The key to winning your fantasy basketball league is not how well you draft, but the players you add off waivers. This is extremely important because securing hidden talent could replace those late-round selections that aren’t having the best season. Here at NFS, we provide the best picks for players you should grab off waivers now before it is too late. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players, and also all players listed are rostered below 40 percent on ESPN. Learn to think like a NERD! Check out the NBA New Age Rankings for every player’s year to date performance valuation.
Darius Garland, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers
After a rough rookie season, many questioned what kind of impact Darius Garland would have after being a top-five selection less than two years ago. However, Garland has made some solid improvements to his game to put himself back on track to be a solid prospect for the Cavaliers. While Cleveland has seemed to fall off the playoff trail, Garland has still done a good job at consistent production, even after a hand injury that kept him out multiple weeks. In the first half of this season, Garland has averaged 16 points, two rebounds, six assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Garland still has a solid output for the rest of the season as a young prospect with little competition in Cleveland. He is expected to be the starting point guard for the rest of this season and beyond.
Kendrick Nunn, SG, Miami Heat
COVID-19 issues gave Nunn a tough start to the season, but around mid-January, Nunn finally started to get his season on a roll. This start made him a solid fantasy pickup around the end of January. Since then he has been a consistent scorer for a Miami team that is trying to regather themselves after a slow start. In the first half of the season, Nunn has averaged 14.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. His biggest improvement has been his shooting percentages. Both from the field and three he has seen small increases compared to his rookie season. Nunn will have a key role for the Heat that will try to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and guarantee themselves a playoff spot.
Norman Powell, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
Similar to the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors have had a slow start after being forced to play all of their home games in Florida and the lack of a real big man. Nonetheless, Norman Powell has been one of the few players on the team who has elevated his game to keep this team still in the playoff hunt. In the first half of the season, Powell has averaged 18 points, three rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He has also significantly improved his three-point shooting, jumping from 39 percent to 43 percent. Powell’s production in the second half of the season will be key if Toronto wants to punch their ticket to the postseason again this year.
Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, Memphis Grizzlies
With Jaren Jackson Jr. not playing at all in the first half of the season, it has been Kyle Anderson who has had the breakout season for the Memphis Grizzlies. Slo Mo this season has averaged 13.4 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. While the points has been the biggest jump this season, his three-point percentage increase has been astronomical. Last year, Anderson shot 28 percent. That percentage this season has jumped to 38 percent. His free-throw percentage has also jumped 10 percent as well. Anderson’s role will be interesting once JJJ will return after surgery. But, with JJJ still without a timetable, it will be Anderson going forward as the starting power forward.
Keldon Johnson, SF/PF, San Antonio Spurs
Keldon Johnson was the second-to-last selection in the first round in 2019 and was considered a project player for his first few seasons in the NBA. However, he has already shown to be ahead of the curve and is looking like a solid steal of the 2019 NBA Draft. In his second season, Johnson has averaged 14 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Johnson’s percentages have dramatically dropped compared to his rookie season. Not to mention that they are also considered below average compared to the NBA standards. Nonetheless, Johnson still has plenty of room to improve and may even see more opportunity if the veterans in front of him get traded at the deadline or offseason.
De’Andre Hunter, SF/PF, Atlanta Hawks
De’Andre Hunter was another player that many were unsure about how long it would take for him to reach his peak despite being the number four overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. However, he has shown to be ahead of the curve with a breakout season in 2021. Hunter has averaged 17 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. Hunter’s biggest improvements have been his percentage from the field and free-throw line, both of which have jumped by 10 percent. Hunter did have to undergo knee surgery which has kept him out for the last six weeks. The big test will be if Hunter can keep up the consistent play even after dealing with a major injury.
Chris Boucher, PF/C, Toronto Raptors
Chris Boucher has been one of the best fantasy pickups all season. His opportunity became clear after Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka left the team in free agency and no major replacement was brought to the roster. Boucher has done a great job capitalizing on the opportunity and because of that is now in serious contention to win the Most Improved Player of the Year award. This season, Boucher has averaged 13.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He has also made incredible improvements on his percentages from the field and beyond the arc. Most notably, his three-point percentage has jumped over 12 percent from last season. Until Masai Ujiri feels he needs a more productive team to help this team win another championship, it’ll be Chris Boucher going forward in the second half of the season.
Jakob Poeltl, C, San Antonio Spurs
Since February, Jakob Poeltl has been one of the most underrated centers in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge has been dealing with multiple injuries, so it has been the perfect opportunity for Poeltl to show the improvements he has made and attempt to live up to the expectations he had as a top ten selection back in 2016. Since February, Poeltl has averaged eight points, nine rebounds, and two blocks per game. He also shoots efficient 65 percent from the field in those same games. With Aldridge likely to be traded or released before the deadline, this will be the perfect opportunity for Poeltl to be a consistent and productive center for the Spurs organization.