Waiver wire pickups: Henderson astounds, Drummond rebounds
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 past 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.
Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers, Rostered in 55.3% of ESPN leagues): One of the top widely-available players as we enter the new year, Henderson recently rejoined the starting lineup, and the results have been quite impressive. In his two recent starts, the lottery pick has averaged 21.3 points, 8.7 assists, and 2.3 3-pointers, confirming he’s ready to help your fantasy roster(s).
Collin Sexton, Utah Jazz (55.5%): Years ago, Sexton was a rising fantasy force with an efficient 24 PPG season delivered at just age 21. His role since joining the Jazz has largely featured him off the bench as a complementary scorer, but over the past 10 games, all of them starts, he’s slashing for 23.1 PPG with solid shooting and passing rates.
Dante Exum, Dallas Mavericks (12.8%): The real test of Exum’s statistical value comes once Kyrie Irving returns to the rotation. The word from the coaching staff is that Exum will continue to start upon Irving’s return, so there is real potential for him to sustain a worthy role as a starter and a lead member of second-unit lineups.
Immanuel Quickley, Toronto Raptors (41.2%): A blockbuster deal this past weekend should be a major boon to Quickley’s fantasy value. The Kentucky product has been an efficient and fearless scorer since joining the NBA, but he never really saw a steady starting role for the Knicks. Now that he’s likely to start and command lots of touches and shots for Toronto, Quickley has special upside going forward.
Donte DiVincenzo, New York Knicks (7.4%): The Knicks’ admiration for Villanova products has proven rewarding, as Jalen Brunson has emerged as an All-Star caliber guard while both Josh Hart and DiVincenzo serve as capable glue guys. With the absence of Quickley from the rotation, it’s possible this two-way guard gets more exposure in the wake of a massive game against the Pacers this past weekend.
De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia 76ers (35.1%): Only All-Star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has produced more added value via steals on the Player Rater than Melton this season. Unless or until the team fortifies backcourt depth as the deadline approaches, Melton figures to be a high-minute two-way staple in the Philadelphia rotation.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., Miami Heat (29.8%): The Heat have done it again; finding another gem whom the league overlooked in the draft. This UCLA product has been savvy as a scorer and playmaker, and with several wings dealing with injuries on the roster, he’s poised to produce this week.
Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings (36.8%): One of the league’s true scoring microwaves, Monk can heat up in an instant and change the tone of a game. It’s not just his scoring prowess that proves impressive, as a career-best assist rate and atypically high block production fleshes out a fun fantasy profile.
Jalen Johnson, Atlanta Hawks (50.6%): The best story from a down season for the Hawks has been Johnson’s arrival as a two-way energy forward. Capable of cleaning the glass and scoring with rare efficiency, Johnson merits more attention.
Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards (26.8%): Putting together some busy box scores lately, Avdija is once again a relevant fantasy addition for managers. There are times when the scoring and playmaking dip to levels that are not worth rostering, but amid a hot stretch, Avdija is a fun do-it-all type of producer worthy of our attention.
Andre Drummond, Chicago Bulls (17.7%): The king of volume rebounding is back. Capable of cleaning 20 boards on any given night when he’s starting, Drummond is of real value as long as Nikola Vucevic is on the mend from a tricky oblique injury.
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz (13.6%): If you look past his modest scoring clip, you’ll see that Olynyk does a bit of everything on the floor. With nearly five dimes per game and some potential to stretch the floor, this versatile big is sneakily helpful for those in category-driven formats.
Precious Achiuwa, New York Knicks (1.6%): With per-36 clips of 15 points and 11 boards, there is real potential for Achiuwa to ascend for the Knicks in the coming weeks. With Mitchell Robinson out for the season, the opportunity will surface sooner than later.
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 lofts from beyond with heat-check confidence, while Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr. (24.7%) ranks seventh in the league in added value via 3-point production over the past two weeks. Nesmith is found at 12th in this index over the same sample.
Steals: Beyond Melton’s larcenous ways, Houston’s Tari Eason (12.5%) has been brilliant in this regard. Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski (16.8%) is 13th in steal value the past month.
Boards: Drummond is an obvious inclusion, while I’d also track Isaiah Hartenstein (15.4%) and Achiuwa for the potential to clean the glass for New York the rest of the way.
Blocks: As the team’s lone healthy true big, Nick Richards (6.9%) has excelled as a rim protector for the Charlotte Hornets of late. Hartenstein has also been productive in this sense in place of Robinson.
Assists: Dimes are difficult to source from free agency or the waiver wire given how often NBA offenses are commandeered by high-usage stars, but it’s worth noting that Monk is 25th in the league over the past month in added value via assists.