Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 31 - Jan. 6

Updated: December 28, 2012, 5:54 PM ET
By Neil Tardy | Special to ESPN.com

The Denver Nuggets will be thrilled to see the calendar turn to 2013. That's the precise moment when the schedule turns in their favor at last.

After visiting the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies this weekend, the Nuggets will have played 22 of their first 32 games on the road. That's an incredible disparity in the schedule. Even more remarkable is that this gulf in home and away games will be completely rectified over the next six weeks.

Starting with a Jan. 1 meeting against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Nuggets host 15 of their first 18 games in 2013. During that span, they'll make three one-game road trips. The farthest they'll travel is to Houston on Jan. 23.

It's worth noting that the Nuggets are 9-1 at home and 7-13 away from the Mile High City. It's easy to imagine that this team will soar in the standings over the next month and a half. And yes, there should be some fantasy implications as well. Currently, the Nuggets rank sixth in the league in scoring, averaging 102.7 points per game. However, in their home games, they've averaging 107.0 points. Check out the following home-away splits surrounding four Nuggets regulars:

Andre Iguodala is averaging 16.4 ppg on 52.5 percent shooting in Denver versus 12.4 ppg on 39.4 percent shooting on the road.

Kenneth Faried is averaging 15.3 ppg and 11.6 rpg at home versus 10.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg away.

Kosta Koufos is averaging 8.5 ppg and 2.8 bpg in Denver versus 7.1 ppg and 1.3 bpg away.

JaVale McGee is averaging 10.9 ppg and 2.5 bpg at home versus 10.8 ppg and 1.7 bpg on the road.

Now, home court hasn't been universally beneficial. Ty Lawson has been much more productive on the road (11.7 points on 39.4 percent shooting in Denver versus 15.3 points and 42.3 percent shooting away), and Danilo Gallinari is a sub-40 percent shooter no matter where he's playing. And I'm being facetious by including Koufos and McGee. I'm assuming their home-away discrepancies in blocks are a matter of small sample size -- not the Denver altitude enhancing their leaping abilities. (Seriously, it doesn't work that way, does it?)

I do believe, though, that the team's schedule does make Nuggets players slightly more desirable trade targets over the near term. With the glut of home games over the next few weeks, it's reasonable to expect statistical improvement from the likes of Iguodala, Faried and Andre Miller. The same probably goes for Lawson, though, curiously, he also struggled in Denver last season (17.9 points in away games versus 14.7 points at home in 2011-12).

Week 10 at a Glance

The Golden State Warriors play twice in the week ahead, while all other teams have three or four games. Once again, the Clippers have an enticing four-game set, so once again, I will mention Matt Barnes -- but this time with a word of caution. Now that he's been rostered in more than 70 percent of ESPN.com leagues, Barnes is looking a bit overvalued. Even though he's reached double figures in nine straight games, during that span Barnes played 25 minutes or fewer five times. It's tough to expect consistent production from someone who's playing less than 30 minutes a night. Barnes has been remarkable in this stretch, but for standard 10-team leagues, he's not an every-week starter. However, with four games against the Nuggets, Warriors (twice) and Los Angeles Lakers, Barnes should be good for at least one more week. Nuggets, Warriors and Lakers opponents all rank in the top third in 3-pointers made. Nuggets opponents also rank third in steals and fourth in blocks.

Players to Watch

Jose Juan Barea, PG/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (@UTA, @DEN, POR): With the recuperating Ricky Rubio starting to see more minutes for the Timberwolves, Barea's fantasy value is about as high as it will go. Still, he's been steady: Barea has 12 straight games of double-digit scoring, and in December he's averaging 12.9 points, 4.5 assists and 1.3 3s per game. The presence of the Nuggets on this schedule makes Barea a fill-in option for leagues of at least 12 teams, as Denver opponents rank second in assists and 3s. Another plus is that Portland Trail Blazers opponents rank third in field goal percentage.

Andre Drummond, PF/C, Detroit Pistons (SAC, ATL, CHA): Though the 19-year-old rookie went for 16 points and 12 rebounds in a career-high 36 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 26, I'm not sure it constitutes a breakthrough performance. Drummond, Will Bynum and others extended the game to double-overtime with a huge fourth-quarter comeback, so Pistons coach Lawrence Frank rode his reserves. The other issue with Drummond is his 40.6 percent free throw shooting. To me, this makes him unrosterable in roto, but in head-to-head leagues of at least 12 teams, Drummond's shot-blocking can certainly help. As noted last week, Charlotte Bobcats opponents have the most blocks by far. Meanwhile, Sacramento Kings opponents rank fifth in rejections.

Lamar Odom, PF, Los Angeles Clippers (@DEN, @GS, LAL, GS): Though he's averaging just 5.3 points in December -- and is a pathetic 2 of 21 from downtown this month -- Odom's contributions across the board are getting him noticed in deeper leagues. In his past six games, Odom is averaging 8.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 blocks. Deep as they are, the 33-year-old gives the Clippers one thing they've lacked: a skilled big to back up Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. So perhaps Odom will continue to see 25-plus minutes on most nights, and with that consistent playing time, perhaps he'll bounce back offensively. For the week ahead, consider Odom a cheap source of blocks, with Nuggets and Warriors opponents ranking in the top third in this regard.

Emeka Okafor, C, Washington Wizards (DAL, @IND, BKN, @MIA): Okafor has been quietly productive of late, averaging 10.3 points, 8.4 boards and 1.4 blocks over his past eight games. Though this schedule isn't good for blocks -- Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat opponents all rank in the bottom seven in rejections -- the quantity makes Okafor a deep-league sleeper. He's available in about 95 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Patrick Patterson, PF, Houston Rockets (ATL, NO, @MIL, @CLE): Patterson has missed the past six games with a foot injury, but he could return either this weekend or Dec. 31 versus the Atlanta Hawks. Though his stats are nothing special (13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game), as a starter for the offensive-minded Rockets, Patterson can produce big numbers on occasion. Since his injury, his availability has climbed to more than 90 percent in ESPN.com leagues. Patterson is worth adding in most formats, and assuming he's ready to go, this schedule should help him. Cleveland Cavaliers opponents are tops in shooting and second in blocks, while New Orleans Hornets opponents rank fifth in field goal percentage.

Neil Tardy | email

Fantasy Basketball
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com

ALSO SEE