Darius Garland among top fantasy basketball free-agent finds

After a slow start to his rookie campaign, Darius Garland has been picking up steam this month, averaging 16.7 PPG and 5.8 APG. Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

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 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 at least half of ESPN leagues at each position. 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

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers (Rostered in 29.2% of ESPN leagues): With at least a dozen points in eight straight games while slashing for 16.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 2.3 3PG during this stretch, this gifted rookie has emerged as a helpful fantasy option midway through his first professional campaign.

Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers (15.5%): A lingering injury has sidelined Malcolm Brogdon, creating a significant creation role for Holiday to serve in the interim. Jrue's baby bro has averaged 14.1 PPG and 5.1 dimes per game during his past 15 games, nine of them starts in Brogdon's place.

Bruce Brown, Detroit Pistons (13.4%): As John Cregan deftly details in a recent column, ignoring scoring production as a key statistical element can prove rewarding in that you can then appreciate the full breadth of statistical contributions a given player might offer. Brown is a solid example of this ideology in action; he's averaged just 10.8 PPG during the past nine games, but also 4.7 RPG, 4.7 APG, and 2.5 stocks (combined steals and blocks) during this sample. Look past the modest scoring and instead focus on the unique creation role afforded to Brown with both Luke Kennard and Blake Griffin sidelined for Detroit.

Shooting guard

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics (37.3%): Only Fred VanVleet and James Harden average as many steals, 3-pointers and assists per game as Smart has this season. A defensive savant with underrated offensive contributions, Smart is a savvy addition to consider at a shallow shooting guard position.

Damion Lee, Golden State Warriors (21.5%): With the team having exhausted all of the games available for his two-way contract, Lee is ineligible to play until the team finalizes a long-term deal. However, they opened a roster spot by waiving Marquese Chriss, so that could happen sooner than later. Alec Burks (29.0%) is a strong addition for as long as he's on the Warriors' roster, but it appears Lee could be the more enduring value given an eventual full-time roster spot and an expected surge in usage if, as expected, Burks is dealt before the deadline in February. Lee, after all, averaged 15.2 PPG in more than 30 MPG during his past 11 appearances for Golden State, all starts.

Jordan McRae, Washington Wizards (28.7%): With several key rotation pieces back on the floor for the Wizards, the days of McRae leading the team in shots are probably in the past, but he still could provide some utility as a scoring microwave for a team that relies heavily on bench production.

Small forward

OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors (44.0%): One of just seven players this season averaging at least 1.4 3PG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.7 BPG, Anunoby's uniquely versatile production merits more attention from fantasy investors despite a lack of scoring prowess.

Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (33.5%): The market finally realized Brooks' awesome offensive production, as he's among the most-added players via free agency in ESPN leagues the past two weeks. Sunday's weak showing marked just the first game in his past seven that Brooks didn't post at least 15 points, as he's still averaging 19 PPG during this stretch, even with Sunday's seven-point outing.

Trevor Ariza, Sacramento Kings (10.0%): Mounting injuries to Bogdan Bogdanovic has vaulted Ariza into an important role for the Kings of late, and the veteran wing has responded with 14.7 PPG with awesome shooting and steal rates during his past three games.

Power forward

Taurean Prince, Brooklyn Nets (35.3%): Thriving from beyond the arc lately and with solid defensive rates to complement his hot hand, Prince is afforded rare freedom to space the floor for the Nets' fantasy-friendly scheme.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas Mavericks (9.7%): Another example of a player who is productive past a modest scoring clip, DFS plays a busy role as a sizable wing on a Dallas roster that proves uniquely needy for his size and athleticism from both forward spots.

Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons (9.7%): This past Saturday saw Wood produce an awesome double-double with rich defensive contributions. While not every appearance will prove so fun, Wood is in a solid spot to provide value with Blake Griffin indefinitely sidelined with a knee injury.

Jerami Grant, Denver Nuggets (14.5%): A bruised knee has sidelined Paul Millsap for the past few games, opening a starting role for Grant, who has responded with some solid defensive performances. The rare 3-and-D power forward, Grant is a fun addition with Millsap ailing.

Maxi Kleber, Dallas Mavericks (8.5%): A top-10 ranking on the Player Rater among power forwards during the past week for Kleber has been fueled by the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, as this German forward has capably provided energy on the glass and on defense for Dallas.


Dwight Powell, Dallas Mavericks (48.0%): Keeping with the value provided by Porzingis' absence, Powell has enjoyed a surge in usage (14.5 PPG the past week) and rebounding opportunities that proves worthy of more attention from the fantasy market.

Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans (19.6%): This athletic young rim-running center has proved productive on the glass whenever Derrick Favors is sidelined, which is a somewhat common occurrence. After all, Hayes leads the Pels in rebounding percentage whenever Favors is out of the lineup.

Alex Len, Atlanta Hawks (14.6%): With double figures in scoring in six of his past seven and double-digit rebounding games in three of his past seven appearances for Atlanta's thin frontcourt, Len can overcome a lack of playing time with efficient work on the glass.