By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
Too much? Too soon?
The original version of last week's barometer started with an extended discussion of Gilbert Arenas. Talked about the fact that Agent Zero really wasn't fully recovered from offseason knee surgery, that the Wizards had a tough early-season schedule and cautioned owners to be patient – not to panic if their first-round pick struggled a bit until Thanksgiving or so.
Course, in the lapse between when I wrote it and when it was published, Arenas dropped 34 points on the Pacers, playing 44 minutes on Halloween night. My prediction ended up on the cutting room floor, along with Jabba the Hutt's scene in the original Star Wars and Kevin Costner as the dead guy in The Big Chill.
But three games – and over 120 minutes of playing time – into the season, Arenas is struggling. He's shooting just 33 percent from the floor, hasn't hit from downtown in two straight games and was seen walking with a serious hitch in his step after Saturday's game. There's even talk that he'll need to have fluid removed from the surgically-repaired knee before Thursday's game. Luckily for Arenas, the Wizards, and fantasy players everywhere, the Wizards have a very long layoff between games (Saturday to Thursday). Maybe that will be enough time for him to recover from this setback.
Can't say I told you so - because I didn't. So instead I'll recycle the theme that was removed from last week's column.
Arenas is just one of several high-profile players that missed big chunks of the preseason only to jump into action opening night. Another that may be suffering from a case of "too much, too soon" is Amare Stoudemire. As with Arenas, Stoudemire had knee surgery in the offseason. As with Arenas, he had a strong outing in the season opener (23 points, 11 boards) and a shaky outing after that. Unlike Arenas, the Suns have already held Stoudemire out of one game, and it's not yet clear when he'll be back on the floor.
The lesson is clear - when watching the progress of players coming off injury who haven't had the benefit of a preseason's worth of conditioning, be more critical than you would ordinarily. Sometimes a 2-for-10 from the field is just a bad night. But when it's coming from a guy with a bad knee, it could be an indication of something more. That goes for fantasy superstars like Arenas and Stoudemire, Jason Kidd and Chris Bosh and also for sleepers and marginal plays like Renaldo Balkman.
Around the League:
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 every now and again – unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level. Comments and questions are always welcome – just post 'em on the message board at the bottom of this page.
Jamal Crawford (NYK) – The Knicks' focus on interior scoring and feeding Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph in the low post hasn't slowed Crawford's offensive production; he's led the Knicks in scoring in both of New York's games this season, and is easily the most effective guard on the roster when it comes to feeding Curry in good scoring position – as evidenced by his seven assists in Sunday's game against the T-Wolves.
Channing Frye (POR) – We'll call this one an upgrade, but only grudgingly. Frye is reportedly going to be moved into Portland's starting center spot ahead of Joel Przybilla. But this isn't an endorsement of Frye's play so much as a concession to the fact that Frye and Travis Outlaw were giving up far too much size at the four and five spots in Portland's second unit. We're not sure how much this will help matters. Frye and LaMarcus Aldridge won't be confused with Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon any time soon, so this new alignment may be short-lived.
Allen Iverson (DEN) – Iverson is adapting well to point guard duty with Chucky Atkins and Mike Wilks on the shelf. Through three games he's averaging 10 dimes, to go with 24 points per contest.
Shawn Marion (PHO) – As usual, when Amare Stoudemire is on the shelf, Marion steps up. In Sunday's game, Marion played nearly 46 minutes. He posted a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds, and added two three-pointers, two steals and two blocks for good measure.
Steve Blake (POR) – McMillan is also reportedly thinking about elevating Blake ahead of Jarrett Jack in the point guard rotation. Blake could emerge as a decent source of assists if he's able to hold on to the job, but we see this as a more-or-less even split no matter who's starting.
Joakim Noah (CHI) – Noah (sprained ankle) could return from injury for Tuesday's game against the Clippers. He might be a good short-term play, especially with Ben Wallace (see below) hurting.
Greg Buckner (MIN) – Through Minnesota's first two games, Buckner is averaging nearly 27 minutes; a surprising total for the journeyman guard in the midst of the T-Wolves much-publicized youth movement. It seems he's the one veteran that will regularly crack Randy Wittman's rotation, and thus far he's made the most of his run, netting 11.5 points, 2.5 steals and 2.0 three-pointers per game. Later in the year he's likely to cede those minutes to the likes of Randy Foye and Corey Brewer, so enjoy this while it lasts.
Ryan Gomes (MIN) – Gomes has started both of Minnesota's games at small forward and produced pretty well – including a 19-point, seven-board outing against the Knicks on Sunday.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (CLE) – Anderson Varejao's holdout is having a positive effect on Ilgauskas' minutes (35.4 mpg) and rebounding totals (over 14 per game).
Kelenna Azubuike (GS) – Azubuike has been an excellent fill-in for the suspended Stephen Jackson, averaging over 34 minutes and 20 points per game, including a 33-point outburst against the Clippers Friday night. If he keeps playing this well, Don Nelson will need to find some minutes for him even after Jackson returns.
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – D-Wade took a break from filming commercials with Charles Barkley on Monday and participated in his first full-contact practice since his shoulder and knee surgeries. There's no word as to when he'll be back on the court for the Heat, but this is certainly a positive sign.
Vince Carter (NJ) – Ordinarily we don't pay much attention to shooting slumps, but Vince Carter's 30.8 field goal percentage is an exception. Carter is reportedly dealing with a sore thumb on his shooting hand, which could be hampering his jumper and even forcing him to pass up shots entirely.
Kirk Hinrich (CHI) – Hinrich has had a hard time in the Bulls' first three games – shooting under 35 percent from the field and in near-constant foul trouble. What's the problem? Either opponents are wise to the fact that Chicago has basically no scoring threats in the paint and are concentrating their defensive attention on the perimeter, or he's just in a slump. We think it might be a combination of the two, which could mean he'll start playing better, but not at the level we're used to seeing from him. Not until Chicago develops or acquires a low-post scoring threat.
Lamar Odom (LAL) – Laker coach Phil Jackson told reporters that Odom (shoulder/concussion) could return "this week." That could mean Tuesday's game against the Hornets, but Friday against the T-Wolves seems more likely.
Beno Udrih (SAC) – Udrih might emerge as a stopgap starter while Mike Bibby is on the shelf, but for now the broken finger that kept him out during the preseason hasn't healed sufficiently for him to return to action.
Kenyon Martin (DEN) – So far, so good. Martin's comeback from a myriad of injuries is going well – he posted nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 21 minutes Sunday night against New Orleans. Problem is, he's stuck in a job-share with Nene. Until one or the other proves he's 100 percent healthy and ready to play starter minutes – or until one or the other gets hurt – neither will tally the numbers to be anything more than a replacement-level fantasy option.
Ben Wallace (CHI) – A sprained left ankle has slowed Wallace badly thus far, limiting him to just 13 points and 11 boards total in three games. He can't really plant or jump right now – and the whole jumping thing really comes in handy when playing basketball. Look for Big Ben to play limited minutes or even miss a few games until he recovers.
Jorge Garbajosa (TOR) – Garbajosa is reportedly getting annoyed at his lack of playing time. "I practice normally," he told reporters. "I play in the European championships. I am fine. Everything is normal." Raptors coach Sam Mitchell says that game situations are the reason for Garbajosa's seven minute-per-game average thus far, but we suspect that the Toronto is being more cautious with the forward – after last season's grisly leg injury – than the Spanish national team was over the summer.
Quentin Richardson (NY) – When healthy, Q-Rich has the ability to score points in bunches. But he's rarely healthy – right now, for example, Richardson is dealing with a number of minor injuries. The other problem is that the Knicks are stacked with scorers, and generally use the small forward position as a defense-first spot. Put it together, and you have a guy whose fantasy value is close to zero.
Trevor Ariza (ORL) – Ariza was expected to challenge for a starting job this season, but a foot injury slowed his progress during training camp, and he's yet to play more than nine minutes in a regular-season game this year.
J.J. Redick (ORL) – Another Orlando guard who was expected to do more this year, Redick has played 13 minutes total in Orlando's first three games, including a DNP in Saturday's game against the Wizards. The hand injury he suffered in the preseason may be a factor, but for now he's well behind Keith Bogans on the depth chart.
Rajon Rondo (BOS) – A lot of writers – myself included – consider Rondo a sleeper for this season. The thinking goes that the Garnett/Allen/Pierce trifecta will take away the pressure for him to hit jumpers – his biggest weakness – and free him up to drive and distribute. Nice theory, but so far it hasn't worked that way. He scored 15 in the Celtics' opener, but followed that with a two-point outing in their second game, and has just four assists in both games combined. You'd think, with his teammates, he'd manage more than two assists per game purely by accident.
Jason Collins (NJ) – Despite the fact that Collins is New Jersey's starting power forward and that he plays with one of the game's elite point guards, he has yet to score this season. In fact, his scoreless streak recently reached 10 games, dating back to the end of last year. One would think that a seven-foot, two-hundred-sixty pound man playing twenty minutes of basketball a night – most of them within eight feet of the hoop – would have occasion to make a basket every now and again. Nope. Collins scores about as often as A.C. Green.
Thanks to all the Rotowire beat writers whose updates found their way into this week's Barometer.
Article first appeared on 11/5/07