By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Cleaning up on the waiver wire goes a long way toward winning (or placing in) your fantasy league. Many mediocre drafts have been salvaged by playing the waiver wire wisely — but perhaps just as many excellent drafts have been squandered by resting on one’s laurels. Apart from swindling another team via trade, the waiver wire remains the best opportunity to improve your team’s standing throughout the season.
Several solid players who were deservedly and prominently featured in recent waiver wire columns — such as Jae’Sean Tate (27% rostered), Jakob Poeltl (42%), and Saddiq Bey (43%) — are still rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues. While it wouldn’t be a sin to spill some more digital ink on those three, here are my thoughts on a handful of other players being neglected in the majority of leagues, and why each is worthy of consideration for a roster spot.
PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE AVAILABLE IN 12-TEAM LEAGUES
Josh Richardson, Mavericks (45% rostered)
Luka Doncic doesn’t exactly share the spotlight from an offensive usage standpoint, and Richardson is off to a slow start this season. As such, it’s not surprising that Richardson can be found on the waiver wire in most leagues. Through 19 appearances, his three-point shooting percentage (29.6) is well below his career mark (35.9%). The rationale for optimism is Richardson’s defense keeps him on the court and, despite his shooting woes, Doncic should continue spoon-feeding Richardson open shots — they'll start falling once some positive regression comes his way.
Cody Zeller, Hornets (45% rostered)
The fact that Zeller is rostered in less than 50 percent of leagues is likely due to the Hornets having a pair of games postponed in Week 9. Nevertheless, Zeller boasts February averages of 12.0 points (57.1% FG, 81.3% FT), 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.6 blocks, and 0.5 steals in 26.1 minutes per game. LaMelo Ball’s spirit of sharing, combined with the competence of Gordon Hayward, has completely transformed Charlotte’s offense. Furthermore, Zeller is the team’s only player with both the size and strength to cover traditional centers and the agility to survive against smaller lineups. Scoop him up while you still can.
T.J. McConnell, Pacers (42% rostered)
McConnell has been a spark plug of late, putting up averages of 8.4 points (on 50.0 percent shooting) to go along with 8.0 dimes, 3.6 boards, 1.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks in February (nine games). Offensively, Indiana relies on Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon for most of the heavy lifting, but ever since the Pacers moved Victor Oladipo, McConnell has established himself as the team’s third-most-reliable playmaker. It remains to be seen how much his stock will take a hit when Caris LeVert and/or TJ Warren eventually return, but for the time being McConnell looks to be locked into an increased workload.
FORWARDS WITH DECENT FLOORS
Jae Crowder, Suns (37% rostered)
Crowder’s shooting has come back down to earth after scorching nets as a member of the Heat last season. Still, apart from Mikal Bridges, the Suns lack 3-and-D wings. Crowder’s defensive ability and toughness make him a good bet to continue earning around 30 minutes per night. In fantasy basketball, that’s half the battle.
Kelly Olynyk, Heat (35% rostered)
Olynyk isn’t a splashy pickup, that’s for sure. And, yes, his value could plummet if Miami opts to run more small-ball lineups, which was a key to their success in the bubble. Still, with Meyers Leonard (shoulder) out for the season and less depth along the wing (no more Jae Crowder or Derrick Jones Jr.), the Heat may keep playing Olynyk alongside Bam Adebayo regularly. Olynyk probably isn’t worth picking up (or holding onto for long) if you’re searching for upside, but he’s managing a well-rounded stat line of 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 threes, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 26.0 minutes per game.
Royce O’Neale, Jazz (35% rostered)
O’Neale gets a little better every year, and the Jazz almost always seem to be missing a key rotation player (right now, it’s Mike Conley). The do-it-all forward is averaging 7.9 points (46.2% FG, 42.9% 3Pt, 84.6% FT), 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 dimes, 1.8 threes, 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks in 32.6 minutes through 29 games. Like Olynyk, O’Neale doesn’t have massive upside, but his consistency and efficiency make him a solid streaming option.
Josh Hart, Pelicans (30% rostered)
Hart has become one of the best rebounding wings in the league, as he’s averaging 8.9 points (45.1% FG, 34.8% 3Pt, 71.1% FT), 7.5 boards, 2.1 assists, 1.4 threes, 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks in 28.0 minutes. His role has trended upward of late, and Hart could be in line for even more playing time going forward, depending on what the Pelicans do heading into the March 25 trade deadline.
Dorian Finney-Smith, Mavericks (10% rostered)
Finney-Smith is the Mavericks’ best defender and one of the league’s most underrated three-and-D wings. Through 19 games, his numbers don’t jump off the page (they likely never will), but he’s averaging 35.0 minutes per night across the last five matchups and may be worth a look in deeper formats if he keeps earning significant playing time.
POINT GUARD TARGETS
Michael Carter-Williams, Magic (20% rostered)
Cole Anthony’s injury will keep him sidelined at least through the All-Star break. As such, Carter-Williams should continue holding down the fort as the Magic’s starting point guard. Anthony has been inconsistent enough that a solid stretch of play from MCW might persuade coach Steve Clifford to consider bringing the rookie off the bench once he’s healthy. In three games as a starter, Carter-Williams is averaging 13.7 points, 6.0 assists, and 3.7 boards in 29.0 minutes.
Theo Maledon, Thunder (13% rostered)
George Hill (thumb) isn’t expected back for at least a couple weeks, and Maledon has shown signs of promise. It was a great sign that he immediately returned to the starting five Tuesday night after missing four straight games. If Hill is dealt before the deadline, the rookie could hang onto a larger role for the rest of the season.
WIDELY AVAILABLE ADDS
Willy Hernangómez, Pelicans (16% rostered)
Steven Adams left Wednesday’s game against the Trail Blazers due to a sprained ankle, and Hernangómez proceeded to pour in 11 points with a career-high 17 boards in 29 minutes. He was not a factor before February, but this month he’s averaging 8.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 21.0 minutes through 10 appearances. Adams is typically one of the league’s most durable players, but if he misses a chunk of time, Hernangómez could be a decent short-term solution.
Tomas Satoransky, Bulls (8% rostered)
Satoransky has played 20-plus minutes in six of the last seven games. Chicago is dealing with a laundry list of injuries and Satoransky is averaging 5.5 dimes across the last six appearances.
Jalen Brunson, Mavericks (6% rostered)
Strong second units have been a staple of the Mavericks during coach Rick Carlisle’s tenure. Brunson doesn’t possess the quickness of former backup point guard J.J. Barea, but the former Villanova Wildcat can create offense for himself and others. Brunson has the size and shooting ability to play off the ball, which allows him to co-exist alongside Luka Doncic here and there. Brunson is averaging career highs nearly across the board, posting 11.7 points (51.5% FG, 38.2% 3Pt, 88.9% FT), 3.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.1 threes in 24.1 minutes.
Nemanja Bjelica, Kings (4% rostered)
He has been in and out of the lineup this season (mostly out) but can still fill it up when part of the rotation, as evidenced by Thursday’s performance against the Heat, in which he exploded for 25 points, eight boards, three dimes, and two steals in 35 minutes as a starter. Richaun Holmes (knee) is listed as day-to-day and Marvin Bagley has been oft-injured during his short career, so don’t be surprised if Bjelica re-solidifies himself as a valuable contributor.