Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 game every now and then - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, rotation role, or performance.
Luis Scola, F/C, HOU – Now you know why Scola was such a popular pick among experts in the middle rounds. Through two games, Scola is averaging 27.0 points and 16.0 rebounds. Obviously those averages aren’t sustainable unless your name is Wilt Chamberlin, but Scola is proving that he will be a force in the pain for the Rockets this season. No Carl Landry and a limited Yao Ming means the uptick in production will continue for the Argentinian big man. Scola does not help out in blocks like other big men, but there is a real chance he could turn into a 20/10 guy with solid percentages this season.
Nicolas Batum, F, POR – Batum is another industry-favorite sleeper who has jumped out to a quick start. The French swingman is averaging 17.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 threes, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks after two games. Those scoring and rebounding numbers might be a bit inflated, but Batum’s real value will come from his ability to post 1+ three-pointers, steals, and blocks. He should be universally owned.
Landry Fields, G/F, NY – Fields was named the starting shooting guard for the Knicks prior to Wednesday’s season opener. He finished his NBA debut with 11 points (4-of-8 FG, 3-of-6 3Pt) and four rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of playing time. He might eventually be challenged for the starting spot by Wilson Chandler or Toney Douglas, but it’s clear that Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni is comfortable enough with the rookie to have him assume a sizeable role in the team’s rotation. Deep leagues should take notice.
Jarrett Jack, G, TOR – Jack beat out Jose Calderon for the Raptors’ starting point guard job late in the preseason. While most expected a timeshare, Jack played 31 minutes to Calderon’s 18 in the season opener. Jack finished the game with 16 points, six assists, four rebounds, and three steals. As long as he continues to get the edge in playing time, Jack will be worth a roster spot in even the shallowest of leagues.
Jason Richardson, G, PHO – With Amar’e Stoudemire now patrolling the paint for the Knicks, Richardson looks primed to take over as the No. 1 scoring option for the Suns this season. Keep in mind Richardson was a 21-23 point per game scorer when he was the featured scorer with the Warriors and Bobcats in past seasons. Richardson and Grant Hill are the only two players on the Suns roster who have ever topped 20 points per game for a season, and Hill has not scored at that clip since his days with the Pistons. Try to snag Richardson away from an unsuspecting owner now, before he breaks out.
Mike Dunleavy Jr., G/F, IND – After back-to-back injury-plagued seasons, Dunleavy was widely ignored in drafts this year. A return to health has opened the door for Dunleavy to reassume a spot in the Pacers’ starting five, making him worth a look in most mid-sized to deep formats. He finished with eight points and seven rebounds in the opener, but the important number was his 34 minutes of playing time. Any player with Dunleavy’s skill set is worth a look when he sees that much playing time.
Maurice Williams, G, CLE – Williams was benched for Wednesday’s season opener because of his lack of conditioning and unfamiliarity with the team’s new offense; but it should be noted that he missed significant time this preseason due to his father-in-law’s death and a lingering groin injury. It’s still uncertain how much longer Williams will sit, but he should be able to return after logging a couple practices.
Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC – Originally expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks, Dalembert (thigh) is now eying a return as early as Friday’s tilt against the Nets. That seems a bit optimistic, but either way, Dalembert appears headed for a much earlier return than first believed.
Marc Gasol, C, MEM – Gasol sat out Wednesday’s season opener with an ankle sprain. His status for the Grizzlies’ two remaining games this week is in question, but Gasol probably will not be on the sidelines for an extended period.
Gilbert Arenas, G, WAS – Arenas has been ruled out of at least the Wizards’ first two games with a strained right ankle tendon. This is what he gets for crying wolf and faking an injury during the preseason.
Leandro Barbosa, G, TOR – Barbosa admitted earlier this week that he is still being bothered by the wrist injury that plagued him all last season. Most were targeting Barbosa as a solid bounce-back candidate thanks to an apparent return to health and a gig on a new team, but this latest setback is discouraging. If Barbosa’s wrist continues to ail him, we could see another down season from the speedy guard.
Carlos Boozer, F/C, CHI – Boozer is scheduled to have his hard cast and pins removed from his fractured right hand next week. He then will sport a soft cast for four to five days before being turned loose on his rehab. It’s still early, but Boozer appears headed for a return at the short end of his original 6-to-10 week timetable set at the beginning of October.
Antawn Jamison, F, CLE – The veteran forward played just 21 minutes in Wednesday’s season opener and finished with just four points and four rebounds. Things didn’t look good for Jamison this preseason when he lost his starting job to J.J. Hickson, but no one expected it to be this bad so soon. Don't draw too many conclusions off one game, but if Cleveland is committed to focusing the offense around Hickson and using Jamison sparingly as a backup forward, there is obviously reason for concern. Jamison owners need to monitor this situation carefully.
Channing Frye, F/C, PHO – Frye broke out at the beginning of last season thanks in part to a spot among the Suns’ starting five. He ended up losing the starting center job to Robin Lopez in January, which led to averages of just 9.7 points and 4.8 rebounds after the All-Star break. Unfortunately for those who invested in Frye this year, Lopez is still the starter. Without a starting gig, Frye is nothing more than a three-point specialist who is not likely to give good returns on his ADP of 78.
Jose Calderon, G, TOR – As previously mentioned, Calderon lost out on the starting point guard battle in Toronto to Jarrett Jack. In 29 games off the bench last season, Calderon averaged 10.2 points and 5.5 assists. While those numbers are still serviceable in mid-to-deep sized leagues, shallower formats will want to consider looking for a more complete package on the waiver wire.
Anthony Randolph, F/C, NY – Randolph is expected to miss two weeks with an ankle injury. The talented big man’s role with the Knicks was already up in the air, and now we will have to wait even longer to see what kind of playing time he can muster. There is no denying his upside, but owners should be prepared for another roller-coaster campaign with Randolph.
Jermaine O'Neal, F/C, BOS – Once considered a legit option to be the Celtics starting center at the beginning of the season, O’Neal now seems entrenched in a reserve role. Shaquille O’Neal has manned the starting pivot spot in each of the Celtics’ first two games with Jermaine seeing just 13 per night. It’s time to stop hoping for the O’Neal of yesteryear.
Greg Monroe, F/C, DET – Monroe surprisingly received a CD-DNP in Wednesday’s loss to the Nets. While Monroe's role was expected to be limited to start the season, it was still shocking to see him get absolutely zero playing time in the season opener. He will likely find his way onto the court sooner rather than later, but look for it to be in a limited role off the bench. Deeper leagues can afford to be patient, but shallower formats should not be shy about browsing the waiver wire for players that are guaranteed more playing time.