The first few weeks of the season have passed and there have been some interesting developments thus far. Role players have stepped up in big spots and are reaping the benefits, while players that used to be solid in Fantasy have struggled to find their groove.
Injuries have also begun to pile up, which has led to some bench players seeing their roles increase early. While some of these players have been able to take advantage of the extended playing time, most are not considered long-term solutions. Still, we believe some of these players can give owners some nice run, which could go a long way in helping secure a playoff spot for Fantasy owners.
This week we are looking at Matt Barnes.
Barnes has regained his starting role with the Lakers and has been able to hold onto it with some productive outings. He ended Week 2 (Jan. 2-8) by scoring in double figures in back-to-back games, including posting his first double-double against the Grizzlies, and is starting to see some solid minutes. Barnes averaged 10.1 points with six rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field in his 58 starts with the Magic in 2009-10, so he should be able to sustain his numbers.
With the way that Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks have struggled, the 31-year-old will likely remain in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future and as long as he keeps producing alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Barnes will continue to grow as a Fantasy option. Also, his defensive prowess alongside Bryant gives Los Angeles some solid wing defenders. He can help out owners with some low-end rebounding and defensive stats, along with a respectable shooting percentage, so consider picking up Barnes for Week 4 (Jan. 16-22) with Dallas, Miami, Orlando and Indiana on the schedule.
Marco Belinelli, Hornets
Owned: 19 percent
With Eric Gordon out due to a knee injury, Belinelli has been running with the starters and seeing some solid minutes. While he averaged only eight points through the first eight games, his scoring should pick up as soon as he is able to raise his 32 percent shooting percentage from the floor. He showed signs of it in the first game of Week 3 (Jan. 9-15) as he dropped 19 points on the Nuggets. Belinelli has been able to improve his all-around production with his increased role and is putting up over four rebounds per contest with one steal. New Orleans takes on Portland, Memphis, Houston and Dallas in Week 4 (Jan. 16-22) so owners in deeper formats should consider Belinelli a viable option to pick up off the waiver wire.
Iman Shumpert, Knicks
Owned: 81 percent
Since returning from a knee injury, Shumpert has been seeing solid minutes for the Knicks and has taken over the starting duties from Toney Douglas. He saw nearly 32 minutes in his first three games back and averaged 13 points with 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals over that span. He also shot 48 percent from the field in those contests and made 6 of 14 (42 percent) 3-pointers. The rookie has some serious upside and with the way New York loves to run, he should be able to flourish in coach Mike D'Antoni's system. Shumpert will have a favorable schedule during the upcoming score period (Orlando, Phoenix, Milwaukee and Denver) so scoop him up off waivers if available.
Toney Douglas, Knicks
Owned: 52 percent
The emergence of Shumpert has caused a decreased role for Douglas and it doesn't look as though that will change anytime soon. Douglas shot just 33 percent from the floor (26 percent from downtown) over his first eight games and averaged close to two turnovers per contest. While he has been able to put up double-digit scoring with one steal early on, the 25-year-old doesn't supply much in the form of rebounds or assists. The Knicks like what Shumpert brings to the starting lineup and he appears to have a stranglehold on the starting gig for the time being. Douglas is a streaky shooter who can help out owners in deeper formats, but plan on leaving him on waivers as long as he is playing second fiddle to Shumpert.
Arron Afflalo, Nuggets
Owned: 50 percent
Afflalo ended Week 2 (Jan. 2-8) with three straight double-digit scoring performances and shot a solid 59 percent from the field in those contests. But Fantasy owners should not be running to scoop him off the waiver wire just yet as his track record shows that he will not likely be able to keep that up. His starting job in Denver is based on his defensive prowess but he is not a huge contributor in Fantasy in terms of defensive stats. The 26-year-old should be able to raise his 3-point shooting -- which sat at 24 percent through nine games -- but due to his lack of overall production, leave Afflalo for the deepest of Fantasy formats heading into Week 4 (Jan. 16-22).
Marreese Speights, Grizzlies
Owned: 50 percent
Speights stepped into a favorable situation when he was traded from the 76ers to the Grizzlies. With Zach Randolph out until at least late February due to a knee injury, he and Dante Cunningham stand to see most of the playing time at power forward in Memphis. Speights scored 17 points with seven rebounds in his first extended action with the new club and should be able to provide some decent scoring and rebounding for owners over the next few weeks. He should also be able to put up some low-end defensive stats, so keep an eye on his progress going forward. With Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit and Sacramento on the schedule for Week 4 (Jan. 16-22), owners in need of some help at the forward spot should consider picking up Speights.
Drew Gooden, Bucks
Owned: 49 percent
Gooden was not used much in the early going but has seen more run recently and is stepping up his production. He averaged 17 points with 10 rebounds over the final four games of Week 2 (Jan. 2-9) and shot 44 percent from the field over that span. The 30-year-old has proven in the past to be a viable option in Fantasy when it comes to scoring and rebounding so as long as he can continue to see minutes, his stats should increase. Keep in mind that he has been playing more with Andrew Bogut out but Gooden will make it hard for coach Scott Skiles to keep him off the floor with his recent production. As long as he continues to see minutes, Godden will remain a worthwhile addition in most Fantasy formats, especially with the 76ers, Nuggets, Knicks and Heat on the schedule for Week 4 (Jan. 16-22).
Grant Hill, Suns
Owned: 45 percent
Hill has not posted his usual numbers early on and his schedule for Week 4 (Jan. 16-22) will not help him break out of his early-season slump. He will face off against the Bulls, Knicks and Celtics during the upcoming scoring period, who all have solid perimeter defenders. Hill averaged just 9.8 points with 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists through his first eight games while shooting a poor 37 percent from the field and an even worse nine percent from beyond the arc. Hill recently stopped wearing a brace on his knee after undergoing surgery in the offseason so keep an eye on his progress going forward. But it appears as though Father Time has finally caught up to the 39-year-old and Phoenix has been turning to rookie Markieff Morris more lately. Leave Hill on waivers in most formats at this point.
Rashard Lewis, Wizards
Owned: 34 percent
Not only did Lewis get off to a terrible start this season, he had to go and get into an altercation with assistant coach Sam Cassell, leaving his future with the team up in the air. He averaged just 8.7 points with 4.1 rebounds over his first seven games and shot a putrid 22 percent from 3-point land. The Wizards would love to dump his massive contract but since there are not many takers out there, it looks as though his days of being a contributor in Fantasy are done. A move to a better situation might benefit the 32-year-old but in the role he is in right now, leave Lewis off most Fantasy rosters.
Byron Mullens, Bobcats
Owned: 40 percent
Mullens was able to put together a nice little run during Week 2 (Jan. 2-8) and is starting to gain some steam in Fantasy. He averaged 14.2 points with 6.2 rebounds and one block during a four-game span, which opened some eyes considering he played the Knicks, Hawks and Pacers during that stretch. He currently lines up as the backup to DeSagana Diop but continues to push him for playing time and is used down the stretch in games due to his better conditioning. With center being a thin position in Fantasy, owners in need should give Mullens a look heading into the upcoming scoring period.
Amir Johnson, Raptors
Owned: 66 percent
Johnson has done a solid job on the boards so far this season and is still contributing with over a block per game. While he posted just 9.8 points over the first nine contests, he shot an impressive 61 percent from the field and continues to see solid minutes for the Raptors. Toronto does not have many players that can rebound on a consistent basis so the 24-year-old should be able to keep up in that department. He would become more valuable if he could get his points up over double digits but even with his production thus far, consider Johnson as worthwhile addition in most Fantasy leagues, especially category-based formats.
Kwame Brown, Warriors
Owned: 11 percent
Brown has been seeing increased playing time in Golden State -- since Andris Biedrins continues to underwhelm -- but more minutes have not equaled more production for the 29-year-old. He posted double-digit points once over the first eight games and also reached the same feat with rebounds as many times. While he shot 51 percent from the field early on, there are too many players on the Warriors that steal points and boards away from him. Even though he has some favorable matchups in Week 4 (Jan. 16-22), owners should not be rushing to add him off the waiver wire. Continue to ignore Brown in the majority of Fantasy leagues.
Timofey Mozgov, Nuggets
Owned: 4 percent
Mozgov continues to start for the Nuggets but his production has been nothing to write home about. He averaged just 3.9 points with 3.9 rebounds and a 45 shooting percentage during the first two scoring periods while seeing a little over 16 minutes per contest. He usually gives way to the other centers in Denver as the game goes on and has not shown many signs of developing into a viable option in Fantasy. Considering he posted double-digit rebounds just once through the first nine games, leave Mozgov on waivers until further notice.