Sebastian Telfair among helpers on wire
With a couple weeks of play in the books, your team's needs are likely becoming more apparent. Rather than scouring the waiver wire for the best available overall player, you're beginning to search for the one who will compensate for your team's weaknesses. It's still too early to rely purely on the small sample size we have, but not too early to dismiss it, so if your team has a glaring void in a category, it's best to attempt to balance it out now before you get too far behind. Here are some players who help in specific categories and are available in most leagues. Many of them will also help you in other ways, but if you're searching for these specific areas, here are some widely available options
Grant Hill, SF, Phoenix Suns (10.0 percent owned): Hill isn't a flashy option, but his minutes and scoring are consistent. He's averaging 14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals in his past five contests, and will consistently be in the low double-digits with fantastic percentages. A nice "glue" player for fantasy squads that are in need of scoring but can't afford the hit in percentages.
Brandon Rush, SG, Indiana Pacers (9.4 percent owned): Rush has shown glimpses of fantasy glory in the past, like last March when he averaged 12.6 points, 2.1 3s, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He scored 16 points in his first game of the season after serving a five-game suspension, and is immediately entrenched in the backcourt rotation for the Pacers. With his ability to score and drain 3- pointers, as well as get steals and blocks, Rush has a skill set that lends itself well to the fantasy game. Throw in the fact the Pacers are in need of scoring punch outside of Danny Granger, and he should be in line for significant minutes and provide scoring assistance to fantasy teams.
Travis Outlaw, SF/PF, New Jersey Nets (1.7 percent owned): He's all over the place, with games of 17, 18 and 27 points this season, although he also has a goose egg, three games with five points and one with six. He's averaging 12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 3s in his past five games, and has demonstrated the ability to perform in the past, most notably when he averaged 13.3 points, 0.5 3s, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks for the Blazers in 2007-08. That was before he really started attempting 3s, and now that he's added that aspect to his game, Outlaw could average similar numbers with the Nets, but with around 1.5 3s per game to boot.
Amir Johnson, PF, Toronto Raptors (3.9 percent owned): Johnson has always been a solid fantasy player on a per-minute basis, but he's perennially averaged minutes in the mid-teens. But in the past four games, he's averaged 26.0 minutes per game, and his ability to rebound and block shots has shone, with 9.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in that span. His explosive athleticism translates into stats, and now that he's getting more minutes, he's accruing them at a fantasy-worthy rate.
Antonio McDyess, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (1.4 percent owned): He's regularly getting more minutes than starter DeJuan Blair, and averaging 8.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in his past five contests. McDyess is a monster in the field goal percentage department as well, and as long as he gets minutes, is a sound fantasy player. Just two seasons ago, he averaged 9.8 rebounds per game for the Spurs, and should be able to hover around 8.0 per game with his current minutes. Throw in the fact he flirts with 60 percent shooting from the floor, and blocks about a shot per game, and McDyess is holding onto his fantasy value in his later years.
Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets (3.8 percent owned): Lawson is averaging 4.0 assists in 22.9 minutes per game, and Chauncey Billups is averaging just 31.6 minutes per game as the starter, his lowest total since 2002-03. Lawson won't provide the 3s you typically want from a point guard, and even though he has some ability in the steals and scoring departments, he won't help you significantly in anything but assists unless an injury occurs to Billups and he lands a starting role. For now, though, his 8.4 assists per 48 minutes are a promising sign of what he could do with that opportunity, and even with his minutes in the low-20s, he's averaging enough dimes to be helpful in that department if your team is hurting.
Sebastian Telfair, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves (1.4 percent owned): With starting point guard Luke Ridnour sidelined, Telfair has seen increased minutes, and is averaging 4.6 assists per game in his past five contests. He's also a decent scorer and is averaging a 3-pointer per game this season, and Ridnour's role with the team isn't solid enough to hold off Telfair from getting playing time if he continues to play well. His short-term value is strong, and even when Ridnour returns, Telfair could continue to see significant minutes, as he was already earning more minutes off the bench than Ridnour was in the starting lineup in the games leading up to Ridnour's injury.
Ishmael Smith, PG, Houston Rockets (0.9 percent owned): With Aaron Brooks out a reported 4-6 weeks with a sprained ankle, and Kyle Lowry slowly working his way back into shape after knee and back issues, Smith finds himself starting at point guard for the Rockets, and in his first three games in the gig is doing pretty well for himself, averaging 10.0 points, 5.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.7 3s in 34.3 minutes per game. He's one of the most unlikely candidates to be on fantasy rosters, but in this game it's all about minutes and statistics, and Smith is getting both. As Lowry's conditioning improves, he will cut into Smith's minutes and potentially take the starting role with Brooks out, although Smith should still average minutes in the upper-20s even if that happens. He averaged 13.2 points, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game his senior season at Wake Forest, and has landed an incredible opportunity for serious playing time as an undrafted rookie. He's worth a short-term add in all formats if you have a player worth dropping, although don't mortgage your future for him, as his minutes will reduce significantly once Brooks returns and Lowry is at full strength.
Derek Fisher, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (11.3 percent owned): When Steve Blake was brought to L.A., many figured that Fisher's minutes would decrease. But he's averaging 27.8 minutes per game, up from 27.2 last season, including 30.8 per game in his past five contests. He has at least one steal in every game this month and, with 2.0 per game in his past five contests, is playing rock-solid defense for the Lakers and playing enough minutes to be a viable fantasy option. He'll also provide 3s with a few assists as well, and after averaging at least a steal per game in each of his past eight seasons, he's in line to do it once more.
Corey Brewer, SG/SF, Timberwolves (2.1 percent owned): He's bounced in and out of the starting lineup this season, and despite the fact he's been an overall disappointment since being a lottery pick in the 2007 draft, he's never averaged fewer than a steal per game in his career. He's averaging 2.2 thefts per game this season, and even though he's been terrible from behind the arc he's still hoisting the attempts, and should eventually be able to contribute some 3s as well. Don't count on him for well-rounded stats, but steals can be difficult to find, and it's the one area where Brewer is money, and should continue to rack them up if he's averaging minutes in the mid-20s.
Austin Daye, SF/PF, Detroit Pistons (1.4 percent owned): Daye's season has been a mixed bag thus far, as he did snag the starting job after an impressive preseason, but has reached double-digits in points only twice and is averaging just 0.3 blocks per game despite standing 6-foot-11. But he has been a nice source of 3s from the power forward position, averaging 1.3 per game in just 21.4 minutes, and seems to have a firm hold on the starting job for now. His production should improve as he grows accustomed to the NBA game, and he has some long-term upside, so if you're in need of 3s but are maxed out on guards, Daye is a valid option whose defensive statistics should improve as he gains more playing time.
Rudy Fernandez, SG, Portland Trail Blazers (0.9 percent owned): Fernandez has been plagued by back issues this season, but he's a deadly gunner and with Brandon Roy sidelined, he should see plenty of shots for the foreseeable future. As long as he can stay healthy, he has the ability to be one of the best options in the league in 3s, so even though he doesn't provide very balanced stats, his ability to drain from long range gives him fantasy value. He's knocked down five 3s in his two games since returning from injury, with five attempts from behind the arc in both contests, and as long as he's getting minutes and the Blazers need offensive punch, Fernandez should average nearly 2.0 3s per game.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.