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're extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, role or skill level.
Gerald Henderson, G, CHR – Henderson has started at shooting guard for the Bobcats in the team’s first two games. He has impressed in both games, averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 treys in nearly 41 minutes per game. In 30 games as a starter last season, Henderson averaged 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals while posting solid percentages (44.9 FG, 83.5 FT), so he showed some of this promise as a rookie. D.J. Augustin and rookie Kemba Walker will also see time in the Bobcats backcourt, but Henderson is the only one of the three with enough size (6-5, 215) to matchup against most opposing twos. The Bobcats are desperate for offense this season, putting Henderson in a great spot to build on his strong start to the season. He’s worth a flier in most mid-sized leagues.
Metta World Peace, F, LAL – After a lackluster season opener, World Peace has put together back-to-back solid efforts for the Lakers. The player formerly known as Ron Artest has taken over as the team’s sixth man, a role Lamar Odom held the past three seasons. World Peace averaged just 9.7 points through his first two seasons with the Lakers while serving solely as a starter. Through three games as a reserve, World Peace has averaged 12.3 points in 27 minutes per game. With Odom now playing for Dallas, the Lakers will continue to ask World Peace to shoulder the scoring load for the second unit. At 32, World Peace is the same player we saw during his prime years with the Pacers and Kings, but he’s in position to put together his best campaign since joining the Lakers.
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI – Hawes put together one of the greatest games of his career in the season opener, finishing with 10 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block in 39 minutes. He followed that up with a nine points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in Wednesday’s blowout win over the Suns. The high assist total in the first game of the season is a fluke, but Hawes is a legit double-double big man if given significant run on a regular basis. Through 302 career games Hawes has averaged 13.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes played. It’s uncertain if 76ers coach Doug Collins will continue giving Hawes such heavy playing time, but the 23-year-old center has breakout potential if he can stay on his coach’s good side.
Ben Gordon, G, DET – Gordon was handed the Pistons’ starting shooting guard gig this year, and he has looked extremely comfortable with the new role through the first two games. He is currently averaging 19.5 points and 3.5 treys despite struggling with his shot (39.5 FG). Most importantly, Gordon is seeing over 36 mpg, which would match his career high in playing time set during the 2008-09 season. We might not see Gordon return to his peak form with the Bulls, but he is poised for a big bounce-back campaign. Go grab him if you need help in scoring and threes.
Jeremy Pargo, G, MEM – Pargo took over point guard duties for the Grizzlies on Wednesday after Mike Conley went down with an ankle injury in the first minute of the game. The undrafted rookie out of Gonzaga finished with 15 points (6-of-13 FG, 0-of-3 3Pt, 3-of-4 FT), seven assists and two steals in 37 minutes. Conley is expected to miss at least the next two games, giving Pargo a short-term boost in value. The extra run Pargo will receive over the next couple of games should also help him cement a bigger role once he returns to the reserve unit.
Paul Pierce, F, BOS – A bruised right heel has kept Pierce on the sidelines through the first three games of the season. He has shown improvement over the past few days, but the Celtics continue to be cautious with their star player. His next chance to return to the lineup will be Friday against the Pistons. Continue to monitor the situation before plugging Pierce into your active lineup.
Stephen Curry, G, GS – Curry aggravated his long bothersome right ankle in the fourth quarter of Monday’s win over the Bulls. X-rays came back negative, which is a sigh of relief for owners, but he was forced to sit out Wednesday’s win over the Knicks. Warriors coach Mark Jackson hasn’t laid out a concrete timetable for his star point guard yet, just stating he would give Curry “some time” to heal. Curry’s next chance to play will be Saturday against the Sixers. Ishmael Smith is the player to target if Curry ends up sitting for an extended stretch.
Eric Gordon, G, NOH – Gordon sat out Wednesday’s game against the Celtics with a bruised knee. This injury isn’t considered serious, but Hornets coach Monty Williams doesn’t want to take any chance with his star shooting guard. Look for Gordon to make a quick return, but given his injury history (62 or fewer games played each of his first two seasons), owners should always keep a close eye on Gordon.
Shawn Marion, F, DAL – Marion suffered a fractured left pinkie finger in Sunday’s season opener against the Heat. He played through the injury Monday but was ineffective, finishing with two points on 1-of-5 shooting from the floor. The 33-year-old veteran has vowed to continue playing through the pain, but the Mavs could opt to sit him if he continues to struggle. Monitor closely over the next few games.
Tyrus Thomas, F, CHR – Thomas has missed the first two games of the regular season with a mildly sprained left ankle he suffered during the preseason. The oft-injured big man is poised to see an increased role with the Bobcats once he returns, but as was the case each of the past two seasons, he’s having difficulty staying healthy enough to live up to his vast potential. Still, the promise of Thomas as an elite defensive contributor is enough to keep him stashed on your bench while he nurses minor injuries like his current ankle problem.
Mike Conley, G, MEM – As previous mentioned, Conley aggravated a sprained left ankle Wednesday. This injury was originally sustained during the preseason and never fully healed. The Grizzlies don’t plan on making that same mistake twice, so Conley is expected to sit out at least the next two games. This setback shouldn’t develop into a long-term problem for Conley, so consider his downgrade in value to be temporary.
Paul Millsap, F, UTA – After being a permanent fixture in the Jazz’s starting five last season, Millsap has found himself back in a reserve role for the start of the 2011-12 campaign. He has done well in his first two games as a reserve (15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds), but Millsap’s new role will make it difficult for him to live up to his price tag on draft day. There’s still plenty of value here, but it wouldn’t hurt to shop Millsap around to see if you can get an unassuming owner to pay for last year’s production.
Channing Frye, C, PHO – Frye, like every other Sun, has gotten off to a slow start. Through two games the three-point shooting center is averaging 2.5 points while shooting a miserable 10 percent from the floor. His stroke will return, but Frye’s fantasy value might stay where it currently is. He has averaged just 18 minutes per game and will likely lose time to rookie Markieff Morris as the season wears on. Try to get decent value in return for Frye before it’s too late.
Jodie Meeks, G, PHI – Meeks won the Sixers’ starting shooting guard job in training camp, but he’s only a starter by name. The 24-year-old sharpshooter is averaging just 22 minutes per game, a figure that isn’t likely to go up with Evan Turner coming off the bench. While Meeks could still provide some value as a three-point specialist in deep leagues, his playing time and production in other areas won’t be substantial enough to make him worth owning in shallower formats.