Working the waiver wire is crucial to succeeding in fantasy basketball. With so many games, injuries and endless shifts in rotations throughout the season, we need to source stats from free agency to maximize our imaginary rosters.
In this weekly series, we identify players available in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues at each position. Some nominations are purely specialists, capable of helping in one or two categories, while others deliver more diverse and important statistical offerings. Either way, we believe the names below -- ordered by ownership rate at each position -- can contribute positively to fantasy rosters.
Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns (owned in 38.5 percent of ESPN leagues): With the Suns shutting down both Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight for the season, we can trust the incredibly valuable workload Ulis has enjoyed over the past two games. Since shutting down Bledsoe, Ulis is averaging a ridiculous 39.7 minutes en route to 16 points and 10.5 dimes per game over the past two starts. While the sample size is small, it's clear the team is dedicated to playing Ulis as many minutes as he can handle down the stretch. As the lead distributor on such a pace-driven offense, Ulis could be a season-winning addition in the heart of the fantasy postseason.
Jameer Nelson, Denver Nuggets (12.3): The market isn't very enthused over Nelson -- which is understandable given he's in the twilight of his career and doesn't offer much upside. But the steady vet offers real utility for deeper formats given he's at the helm (averaging 33.2 minutes the past five starts) of the top offense in the league over the past 10 games -- as Denver is first in offensive rating over this sample with 116.1 points per 100 possessions. Nelson just produced a great line against Houston and meets them again on Monday, while also drawing an inviting setup against Kyrie Irving this week, who rates 70th out of 89 point guards in real defensive plus-minus. If even just for the next few games, Nelson is a strong streaming option to consider. In deeper formats, we even have interest in rising rookie Jamal Murray as a helpful combo guard.
Tim Hardaway Jr., Atlanta Hawks (49.6): While his dad is arguing about the legacy of the crossover, Hardaway is busy scoring buckets for the Hawks. Afforded more shooting freedom since Kyle Korver was dealt, Hardaway has averaging 20 points and 2.6 made 3-pointers over the past nine games. For those in need of scoring, albeit with little else in the way of dimes or boards, Hardaway is an effective offensive microwave at the moment.
Denzel Valentine, Chicago Bulls (5.1): With 28.8 minutes per over the past four games, this Michigan State product is finally seeing steady work. Dwyane Wade is 13th in usage rate for the season, which essentially means he was consuming a uniquely high share of the team's offensive plays. With Wade out, that usage will splinter throughout the roster, with Valentine picking up a rewarding share. Even as his shot isn't falling -- he's shooting just 37.5 percent over the past week - he is netting valuable 3-point (2.8 per game over the past four) and rebounding (seven per game over this sample) rates.
TJ Warren, Phoenix Suns (62.9): I'm breaking protocol here to include Warren despite his ownership rate, albeit by just a few points. Warren is another key beneficiary of Bledsoe's absence for the up-tempo Suns, as there are a great deal of touches and shots to consume in his place. Warren is 11th among NBA forwards in points per touch this season thanks in part to a stellar rate of 1.19 points per post touch this season. Afforded rare shooting freedom on a team focused on lottery balls, Warren is a scoring gem for the fantasy playoffs.
Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets (52.9): Acquiring multiple shares of this nearly elite Denver offense is a savvy plan, especially when it comes to Harris and his valuable positional eligibility at the wing. The emergent third-year talent is quietly enjoying a breakout season, as he's seventh among NBA guards in points per touch thanks to sizable leap in 3-point efficiency. Averaging an awesome 37 minutes over the past seven games, Harris offers investors a valuable blend of steals, 3-pointers and helpful shooting rates. In this same ownership tier, we can net a valuable stream of steals and blocks from Miami's James Johnson, who is available in over half of ESPN leagues.
Solomon Hill, New Orleans Pelicans (2.7): Hill's outlier of an offensive explosion against Houston isn't the sole reason he's earning an endorsement for deeper leagues, as he's averaged 34.4 minutes with helpful steal and block rates over the past four games, all starts. We only have interest in Hill in truly deep and challenging leagues, as it's difficult to deny steady minutes during this tumultuous final month of the season.
Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets (59.6): Among the most popular free agent additions of the past week in ESPN leagues, Williams is proving how valuable minutes are for fantasy success; the forward has averaging 36.6 minutes en route to 13.1 points and 11.1 boards over the past eight starts. Even as the Hornets' frontcourt gets healthier, Williams should see at least 10 rebounding opportunities per game given so many minutes each time out.
Richaun Holmes, Philadelphia 76ers (28.1): Holmes is maximizing his opportunities of late in averaging 13.6 points, 6.1 boards and nearly a steal and a block in nearly 24 minutes per game over the past 10. With Noel defending the rim in Dallas, Holmes is going to see around 20 minutes every night and is proving efficient and effective so far in the new role.
Marquese Chriss, Phoenix Suns (19.7): The block numbers leap out when you look over Chriss' fantasy profile, as he's compiled at least three in four of the past seven games and is also proving increasingly effective as a rebounder. With the Suns focusing on a youth movement with little regard for the scoreboard, Chriss' developmental phase could prove rewarding for fantasy purposes over the next month. In this same context, Sacramento's Skal Labissiere is earning increased exposure amid a team in "tank" mode.
Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks (59.8): We can take advantage of Noel's recent dip in ownership as he works his way back from a knee ailment. With at least one block in all but one game for Dallas and with nearly historic career steal production to his credit, Noel is an entirely worthy upside play for the pivotal weeks ahead.
Frank Kaminsky, Charlotte Hornets (25.2): I will count Cody Zeller in this same endorsement, as both members of the Hornets' frontcourt are valuable, although for different reasons. Kaminsky is a stretch five with 34 points and 15 3-point attempts over the past two games, while Zeller is a steady source of rebounding and blocks at a shallow position.
Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers (17.0): Coach Walton is again enunciating an explicit strategy to go young with the rotation over the final month, with could earn Zubac rewarding exposure. When he's been allowed to create, Zubac has averaged 19 points in the three appearances he's lofted at least 13 shots over the past five games.