NBA Barometer: Taurean Prince, Blake Griffin Off to Strong Starts
NBA Barometer: Taurean Prince, Blake Griffin Off to Strong Starts

This article is part of our NBA Barometer series.

Welcome to the NBA Barometer, where we'll track which players are trending up or down each week as the year progresses.

As we move into the thick of Week 2, here are the players who've turned heads – for better or for worse – over the first week of the regular season.

POINT GUARDS

Trending Up

De'Aaron Fox, SAC: Fox had a rough night Tuesday in Denver, but he legitimately looks like one of the most improved players in the NBA in the early going, having boosted his numbers across the stat sheet while helping spearhead a surprisingly high-powered Kings offense. Sacramento came into Tuesday night's action second only to the Pelicans in average points per game, with Fox's near nine-point improvement in scoring (11.6 to 20.3 points) and 11-point-plus boost in shooting percentage (41.2 to 52.5) playing an integral part. If Sacramento keeps up the pace that's currently producing the third-most possessions per game (112.4), Fox's numbers should be sustainable.

Trae Young, ATL: The Hawks' team fortunes don't look bright, but as expected, Young's prospects are getting more bullish by the game. The rookie struggled through a 5-for-14 shooting effort in the opener before posting his first 20-point tally in his second game and generating a 35-point haul on 56.5 percent shooting his most recent time on the court Sunday against the Cavaliers. Young's assist totals have also gone from six to nine to 11 over his first three games, providing a glimpse of the complete player his skill set implies he should become. Perhaps most encouraging: Young has only eight turnovers through three games.

Kemba Walker, CHA: Walker typically plays at an All-Star level, but following the departure of Dwight Howard this offseason, he's stepped his play up another notch or two. Through four games, the veteran guard is averaging 33.0 points (on 49.0 percent shooting and 24.5 shot attempts per game), 5.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steal over 34.8 minutes. The scoring, shooting percentage and shot attempts are all career-high figures by sizable margins, and given that there isn't any other player on the roster – let alone the starting five – that can come close to Walker's caliber of offense, his usage should remain through the roof this season.

ALSO TRENDING UP: Kyle Lowry, TOR; Bryn Forbes, SA

Trending Down

Patrick Beverley, LAC: Beverley has always had a bit of three-and-D slant to his game, but the offensive component is lacking for the veteran through four games. Beverley is shooting just 26 percent from the floor, including an ugly 2-for-14 from distance. While the defense is still there – as evidenced by his four steals against the Rockets on Sunday – Beverley's current offensive deficiency has him trending in the wrong direction.

ALSO TRENDING DOWN: Markelle Fultz, PHI

SHOOTING GUARDS

Trending Up

DeMar DeRozan, SAN: Any concerns about DeRozan's ability to fit into a new offensive system after spending the first eight seasons of his career in Toronto have been quickly dispelled over his first three games in San Antonio. DeRozan is averaging career highs in scoring (29.3), assists (9.0) and shot attempts (24.0), handling the ball a lot more frequently with the Spurs having lost Dejounte Murray for the season with a torn ACL. DeRozan will likely continue seeing all the run he can handle as the season unfolds as one of the Spurs' two main pillars alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.

Zach LaVine, CHI: LaVine's first campaign in the Windy City got a considerably late start while he worked back from an ACL tear, but he did get 24 games in before season's end. The experience almost served as a quasi-preseason for the young guard, who only drained 38.3 percent of his attempts on his way to an average of 16.7 points. Now having enjoyed a full offseason to work out the kinks and fully acclimate to the team's offense, the results are markedly different. Through his first three games, LaVine is averaging a whopping 32.3 points on 61.8 percent shooting, including 45.0 percent from three-point range. With backcourt mate Kris Dunn now slated to be out multiple weeks with an MCL strain and Lauri Markkanen (elbow) still not slated for return until sometime in November, LaVine's usage should remain elevated as the team's most potent offensive force.

Josh Hart, LAL: Hart offered plenty as a second-round rookie last season, averaging 7.9 points on 46.9 percent shooting across 23.2 minutes, and adding 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists. The second-year guard looks even better in the early portion of the season, putting up 17.0 points (53.8 percent shooting), 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.0 block over a healthy allotment of 32.0 minutes. Hart is vastly outplaying starter Kentavious Caldwell-Pope thus far, and at some point a move into the starting five feels inevitable.

ALSO TRENDING UP: Devin Booker, PHO; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LAC

Trending Down

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LAL: Speaking of KCP, the veteran has dug himself and fantasy owners an early hole by averaging 4.7 points on 26.7 percent shooting over his first three games. Caldwell-Pope has already lost playing time to the more effective and younger Hart, as he's averaging just 21.3 minutes per game to Hart's 32.0. While he still profiles as an above-average defender, that may not be enough to keep on the first unit over the long term without a boost in offensive production.

ALSO TRENDING DOWN: Avery Bradley, LAC

SMALL FORWARDS

Trending Up

T.J. Warren, PHO: Warren is another young player coming off the bench and outplaying a veteran, as he's been notably more productive than starter Trevor Ariza. The fifth-year wing had the hot hand throughout preseason, and it's carried over into the first four games of the new campaign. Warren is draining a career-best 58.5 percent of his 13.7 attempts per game over the first three contests on his way to an average of 20.0 points over just 23.3 minutes. One of the most impressive and promising aspects of his production has been his improved accuracy from distance, albeit over a small sample. After shooting under 30.0 percent from three-point range in three of his first four seasons, Warren boasts a 57.1 percent success rate on 14 attempts thus far.

Cedi Osman, CLE: Osman was given first crack at filling the gargantuan shoes of the departed LeBron James at small forward, and all things considered, so far, so good. You can barely tell James is gone. The second-year pro posted a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in the opener before racking up 22 points and eight assists in his second game against the T-Wolves. Even with a slight downturn versus the Hawks in the third contest – 12 points, four assists, three rebounds, one steal and one block – Osman remained productive across the stat sheet. On a winless team looking to develop its young pieces as much as possible, Osman should be one of the top complementary sources of offense alongside Kevin Love this season.

Taurean Prince, ATL: Given the Hawks' situation as a rebuilding team, Prince is expected to have every opportunity to fully blossom this season after a solid sophomore campaign last year. That's exactly what's transpired over the first three games, as the talented wing is averaging 21.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Prince has even helped himself with a perfect 11-for-11 showing from the free-throw line after hitting 84.4 percent of his free throws in 2017-18. Trae Young should rack up a ton of usage in this offense, but Prince's all-around skill set should also keep him heavily involved, especially with John Collins set to miss extended time.

Caris LeVert, BKN:DeMarre Carroll (ankle) is projected to be out until mid-November at the minimum, and the way LeVert is playing in his stead so far, the veteran may not have a starting job to walk back into. After putting up 12.1 points on 43.5 percent shooting in 26.3 minutes per game last season, LeVert has been outstanding over the first three games of the new campaign. The third-year pro put up 28 and 27 points in his first two games, and he's shooting 65.0 percent on an average of 13.3 attempts per contest. While that number is unsustainable, LeVert has the makings of an early Most Improved Player candidate.

ALSO TRENDING UP: Danilo Gallinari, LAC; Joe Ingles, UTA; Luka Doncic, DAL; Rudy Gay, SA

Trending Down

Trevor Ariza, PHO: Given that Phoenix paid up for Ariza in free agency, his role likely won't bein much jeopardy, but he's off to a relatively disappointing start offensively. The veteran started off the new campaign impressively enough with a 21-point effort against the Mavericks, but that's been followed by a combined 4-for-19 shooting tally over the subsequent pair of contests. This isn't necessarily an outlier, either, as Ariza has shot 41.7 percent or lower from the field in eight of his last nine seasons. Long story short: Ariza is a better real-life than fantasy player, whose defensive contributions are often difficult to quantify.

POWER FORWARDS

Trending Up

Blake Griffin, DET: Like LaVine, Griffin has now had a full offseason to fully integrate into his new team's system. In his case, it was a trade deadline deal that saw the talented forward arrive in Detroit from Los Angeles. Griffin was solid during his post-All-Star-break stint with Detroit, but his numbers were slightly down from those he'd generated with the Clippers during the first half of the season. Fast forward to this season, and Griffin has already reminded us just how good he is when healthy. Griffin averaged 29.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists over the Pistons' first two games before erupting for the best individual performance of the young season Tuesday night against Philadelphia: 50 points (20-35 FG), 14 rebounds, six assists and a block. While Griffin will always be among the NBA's biggest injury liabilities, he's an immensely versatile contributor when at full strength.

Julius Randle, NOP: Randle has the talent to be as one of the prized acquisitions of the offseason, and he's looked every bit the part over the Pelicans' first pair of contests. The former seventh overall pick exploded for 25 points in 24 minutes during the season-opening win over Houston before posting a 13-point, 14-rebound double-double versus the Kings as an encore last Friday night. Nikola Mirotic is also excelling, but judging by the first two games, Randle should still log minutes in the mid-to-high-20s on most nights.. Given his superior scoring and rebounding, that's more than enough time for him to rack up the numbers in New Orleans' fast-paced attack.

Nikola Mirotic, NOP: Speaking of Mirotic, he represents the starting component of the Pelicans' one-two punch at power forward. All the 2011 first-round pick has done is score 36 and 30 points over his first two games, while adding an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double in 30 minutes Tuesday against the Clippers. Mirotic had been on fire from deep before going 0-of-6 on Tuesday, and it's a great sign that he's taken 23 threes through three contests.

ALSO TRENDING UP: Tobias Harris, LAC; Kevin Love, CLE; Jayson Tatum, BOS; Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL; Jaren Jackson, MEM

Trending Down

Ryan Anderson, PHO: While Mirotic and Randle are on the way up, a former Pelican, Anderson, is struggling mightily in his latest stop. Anderson had already seen a downturn in Houston last season, averaging just 9.3 points on a modest 7.3 shot attempts per game, both his lowest figures since the 2010-11 season. However, a move to the fast-paced Suns had some potential to get more involved, considering the team's need for supplemental scoring alongside Devin Booker. That's yet to be the case for Anderson, who's averaging a meager 4.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game over his first three.

CENTERS

Trending Up

Steven Adams, OKC: Adams stepped up his involvement over the first two games of the season with Russell Westbrook sidelined with a knee issue, shaking off a sore back and taking double-digit shot attempts in both games on his way to a pair of double-doubles. Adams tallied 17 points in each game, and with Westbrook back in the lineup Sunday versus the Kings, he provided a 10-point, 14-rebound double-double over 34 minutes. The big man already averaged career highs in scoring (13.9) and rebounds (9.0) last season, and on a team that lost an important complementary offensive piece in Carmelo Anthony without replacing him with a comparable option, Adams could be in for yet another slight boost on the offensive end.

Deandre Ayton, PHO: Ayton looked every bit the part of the first overall pick throughout summer league and preseason play, and he's carried that momentum over in two of the first three games of the season. The rookie admittedly experienced some growing pains against Denver over the weekend, but he bounced back with a 20-point, 14-rebound double-double versus the Warriors on Monday night. That was preceded by an 18 and 10 performance against DeAndre Jordan and the Mavs in the opener.

Nikola Jokic, DEN: Jokic not only dominated Ayton in their matchup, he's also excelled in his other three games. The 23-year-old center opened the season with a 21-point, eight-rebound effort against the Clippers. He followed that up with a 35-point (11-11 FG), 11-rebound, 11-assist triple-double versus the Suns, and a 23-point, 11-rebound outing against the Warriors on Sunday night. Jokic was limited to just 23 minutes in a blowout win over Sacramento on Tuesday – he didn't play in the fourth quarter – but still managed 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

ALSO TRENDING UP: Jarrett Allen, BKN; JaVale McGee, LAL; Enes Kanter, NYK

Trending Down

Marcin Gortat, LAC: Gortat is seeing abbreviated playing time in his first year with the Clippers, as both Montrezl Harrell and Boban Marjanovic have been a part of the center rotation. Gortat is yet to play more than 20 minutes in a single game, and he bottomed out with just 12 minutes of action in Tuesday's loss to New Orleans, despite starting the game. Gortat's days as a serviceable source of rebounds may be numbered, and it wouldn't be shocking if the Clippers switch to Harrell as the starter at some point down the line.

RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NBA Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NBA fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
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 over 20 years and covers NBA, MLB, NFL, CFL and Arena Football for Rotowire.com, including serving as the beat writer for teams in multiple sports. He has previously written for KFFL.com and remains an avid season-long and daily fantasy player in multiple sports as well.
NBA Podcast: Beal Extension, GM Survey, NFBKC Recap + More
NBA Podcast: Beal Extension, GM Survey, NFBKC Recap + More
NBA Draft Kit: 12-Team NFBKC Draft Review
NBA Draft Kit: 12-Team NFBKC Draft Review
NBA Podcast: All-Star + End-of-Season Awards Predictions with James Anderson
NBA Podcast: All-Star + End-of-Season Awards Predictions with James Anderson
NBA Draft Kit: Super-Sleepers To Target in Deep Leagues
NBA Draft Kit: Super-Sleepers To Target in Deep Leagues
NBA DFS Breakdown: Opening Night Price Reactions
NBA DFS Breakdown: Opening Night Price Reactions
NBA Draft Kit: Ingles to the Bench, Herro Making a Splash and Other Preseason Developments
NBA Draft Kit: Ingles to the Bench, Herro Making a Splash and Other Preseason Developments