Fantasy basketball waiver-wire finds: Nerlens Noel's sneaky production

Nerlens Noel is a force in the middle for the Knicks with Mitchell Robinson out of the lineup. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

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 available in roughly half of ESPN leagues at each position (although we will make some exceptions). 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 leagues.

Point guard

Cory Joseph, Detroit Pistons (Rostered in 10.9% of ESPN leagues): A sleepy transaction during the deadline has actually led to a fun fantasy revival for Joseph, who has slashed for 12.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 6.8 APG, and 1.8 combined blocks and steals in 25.1 MPG for Detroit over the last nine games. Averaging 9.3 dimes during the last three games, all starts, Joseph is suddenly an intriguing addition.

Theo Maledon, Oklahoma City Thunder (9.5%): During the last 10 games, Maledon has averaged 15.8 points to go with respectable shooting and peripheral stats. With the Thunder relying on youth to finish the season, Maledon could play an important role.

Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (22.9%): Scoring in double figures in six of seven games, Brunson's ability to produce solid lines off the pine for Dallas is confirmed.

Shooting guard

Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs (46.3%): The sample of scoring success is growing for White, as the combo guard has averaged 17.5 PPG during the last dozen games. The savvy defender has also averaged 2.2 combined blocks and steals during this stretch and has one of the best block rates among guards since joining the league.

Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors (50.6%): Hopefully this is the last inclusion for Trent this season. The sharpshooter just tallied a career-high 44 points while missing just two shots from the floor. The Raptors are empowering Trent to hunt for his own shot and the results have been rewarding.

Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder (11.7%): A defensive stopper with a bit of offensive guile, Dort returned to the floor over the weekend from an extended injury absence. The two-way wing played nearly 29 minutes on Saturday, a good sign he's ready for more work in the games ahead.

Small forward

Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (48.4%): If he can return to form from a calf injury, Kuzma could help fantasy rosters with his blend of scoring and rebounding from the wing.

Jae'Sean Tate, Houston Rockets (34.2%): Quietly awesome block and steal rates combine with increased usage during a time when Houston is decimated at the wing other than Kevin Porter Jr. and Tate.

Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons (13.7%): With 25 points in two of his last four games, this rangy stretch forward is one of the better scorers of the rookie class.

Jaden McDaniels, Minnesota Timberwolves (18.4%): The offense is rarely very pretty, but the defensive contributions McDaniels can offer from the wing are relatively unique. With the new coaching staff empowering McDaniels, you should net plenty of stocks (steals plus blocks).

Power forward

Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic (34.7%): A hip ailment has slowed the rookie down, but Okeke remains a fun fantasy target given his ability to provide solid shooting, scoring, passing, and defensive rates.

Darius Bazley, Oklahoma City Thunder (19.7%): Back on the floor for the Thunder, Bazley shined for Oklahoma City Thunder in a loss over the weekend. With a real shot at big minutes down the stretch, Bazley is worth a look.

Isaiah Hartenstein, Cleveland Cavaliers (8.4%): Injuries to the Cleveland frontcourt have afforded Hartenstein more work in recent outings. The journeyman has averaged 10.3 PPG and 8.9 RPG in seven games since coming over from Denver a few weeks ago.


Nerlens Noel, New York Knicks (18.8%): With four blocks in consecutive games and a clear path a starting role with Mitchell Robinson ailing, Noel has become underrated once again in fantasy circles. Sure, the scoring is paltry and the rebounding a bit volatile, but the elite defensive rates are uniquely steady.