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. As always, both opportunity and performance are taken into consideration for these players. Learn to think like a NERD!
Jalen Brunson, PG/SG, Dallas Mavericks
One of the more underrated players in the NBA, Villanova alumni, Jalen Brunson, continues to play some impressive basketball after being a second-round selection. In his fourth season, Brunson is averaging career bests in points (16.3), rebounds (3.8), assists (5.4), and steals (0.9). His shooting percentages are down but still better compared to his earlier seasons. He’s a well-polished prospect at 25 years old. He’s also been a very consistent and effective pickup off the waiver wire.
Cole Anthony, PG, Orlando Magic
After a raw rookie season, Cole Anthony exploded into his second season with the Orlando Magic. He became the best guard on the team despite the team spending a top-five selection on Jalen Suggs. Anthony has made a jump this season in points (17.7), rebounds (5.8), assists (5.9), and steals (0.8). He could improve with his deep-ball shooting. But his athleticism and explosiveness make him one of the better prospects at only 21 years old. He’s served well to anyone who was able to scoop him in the first few days of the regular season.
Tyrese Maxey, SG/PG, Philadelphia 76ers
With Ben Simmons expected to sit out games coming into the regular season, Tyrese Maxey was a prime target who could have a huge second jump in the NBA. He’s done just that as he’s made jumps in points (16.9, nearly double last season), rebounds (3.5), and assists (4.6). He’s also shown massive improvement in his three-point shooting, jumping from 30 to 39 percent. He’s also been one of the better prospects in the NBA and it’ll be interesting what his role becomes with James Harden going forward for the Philadelphia backcourt.
Desmond Bane, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies
Few expected Desmond Bane to make the kind of jump he did this season. After being mainly three and d player off the bench, Bane has now held the role as a primary perimeter scorer with Ja Morant. Averaging 17 points, four rebounds, and 1.2 steals while shooting 41 percent from three, Bane has been huge for the Grizzlies jump as a team this season. He’s also been one of the best players off the waiver wire this season. Proving his consistency and ability to have huge games had been critical for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award contender to show his worth in fantasy.
Franz Wagner, SF/PF, Orlando Magic
Franz Wagner quickly turned into being the more promising rookie for the Orlando Magic despite not being the higher one drafted. He has yet to miss a game this season and has been stellar and consistent in his play. He’s averaging 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and nearly a steal per game. He’s shooting a solid 37 percent from beyond the arc. He’s a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year and has a ton of promise going forward for the Orlando Magic who is looking to turn it around as a franchise.
Gary Trent Jr., SG/SF, Toronto Raptors
After being traded from the Portland Trail Blazers, Gary Trent Jr. made a massive jump and has only continued that in his first full season with the Toronto Raptors. He’s made a huge improvement defensively, now averaging nearly two steals per game after never averaging more than one in a season. He’s averaging a career-high 19 points per game while also shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. He’s proven to be another cornerstone in the new-look Raptors who have since moved on from the Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan duo.
Evan Mobley, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers
Many questioned what kind of impact Evan Mobley could have being partnered alongside another interior big man in Jarrett Allen, who signed an extension in the off-season. That was quickly doubted when Mobley found his craft on defense and in the mid-range game offensively. He’s been more than impressive in his rookie season, averaging 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and 1.6 blocks per game. He’s done well shooting around 50 percent from the field. While it isn’t necessary, a three-point shot could make Mobley become an elite all-around player.
Bobby Portis, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks
After putting on a very strong season with the Milwaukee Bucks in their championship run, it was surprising that Bobby Portis wasn’t being considered a decent draft selection in the leagues the following season. Nonetheless, he is proving again to be a quality producer for the Bucks. Portis is averaging 15 points, nine rebounds, and nearly a steal and a block per game. He continues to be elite from beyond the arc, hitting around 40 percent on almost five attempts per game. Maybe with a second strong season, he’ll be considered a quality fantasy draft selection for years to come.