be featured as the season matures.

Center

Dereck Lively II, Dallas Mavericks (19.6%): Found at 11th in the league in block percentage, Lively is starting to flash real rim protection skills at the highest level. The foul trouble and lack of spacing he provides can combine to lower his playing time in some matchups, but Lively is the team’s lone real two-way center and such a skill set will surface more often than not.

Naz Reid, Minnesota Timberwolves (30.6%): Serving a large role in the team’s large lineups, Reid is the rare double-double threat off the bench. The team loves to go big, which makes his unique blend of size and floor-stretching ideal for this roster.

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: This week’s waiver edition is rich with shooting specialists; White is tops among all players on the Player Rater in added value via the deep ball during the past two weeks, while Atlanta’s Bogdanovic is fourth in this regard.

  • Steals: Thybulle is unsurprisingly behind only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in added value via steals the past two weeks. New York’s Mitchell Robinson is dealing with an ankle injury this week, but he does bring elite steals production to the floor when active from an atypical position for this category.

  • Blocks: It’s nice to see that Lively sits fifth in added value from swats the past two weeks. It’s also helpful that the Knicks’ Robinson provides a rim-protection boost, as well.

  • Rebounds: While his game is mostly just blocks and boards at this stage, there’s still some value to Ivica Zubac (49.4%) as a frontcourt specialist for those in category and roto formats. With Robinson banged up for New York to open the week, give Isaiah Hartenstein a look given he tallied 16 pulls last time out.

  • Assists: In addition to White, Keyonte George (8.1%) keeps setting teammates up. Assists are very tough to find on the wire given how often they stem from high-usage playmaking, so it’s nice to know George is a worthwhile addition.



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