Disclaimer for fantasy hoops veterans: The preface to this column focuses on basic waiver wire tools in order to assist new owners with sorting and finding players to add to their teams. If you're proficient in using the waiver wire already, skip down to the bolded names to find some widely available players whose value is on the rise.
For new or casual fantasy hoops owners, it's important to know how to use the "players" tab on your ESPN team page in order to sort through the available players and identify which are worth a roster spot.
Here are the important functions to understand:
Time frame: You can sort a player by his stats over the past seven, 15 and 30 days as well as season totals and season projections.
Statistical Category: Once you have chosen your time frame, you can sort by points, rebounds, assists or any other category your league includes in order to find out a player's averages over that time period. This is critical when adding based upon specific needs, as you can identify which players are providing that stat.
Player Rater Ranking: Under the "research" tab, you can sort players by their ranking on the player rater over the past seven, 15 and 30 days as well as by their season ranking. This is a quick and simple way to identify which players have had the most overall value in a given time period.
Percent owned: Shows the percentage of ESPN leagues in which the player is on a roster. Generally, this acts as a basic barometer for perceived value.
+/-: A helpful tool, this allows you to know how many leagues have added or dropped a player over the past seven days. It's a great indicator of a player's upward or downward trending popularity.
For me, the most useful method is sorting by player rater ranking by the various time frames and noting long- and short-term trends. As the season gets further along and your team's needs become clearer, sorting by specific statistics becomes integral when addressing deficiencies.
These are the basics of using the waiver wire tools that are at your disposal in ESPN leagues. The real trick is watching games, monitoring box scores on a nightly basis and noticing these trends before they become apparent to others. Just know that these resources do a great deal of the basic leg work for you, so be sure to use them.
Now, onto the notable waiver wire picks of the week:
Richard Hamilton, SG, Chicago Bulls (29.4 percent owned): If we closely examined last season's splits, it should have been clear that Hamilton would put up sound scoring stats with Derrick Rose sidelined. In 10 games last season without Rose, Hamilton averaged 13.9 points on 48.7 percent shooting from the floor with 3.5 assists and 0.9 3-pointers per game. That's comparable to this season's 13.8 points per game, which Hamilton should be capable of sustaining until Rose's return. Before Wednesday's 4-point effort, Rip had averaged 17 points per game over his past five contests and had scored at least 12 points in seven of his past nine. Impact scoring is hard to find on the waiver wire, and Hamilton is as cheap as they come.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Sacramento Kings (15.4 percent owned): Although he usurped Isaiah Thomas as the starting point guard, Brooks won't put up typical point guard stats, especially playing alongside Tyreke Evans, who is capable of handling the ball and sharing distribution duties. Brooks can score and nail 3s, as evidenced by his 2009-2010 campaign with the Rockets in which he averaged 19.6 points and 2.5 3s per game and led the league in 3-pointers made. He also performed well in China last season, averaging 22.3 points per game with 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals. So far, his performance as a starter has been inconsistent, as he has had three good games and two clunkers in his past five. Although there is no way he'll replicate his career season and he's a bit of a defensive liability, he'll be a steady source of points with plenty of 3s and some ancillary assists thrown in.
Per-48 minute averages 2012-2013: 21.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.2 blocks, 1.4 steals
Per-48 minute averages 2009-2010: 22.9 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 0.6 steals
The training staff doesn't deserve all the credit. O'Neal went to Germany for offseason knee treatment and improved his diet. His dedication to a career resurgence shows, as he has scored in double figures in five of his past seven and is averaging 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 0.6 steals per game over his past five in 21.4 minutes per game. The blocks are legitimate, as O'Neal was impactful in that category last season in Boston before his wrist injury, averaging 1.7 swats per game in 25 games. This season, he is doing more scoring and rebounding, and with Marcin Gortat soaking up the majority of the minutes in the center, O'Neal should be able to remain around 20 minutes per game, keeping him healthy and capable of providing dependable blocks with some scoring and rebounding.
Tiago Splitter, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (4.3 percent owned): He is unpredictable overall, but the one area where Splitter has been consistently impressive is in his field goal percentage, an undervalued fantasy stat. Last season, he shot 61.8 percent from the floor, second behind only Tyson Chandler among players who averaged at least five shots per contest. This season is similar, as Splitter is shooting 58.2 percent with only seven players who average as many shots per game shooting at a higher clip. He is worth adding only if you're targeting field goal percentage, but if you do, he'll provide just enough rebounds, blocks and steals to be palatable.
Kyle Singler, SF/SG, Detroit Pistons (4 percent owned): Four years at Duke and a year in Europe seemingly prepared Singler well for the NBA. While college stats don't always translate to the NBA, he put up intriguing numbers from a fantasy perspective at Duke, with four-year averages of 16.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.8 3s, 0.7 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He is averaging a miniature version of those statistics with the Pistons (9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 3s, 0.7 blocks in 25.5 minutes per game) and has already carved out a significant role. On Monday, he scored 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the floor in 36 minutes and complemented it with 10 rebounds, five assists, three 3s, two steals and a block. Wednesday marked his third straight game with at least 12 points. Much like Chandler Parsons or Shane Battier, Singler won't blow you away in any statistical category, but he has low turnovers and does a little of everything.
Lavoy Allen, PF/C, Philadelphia 76ers (1.5 percent owned): Allen has stepped into the starting center role in Philadelphia. With Andrew Bynum out indefinitely, Doug Collins favoring Spencer Hawes in a bench role and Kwame Brown being Kwame Brown, Allen has a prime opportunity to shine. He averaged 13.2 rebounds per 48 minutes as a rookie, a higher rate than guys like Nikola Pekovic and Paul Millsap, and has demonstrated solid rebounding acumen while providing apt team defense. Allen is not especially athletic, but he has nice size and displays a soft touch around the basket. He'll primarily provide rebounding and some blocks/steals, but he attempts more shots from 16-23 feet than anywhere else on the floor, which limits his offensive potential and puts a low ceiling on his field goal percentage. He is a work in progress, but if he can shake some of the consistency issues that have plagued him throughout his career and achieve his potential, he could be a decent fantasy center in deep leagues.
Jeffery Taylor, SG, Charlotte Bobcats (1 percent owned): Taylor is averaging 11.8 points, 2.2 steals and 1.6 3s over his past five games in a surprising but well deserved 32.4 minutes per game. With his striking athleticism and defensive capabilities, he is a good fit for Mike Dunlap -- much better than Ben Gordon. He and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist form a duo of dynamic wing defenders, and with Taylor's solid spot-up skills and capability of using his athleticism to score, he should provide points, 3s and steals with these minutes. Don't expect too much, but steals are hard to find and he is proficient in providing them consistently, as he averaged over a steal per game in each of his final three seasons at Vanderbilt.