NBA Barometer: Irving, Towns Bouncing Back From Slow Starts
NBA Barometer: Irving, Towns Bouncing Back From Slow Starts

This article is part of our NBA Barometer series.

POINT GUARDS

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Derrick Rose, MIN: Rose's career-high 50-point explosion would be reason enough to afford him this designation, but he's actually been enjoying a resurgent season independent of that performance. The 2011 MVP is thriving under Tom Thibodeau once again after what was essentially a lost 2017-18 campaign. Rose is averaging 17.4 points on 14.8 shot attempts per contest and playing 27.9 minutes a game, as the various absences of both Jeff Teague (knee) and Jimmy Butler have provided him plenty of opportunity. A potential eventual trade of Butler could also vault Rose into a starting two-guard job, which would bump his stock up even further.

Kyrie Irving, BOS: Irving actually got his season off to a bit of an underwhelming start, understandable given that he was still working his way back into shape after last season's knee surgery. The All-Star guard has started to round back into form in recent games, however, scoring between 28 and 31 points in three of his last four while shooting an impressive 60.0 percent, including 56.3 percent from distance. Due to his uneven start, his scoring numbers are still a bit down from his career norms, but he's also surprisingly bringing in a career-high number of rebounds (4.8).

Also Trending Up: Dennis Schroder, OKC

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Eric Bledsoe, MIL: Bledsoe has been running hot and cold recently, with three single-digit scoring efforts in the last six games. He's alternated bad shooting nights with solid performances, posting a sub-40.0 percent success rate in three of his last five. His assist totals have never been those of an elite point guard, and they too have had their fair share of fluctuations in the early going. What's more, Bledsoe's three-point accuracy has been suffering, as he gone just 7-for-29 from distance over his last seven contests, while his 30.4 percent success rate from behind the arc is his worst since the 2011-12 season.

SHOOTING GUARDS

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Wesley Matthews, DAL: Matthews rolled into Dallas four seasons ago having averaged between 14.8 and 16.4 points in four of the prior five seasons in Portland. However, his first three years with the Mavs saw reduced offensive production and usage, giving the impression that he was potentially on the downside of his career. The new season has produced a resurgent Matthews, though, one who's averaging a career-best 18.0 points on a career-high 14.2 shot attempts per contest, and who's posting his best shooting percentage (42.3) since the 2014-15 campaign. Even with Harrison Barnes recently making his season debut, Matthews has encouragingly put up over 20 points in four of the last six games, lending credence to the notion his strong start is sustainable even when all the Mavericks' pieces are healthy.

Joe Harris, BKN: Harris has progressively been carving out a larger niche in the Nets' rotation since arriving in Brooklyn in 2016, and he's seemingly parlayed an early-season starting opportunity into a more long-term role. Harris filled in at two-guard for Allen Crabbe on opening night against the Pistons, and even though Crabbe suited up the very next contest, Harris has retained a hold of the starting job. He's earned it with double-digit scoring efforts in all but two games (leading to a career-high 13.4 points per contest), as well as career bests in assists (2.5), made threes (2.8), shooting percentage (54.5) and three-point shooting percentage (55.4).

Klay Thompson, GSW: Like Rose, one recent eye-popping performance would be enough to warrant Thompson this designation. However, his 52-point night against the Bulls aside, Thompson has also eclipsed the 20-point mark in consecutive contests for the first time this season over the last two games. He opened the season with seven straight sub-20-point efforts, all games in which he also shot under 50.0 percent. Beginning with his spectacular night in Chicago, Thompson has now drained better than half of his attempts in three of his past four, and he's compiled a whopping 22 three-pointers (14 of which came versus the Bulls) over that span as well.

Also Trending Up: Marco Belinelli, SAN; Josh Okogie, MIN

SMALL FORWARDS

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Damyean Dotson, NYK: Dotson has quietly been putting together a productive season as the Knicks' starting small forward. The 24-year-old has scored in double digits in each game thus far and has also been a solid presence on the boards, hauling in at least five rebounds in seven of nine contests. Moreover, he's been adept at spacing the floor, averaging nearly two made threes (1.9) and shooting a solid 45.3 percent overall. While 2018 first-round pick Kevin Knox, who just returned from an ankle injury, looms behind him, the fact the rookie is being eased back into the rotation is buying Dotson even more time to solidify his grip on the job. Knox is clearly the better long-term prospect, but there should be room for both in what's been a rather unpredictable rotation.

Terrence Ross, ORL: Ross is filling the same role he often has, namely, as a long-range marksman off the bench capable of offering an infusion of offense. However, he's stepped it up a notch across the stat sheet this season, averaging a career-high 12.3 points, 2.1 assists, 2.0 made threes and 12.0 shot attempts. He's generated those numbers despite actually seeing a slight dip in minutes compared to last season (24.8, as compared to 25.0), and he's likely to continue enjoying a consistent allotment of playing time off the bench as the season unfolds.

Harrison Barnes, DAL: Barnes has mostly hit the ground running since his season debut, save for one downturn Oct. 28 against the Jazz in his second game. Otherwise, Barnes has scored between 14 and 19 points in his other five contests, complementing the total making up the high end of that range with 13 rebounds against the Wizards on Tuesday night. With the veteran back to playing over 30 minutes after overcoming the preseason hamstring issues that delayed the start to his season, he appears primed to offer his usual levels of production moving forward.

POWER FORWARDS

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Jerami Grant, OKC: It appeared likely that Grant would eventually take the reins of the starting power forward job from Patrick Patterson, and that indeed came to pass after the first three games of the season. All Grant has done is score in double digits in each contest while also hauling in between four and six rebounds per game. He's currently boasting career highs in points (11.0), rebounds (4.9), steals (1.1) and blocks (1.2) over 29.8 minutes, and he's even doing his fair share of floor spacing with 3.1 three-point attempts per contest.

Noah Vonleh, NYK: Finally free of the frontcourt logjam in Portland and not having seen his prospects brighten much during his one year in Chicago, Vonleh is thriving in the starting power forward role in New York at the moment in place of Kristaps Porzingis (knee). The fifth-year big is averaging a career-high 7.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting a career-best 50.8 percent over his first 11 games. He's finally logging over 20 minutes per contest, already has a trio of double-doubles on his ledger, and has brought down double-digit rebounds in five games overall. With Porzingis' potential return still a ways away, Vonleh looks set to continue to man the four in the Big Apple and offer superior fantasy production on the boards in particular.

Pascal Siakam, TOR: Another young big thriving with extended opportunity this season is Siakam, who's logging a career-high 27.3 minutes per game in his third season. That's led to career bests in points (11.7), rebounds (7.4), assists (2.2) and steals (1.2), as well as a new high-water mark in shooting (60.6 percent). Serge Ibaka continues to primarily split time at center in new coach Nick Nurse's rotations, leaving Siakam sole possession of the top job at the four. Given what he's proven capable of with the opportunity so far, Siakam's fantasy arrow continues to point firmly up entering the first full month of the campaign.

Also Trending Up: Domantas Sabonis, IND

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Patrick Patterson, OKC: Patterson lost his starting power forward job three games into the season and has been predictably inconsistent in his bench role. The veteran did pop off for 17 points against the Suns in his first game on the second unit Oct. 28, but he's generated a pair of eight-point tallies and gone scoreless in three of the next four games. Jerami Grant is performing well with the first unit, meaning that Patterson is likely relegated to a sub-20-minute role on most nights for the foreseeable future. Fantasy owners who rolled the dice on him when he opened the season as a starter can likely cut bait at this point.

CENTERS

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Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN: Like Irving, Towns is another big name who seemed stuck in neutral to start the season. There was no rust to blame in the big man's case, just a general downturn in production from his usual numbers that included sub-20-point tallies in five of his first six games. However, Towns has subsequently turned it on, scoring at least 20 points in four of the next five, while also hauling in double-digit rebounds in four games during that stretch. Both his scoring and rebounds are still in the process of ticking back up to normal levels, but he appears well on his way and would see an even bigger boost in stock were Jimmy Butler to eventually be traded.

Clint Capela, HOU: The Rockets as a whole endured an unexpectedly horrendous start to the season, and Capela partly contributed with a couple of games with eight- and 10-point tallies. However, he's now rattled off six straight double-doubles and has played an important part in Houston winning three consecutive games. Capela has scored 18 and 22 points in two of those contests, and like the rest of his teammates, he appears to be approximating his customary level of play, one that earned him a handsome extension this past summer.

Wendell Carter, CHI: The Bulls may be going through plenty of growing pains, but Carter is one of the main reasons for long-term optimism in the Windy City. The rookie is averaging a solid 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals, and he's now posted double-digit scoring totals in six straight games. Three of those performances have also qualified as double-doubles, and he's brought in between seven and 13 rebounds in eight of his first 11 contests. Chicago will undoubtedly give their young players all the run they can handle this season, setting Carter up for even better production as the campaign unfolds.

Also Trending Up: Enes Kanter, NYK; Mitchell Robinson, NYK; Alex Len, ATL; Boban Marjanovic, LAC

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Damian Jones, GSW: Jones offered some decent supplemental production to open the season as the starting center, but his involvement has progressively been reduced. The 23-year-old scored between eight and 13 points in his first three contests of the campaign, but he's gone on to generate a trio of two-point contributions and no more than six points in any one of his subsequent seven games. That dip in production has corresponded with a reduction in playing time – after logging between 18 and 27 minutes in the first three games, Jones has played under 15 minutes in all but one of the following seven. Given his current role, the downturn is likely to continue.

Also Trending Down: Marcin Gortat, LAC

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Juan Carlos Blanco
Winner of the FSWA 2016 Newcomer of the Year Award, Juan Carlos Blanco has been playing fantasy sports for close to 20 years and covers NBA, MLB, and the NFL for Rotowire.com, including serving as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' beat writer. He has previously written for KFFL.com and remains an avid season-long and daily fantasy player in multiple sports.
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