• Last week, I highlighted some players to target for teams that are punting a category. This week will be sort of the opposite. It’s likely that your team is solid in most spots (you’re a Hoop Ball reader after all) and that you just need a little tweak to set you up for a strong postseason run. You could try to swing a deal, but if it’s just one category you’re looking for, I advise you to take a look at which category specialists are available for free in your league.

    It’s not too difficult to discover who can help you in one category but I’ll walk through my thought process in case that helps at all. I’ve siphoned out the top 10 players in each category that are available in at least half of Yahoo leagues so we can examine them. It’s also wise to limit your search to the most recent 30 days or even 14 days to get an idea of some targets, so I’ll mix in some stats from the past month.

    I also included a highly-owned player that’s just below these ten players in each category for some perspective (and to keep some semblance of the name brand theme here). As you’ll see, there are a more than a few players here that aren’t just one-category specialists. A handful of them show up in multiple lists, making them fairly well-rounded players that can be had for free in many leagues.

    *Stats are through 1/21.

    Looking at points, it’s obvious that some of these players are only as readily available as they are because they’re on the shelf with injuries, like Luke Kennard and Rui Hachimura. And many only have numbers this good due to extra playing time while someone else was hurt (see: Jabari Parker). Jordan McRae is the leader among these available players over the past month with 17.2 ppg. With Bradley Beal back, though, McRae’s future is unclear.

    Regarding threes, Duncan Robinson is holding steady at 3.2 per game over the last month in addition to the full season. Coming in second for the month is Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk with 3.1. Pay attention to the players with declining playing time, like Garrett Temple now that the Nets have gotten healthier. Danuel House could be one to watch as his health improves, though, since his numbers are more well-rounded than most on this list.

    Ivica Zubac is up to 8.2 rebounds for the month and would make a good target if you need some center stats. Looking at assists, Kennard shows up again for the third time (it’ll be four before we’re done here). If he’s available in your league and you can afford to stash him until he’s healthy, Kennard could be a huge help down the stretch. Elfrid Payton has been on a roll, putting up 6.2 assists per game over the last month, though it’s hard to trust any Knick, and Dennis Smith Jr. just returned. Shabazz Napier might be a safer pick, though be ready to drop him if the Wolves fulfill their goal of adding another ball-handler before the trade deadline.

    Kris Dunn and Gary Harris, who is up to 2.3 steals per game in the last month, stand out to me as options that help in other spots in addition to their elite steal production. JaVale McGee has rejected 2.6 shots per game for the month, and Daniel Theis just missed a few lists besides blocks, so he’s a guy to consider. Nerlens Noel (2.0 for the last month) should be snatched up until we see that Steven Adams is healthy again and then probably held at least until the deadline, if not the rest of the season. Maxi Kleber could be looking at a prolonged spike in minutes with Dwight Powell out, too.

    You’ll notice that these appear to be out of order. That’s because not all percentages are created equal and I used Basketball Monster’s player rater values that account for volume when creating the percentage lists. McGee, Noel and Zubac show up again, reminding us that a blocks specialist is often a rebounding specialist and a field goal percentage specialist as well. Recent fantasy darling De’Anthony Melton has now shown up on three of these lists, too, and is trending up. George Hill is a very safe point guard that won’t hurt you in turnovers or in either of the percentages. In fact, you can see that he’s the only guard on the field goal percentage list.

    So, look around your waiver wire. Consider who’s likely to continue their production in the spot where your team needs it and who won’t hurt you in categories that you need to hang onto. But maybe most importantly, stay vigilant. Ride the hot hand. Grab players that are getting extra minutes while the star is managing his load. You should be able to patch some holes and set yourself up well for the season’s second half.

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