During the season, savvy fantasy owners diligently monitor the waiver wire, waiting for unheralded players to emerge as fantasy options. As these players surface early in the season, widely drafted players are subsequently dropped because they're not living up to preseason expectations. In many cases, these better-known players work out the kinks and resurface as steady fantasy options later in the season. Several of these players have emerged of late. I'll highlight a few of them and also discuss a few other widely available options potentially worth a roster spot:
Elton Brand, PF, Dallas Mavericks (30.4 percent owned): Brand initially struggled to adjust in Dallas as the team sorted out its new players and undefined roles. He shot just 37.3 percent from the floor in November and was subsequently dropped by many fantasy owners. But he has elevated his play, scoring a season-high 20 points Monday and notching a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double Wednesday. He is averaging 9.7 points on 59.1 percent shooting, with 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, in nine January contests.
As he has evolved as a player (and perhaps devolved athletically), he's hitting a career-high 48 percent on his long 2-point shots. His problem has been that he's hitting just 38.8 percent of his midrange shots (10-15 feet), which is well below his typical mid-40s marks. His accuracy on long 2-pointers and struggles from midrange should cancel each other out as they trend toward his career norms, and he should continue inching toward 50 percent from the field. Additionally, his rebounding rate is the highest it has been since 2009. If you're looking for a steadying presence who can provide a nice combination of field goal percentage, rebounds, blocks and steals, Brand has turned around his early-season woes and become a viable fantasy option once again.
Al-Farouq Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets (26.3 percent owned): One of the hottest early-season adds, Aminu sputtered after his torrid start. But he has improved, particularly on the defensive end, where he's averaging 9.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in January. With his recent surge, he's posting career-best numbers in true shooting percentage, rebounding rate and player efficiency rating, all underlying statistics that indicate improvement in his overall game. You can't count on him for scoring, but if you're looking for fantastic rebounding from a small forward, Aminu provides it. In fact, his rebounding this month is second-highest among small forward-eligible players (behind Paul George). There's long-term offensive potential here, but he still struggles in offensive sets and is better using his athleticism in the open court. At least his percentages are innocuous and turnovers are low, so he doesn't hurt you in any of the negative-impact categories. His defensive stats are unique, as only eight other NBA players are averaging at least 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. If your team needs a boost on D and you're set on scoring, Aminu is a fine target.
Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies (23.1 percent owned): The maddening feature of Allen's stats this season centers around his decline in field goal percentage, which sits at 41.5 percent, well below his 47.6 percent career mark. He takes 48.7 percent of his shots at the rim, converting 58.3 percent of those attempts, but he took 54.5 percent of his shots at the rim, with similar accuracy, last season and took fewer long 2-pointers. That said, his accuracy is slowly improving: He's shooting 44.3 percent in January and also has posted a season-high 4.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game this month. Don't be too swayed by his poor shooting, as he attempts only 7.8 shots per game. Rather, focus on his fantastic rebounding for a guard, decent assists and dazzling steal numbers. When it comes down to it, you're really adding Allen if you need steals, as he's ninth overall this season, 11th overall in January and sixth in steals per 48 minutes. Steals are tricky to specifically target on the waiver wire, and if he's available, Allen is likely your best bet to make up ground in the category.
Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors (20.0 percent owned): He's a work in progress, but Barnes is beginning to prove he'll be a contributing force in this league, averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 3-pointers, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks per game in his past five games, while shooting 52.2 percent from the floor. He's proving capable of scoring inside as well as on jumpers, and his athleticism allows him to accrue steals and blocks at an already-solid rate that likely will continue to improve. He'll be inconsistent -- he was surprisingly effective in November, then slowed in December and now is looking great in January -- but when all is said and done, he should be around 12 points, 5 boards, a 3-pointer, a steal and half a block per game this season. His skill set is well-suited to the fantasy game given his ability to contribute in a variety of categories, and he's brimming with athletic potential at just 20 years old. He should be a fantasy mainstay from here on out, and if he's available in your league, he's worth adding, both for his current production and his high ceiling.
Kevin Seraphin, PF/C, Washington Wizards (9.4 percent owned): Another player who was widely added after a strong start, Seraphin has been inconsistent. But he has scored in double digits in eight of his past 10 games and has at least one block in nine of his past 10. He's averaging 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in January, numbers you can rightfully expect if he continues playing nearly 30 minutes per game.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Utah Jazz (7.3 percent owned): Nothing groundbreaking here. Foye is what he is, a streaky scorer who bounces from huge game to clunker on a regular basis. But it averages out to a decent scoring average and an excellent 3-point total. He's averaging 11.9 points and 2.4 3s per game this month, playing more with Mo Williams sidelined and even shooting 47.0 percent from the floor. Add Foye with clear expectations that you can bank on him to bolster your team's 3-point totals, but don't expect him to morph into the all-around option many envisioned he would be when he was drafted seventh overall in 2006.
Thomas Robinson, PF, Sacramento Kings (6.8 percent owned): Robinson is averaging 8.2 rebounds over his past five games and has played more minutes than starter Jason Thompson in two of the Kings' past three games. He was beastly at Kansas last season, averaging 17.7 points on 50.5 percent shooting with 11.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks per game on a loaded squad. His rebounding, a facet that often translates well from college to the NBA, is there on a per-minute basis; his 13.5 rebounds per 48 ranks 32nd in the league and is a higher rate than Joakim Noah and Nikola Pekovic. He has a reputation as a diligent worker, which is a good sign for in-season improvement, and profiles statistically like a Carlos Boozer- or David Lee-style power forward as someone who can score efficiently and post good rebound totals, but low blocks.
Robinson's ability to rebound is his only dependable skill thus far, but if he keeps earning more minutes, he could average more than eight rebounds per game from here on out, a feat only 27 players are currently accomplishing. That makes him worthy of a spot on teams that need boards. Another good sign about his potential playing time: According to 82games.com, every five-man unit in which he and DeMarcus Cousins are paired has a neutral or positive plus/minus. As this team looks forward, its frontcourt of the future should continue seeing more playing time together, which should provide Robinson with increased opportunities.
Beno Udrih, PG/SG, Milwaukee Bucks (1.1 percent owned): After scoring in double figures just five times in November and December combined, Udrih already has done it five times in January and is averaging 10.4 points on 62.3 percent shooting, with 4.6 assists per game, this month. If you want efficient scoring for a guard and decent assist numbers, Udrih is worth a look, especially considering the trade rumors surrounding the rest of Milwaukee's backcourt. If either Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis is shipped out, Udrih could be in line for a bump in minutes, which should elicit productive numbers given his rock-solid 16.49 player efficiency rating.
Landry Fields, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors (1.0 percent owned): I'm wary of his recent emergence, simply because he's benefiting from a rash of injuries on the Raptors' roster. Still, his strong play should earn him more playing time even when Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza and Mickael Pietrus return. He's worth grabbing only if you want to get the out-of-position statistic of rebounds from the guard slot, as he's averaging 6.8 rebounds per game this month, second-best of any guard-eligible player. Overall, his 10.4 rebounds per 48 ranks best among any guard-eligible player, and his total rebounding rate is up this season, too. If you're locked in a tight rebounding race, getting seven per night from a spot where your competition gets 3-4 is a sneaky way to improve your standings.