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NBA teams have a multitude of players coming off the bench, each with a unique role to fill. As a fantasy owner, you need to decide which of those players can contribute across multiple categories and have the potential to make the most of their time on the court.

To find bench players that can contribute more than just energy and defense during their time on the court, I will analyze usage rate and Per 36 statistics. Here are some bench players whose stock should be rising based on their recent play and could be great fantasy pickups for deep leagues. Note: I will only be selecting players who are not regular starters and who are owned in less than 50% of Yahoo! leagues.

Editor's Note: New users that sign up on FantasyAces, make a $20 deposit, and enter any game will receive our full season NBA (or NFL) Premium Pass for free (includes DFS Cheat Sheets). Just email info@rotoballer.com with your new FantasyAces username - and boom, that's it! We will email you with your Premium Pass.

 

Rising NBA Bench Performers

Jonathon Simmons (SF, SA) - 31% owned

Jonathon Simmons is all Spur. Not highly regarded out of high school, he started out in junior college and played just one season at a Division-I school (University of Houston). He went undrafted and landed in the American Basketball League before a tryout with the Austin Toros in the D-League. His hard work and perseverance have paid off, elevating him to a key bench role in San Antonio.

Although Kyle Anderson has been starting in the absence of Danny Green, it has been Simmons who has taken advantage of the opportunity for increased playing time. He surprised everyone by dropping 20 points on opening night against the Golden State Warriors, with four rebounds and three assists to boot. His next game was a dud, with just five points in 18 minutes as the Spurs went with a bigger lineup most of the night to match the Kings.

In four contests so far, he is averaging 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per 36 minutes. He doesn't shoot many threes (1.1 per 36) and will hurt you at the line with a .636 FT%, so don't expect him to produce the numbers of a pure shooter. Simmons uses his athleticism to get to the rim and can score in bunches given the opportunity. The key with Simmons will be his usage in the next couple of weeks. With a usage rate of 21.3 so far, he is ahead of All-Star teammate Pau Gasol. Coach Pop is always unpredictable, so keep Simmons in mind as a fill-in for leagues with daily lineups over the next couple of weeks while Green recovers.

 

Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG/SF, ATL) - 12% owned

Unlike Simmons, Tim Hardaway is a familiar name to any NBA fan. Also like Simmons, he surprised everyone by scoring 21 points in the opener and then had a letdown in game two. The younger Hardaway is not a point guard like his father, but can swing between the two and three spot. He did see some run at the point in the second game of the season and could handle the ball more often this year.

His 25.8 usage rate currently puts him in the top 40, ahead of point guards like Goran Dragic and Derrick Rose. Granted, this is after two games, but the fact he is being utilized heavily already despite a rough preseason is an encouraging sign. Hardaway has a shooter's mentality on the court, evidenced by his career 13.7 FGA per 36 and 7.0 3PA per 36. He averages a decent .350% on three-pointers, but has increased those stats early this season.

In those two games, he is averaging 3.4 out of 9.4 on three-point shots per 36 for a .364%. Overall, he is at 24 points per 36 minutes. If he can increase his ball-handling responsibilities, it's possible he raises his career 2.0 assists per 36 to three or four. Right now he can be added if you need a shooter with the potential to put up big numbers on a given night.

 

Mike Muscala (PF/C, ATL) - 21% owned

Another Hawk makes the list, mainly due to injuries by Tiago Splitter and Mike Scott. With the key bench forward and center likely on the shelf for about a month, Muscala should see far more than the 10.9 MPG he is averaging for his career. If you peruse the free agent list in your league, you probably have seen Muscala's name near the top of the early rankings and wondered just where he came from.

The fourth-year big man has been a minor player for the Hawks throughout his career, but he has seen his games played increase the last three years from 20 to 40 to 60. Now he has the chance to be a key contributor, albeit still in a reserve role. He is catching some attention after averaging 17.6 points per 36 in the first two contests. More importantly, he is ninth in blocks per 36 at 3.8, excluding players who have logged less than 10 minutes total.

Although it's still an extremely small sample size, Muscala could be the type who will stuff the stat line. In addition to the blocks, he is averaging 2.3 assists and steals per 36, along with 6.9 total rebounds. With only journeyman and ex-reality wannabe Kris Humphries competing for minutes on the frontline, bet on Muscala to provide solid value over the next few weeks.


By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.