Mike Muscala, F/C Atlanta Hawks (21%)
The Moose Man was already shaping up to be a worthy gamble in the early stages of the season before it was announced that Mike Scott (knee) would be out indefinitely. Combine that with the surprising release of Walter Tavares, and suddenly you’ve got a guy who is emerging as a potential fantasy asset moving forward.
Muscala isn’t going to light it up across the stat sheet or in one particular category, but he is capable of doing a little bit of everything and providing a nice contribution as a result. It appears as if Muscala is going to flirt with 20-25 minutes nightly as a regular part of the rotation, and the road to opportunity is a path that can be paved with production. If Muscala can give you 10 points, a handful of rebounds and contributes some money stats (steals, blocks, threes), that is a player I’d be holding onto especially when considering he’ll be efficient in the process.
J.J. Barea, G Dallas Mavericks (26%)
I think we all overlook the same thing every season when it comes to J.J. Barea: Rick Carlisle absolutely loves him. And in this game of opportunity, there is no greater entity than having a coach’s backing. Barea isn’t the tallest at his position, does not have a wingspan worth writing home about and isn’t an uber-athlete like so many point guards today, but he’s a smart, crafty player who knows how to use what he’s good at in order to find sustainable success. In other words, Barea is comfortable in his own skin and knows how to play his role effectively.
Given the absence of frontline depth on this team, the ongoing health issues with Devin Harris (toe) and Carlisle’s penchant for going small, we shouldn’t be all that surprised when evaluating Barea’s start. Through his first three games, the pint sized point guard is averaging 16.7 points, 3.3 boards, 5.3 dimes, 1.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers. His field goal percentage is in the toilet (37.8%), but that’s the only complaint I’ve got and he’s logging a whopping 30-plus minutes per game. It won’t last forever since Barea is a streaky player and will be impacted once Seth Curry gets it going and Harris gets back on the floor, but the next Deron Williams injury s only a tweak or a twist away and Barea is lurking for his next shot. Right now, there is no excuse for J.J. to be sitting on waiver wires in any league with at least 12 teams.
Cody Zeller, PF/C Charlotte Hornets (24%)
It feels like Roy Hibbert (knee) would have won the starting job even if Zeller had been healthy enough to compete in training camp and the preseason, but Big Roy has been ineffective for a while now and Zeller isn’t some schlub. Across 60 starts last season, Zeller posted respectable numbers with averages of 9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and a block on 54.2% from the field. With the news that Hibbert actually had his knee drained prior to the start of the campaign and without a clear man in the middle, the chance for Zeller to seize the moment exists. Anyone targeting his services should temper expectations and hold the understanding that this situation can quickly turn into a three-way timeshare (Hibbert, Zeller, Spencer Hawes), but if you went guard/forward heavy in your draft and are in search of a bargain bin big man, Zeller is a name that should be on your list.
Sergio Rodriguez, PG Philadelphia 76ers (40%)
Unlike his previous stints in the NBA, Rodriguez actually looks the part this time around. It certainly helps that his only current competition for minutes is T.J. McConnell, but that doesn’t diminish what the veteran has been able to do in his first year with the Sixers thus far. After winning the starter’s job in the preseason, Rodriguez has parlayed his opportunity into production with averages of 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and a 3-pointer on a smooth 50% shooting (12-of-24) through his first two games.
Currently, Rodriguez is an easy add for anyone specifically hunting assists who has dead weight at the end of the roster. Ben Simmons (foot) won’t be a factor until the second half of the season if at all, and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) still faces an uncertain timetable with the potential for surgery still looming.
Matt Barnes, SG/SF Sacramento Kings (28%)
I feel like I’m putting Barnes on one of these lists every season but he very much warrants inclusion here. Let’s assume Rudy Gay finally gets traded at some point this season before the Kings get nothing for him: Who does Sacramento have left to play the position after Barnes? Omri Casspi and that’s it. Even with Gay still in town, the Kings desperately need Barnes in the second unit for playmaking and defense, and that’s where he can make his fantasy money.
There are going to be nights where he turns in a total dud; there are going to be nights where he puts up a line that raises eyebrows and results in mad dashes to the waiver wire. Ultimately, what you have is a player who is going to be useful so long as his field goal percentage remains at a respectable number.