Valuable Sixth Men: J.R. Smith And Matt Barnes

They may not be starting for their real-life teams, but they can help out your fantasy team. New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith did not start any of New York’s first 33 games, but he was second on the team in points scored, second in total rebounds and second in steals.  Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes started just two of the Clips’ first 35 games, but his overall numbers made him the 30th best player in Yahoo! in early January.

J.R. Smith
When the Knicks signed Smith in February 2012, some wondered if it was another questionable move from a franchise that had made more than its share over the last decade.  While with the Denver Nuggets, Smith had been suspended 10 games for his part in a brawl with the Knicks in 2006 at Madison Square Garden. (Fellow future Knick Carmelo Anthony was suspended 15 games.) The following year, Smith served 30 days of a 90-day jail sentence after his involvement in an auto accident that resulted in the death of a friend.  Also in 2007, Smith was suspended for three games after being involved in an incident at a nightclub.

Less than a month after Smith played his first game for the Knicks on February 19, 2012, scoring 15 points, he was fined $25,000 by the NBA for tweeting a photo of his girlfriend that was NSFW.

Smith finished the 2011-12 season averaging 12.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in 35 games.

Through 33 games in 2012-13, Smith was averaging 16.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, both career highs.  He was also getting 1.3 steals per game.  Despite coming off the bench, Smith was averaging a career-high 33.06 minutes per game.  Smith was continuing to put up points even after the return of injured Knick star Amar’e Stoudemire.

Matt Barnes
Another player to consider if you are in fantasy basketball for money league is Matt Barnes. He was drafted in the second round by Memphis out of UCLA in 2002, but did not make it to the NBA until 2004. Barnes bounced around to several teams before landing with the Clippers this season. In his 10-year career, the 32-year-old Barnes has started just 180 games, with 139 coming from 2006-7 to 2009-10.

Barnes is not even the highest scorer off the bench for the Clippers – guard Jamaal Crawford was averaging 16.5 points per game through 35 games.  But while Barnes was averaging 10.8 points per game, he was also averaging 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 three-pointers, 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks, along with a field goal percentage of .490.  Basketball-Reference.com ranked Barnes 10th in effective field goal percentage with .568, just ahead of Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant’s .566.

Ben Hargrove writes on fantasy sports topics including DraftStreet.com.