The last week of NBA basketball has been full of fun games and standout performances. I take a look at some interesting statistical trends across the league to give you The Edge in your fantasy basketball league.
DeMar DeRozan is scoring like prime Shaq
Prime Shaq is a bit of an exaggeration, but DeRozan is on a run that’s tough to fathom. Over the last month, he has been hitting a ridiculous 61% of his shots, including 63% of his two-point attempts.
For players who play 20 minutes a game and take at least six shots per game from inside the arc, DeRozan ranks seventh in the NBA, behind Mitchell Robinson, Dwight Powell, Jonas Valančiūnas, Rudy Gobert, Brandon Clarke, and Richaun Holmes.
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You’ll notice a pattern with those names. They are all centres, getting their shots right at the rim for dunks, oops, and put backs.
The next highest perimeter player is 17th overall, Gordon Hayward and he is hitting 58% from two-point range.
From every distance range on NBA.com, DeRozan is shooting above 52%, until he gets out to 20ft and further. Shooting 56% on shots between 15-19ft is a ridiculous level, as well as finishing 78% of his shots at the rim.
For reference, DeRozan is finishing at the rim better than Jakob Poeltl and LaMarcus Aldridge within 5ft.
Ben Simmons is a Beast (Without Joel Embiid)
If you look to the top of your fantasy rankings, you’ll see Simmons. Over the season, he ranks 18th in standard points leagues, but in the last two weeks, Simmons has vaulted all the way up to 8th.
I wonder why. Well, for the last four of those six games, Simmons has been playing without Joel Embiid.
Embiid is sidelined with a ligament injury in his finger and has been cleared for non-contact work in practice.
The @sixers Ben Simmons appeared in his 200th career game last night. Simmons, Oscar Robertson, and Magic Johnson are the only players in NBA history to accumulate at least 3,000 points, 1,500 rebounds, and 1,500 assists in their first 200 games played. pic.twitter.com/B7Q2MeA9M3— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) January 16, 2020
In theory, the increased production is coming due to Embiid’s absence - but Simmons actually has a lower true shooting percentage, usage, and rebound rate when he is on the court without Embiid.
The one thing that does stand out is his assist rate, which jumps from 10.1 per 100 possessions to 12.4. So, while we are enjoying this run from Simmo, it may not be entirely unsustainable.
This is the Lonzo Ball we were promised
It was a shaky start for Lonzo in New Orleans. He got hurt, he lost his starting spot, but that seems to have been the jolt he needed because of late, this Lonzo Ball looks closer to the number two pick from a few years ago.
In standard points leagues, Lonzo is 77th overall, averaging 29.62 fantasy points per game. In the last two weeks though, Lonzo has jumped the 26th best player with 41.06 points per game.
Why the jump? Well, his minutes are way up, seeing 37 a night in the last seven games, but his per-minute production has also risen.
Lonzo Ball in his last 10 games:— Will Guillory (@WillGuillory) January 15, 2020
43% from the field
38% on 3s (8.1 attempts per game)
Lonzo has upped not only his usage, but his rebounding, and most importantly for a point guard, his assist rate has reached career-high levels.
As a rookie, Lonzo averaged 7.6 assists per 36 minutes. This season he is at 7.0 per 36, but that has spiked to 8.1 per 36 in the last seven games.
Whether Lonzo is putting it all together or this is just because Jrue Holiday has been out, only time will tell.
Julius Randle likes New York’s new coach
In the 22 games Randle played under David Fizdale, he averaged 31.37 fantasy points per game, he turned the ball over 3.3 times per game and averaged 16.8 points per game in 32 minutes.
Now that Fizdale has been fired, Randle is all the way up to 39.18 fantasy points, cutting his turnovers to 2.4 per game and scoring 21.5 points per game.
It’s not a fluke.
Julius Randle lost his grandmother earlier this week and was away from the Knicks until last night. He scored 26 points in their win over the Heat today.— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) January 12, 2020
"Tonight was special," he said. "I really felt her out there."
This is what the last few days were like for him: pic.twitter.com/r6qEqndaYJ
Mike Miller’s system is using Randle in a way that suits his ability, rather than Fizdale’s nonsense of having Randle initiate the offence.
This is more like the Randle that we thought we would get at the start of the season.
Deandre Ayton off the bench
Strangely, the Phoenix Suns continue to play their second-year number one overall draft pick, Deandre Ayton, off the bench.
He has missed time with a drug suspension and an ankle injury, but now, fully healthy, Ayton is still riding the pine behind Aron Baynes.
He’s only played ten games this season, five games as a starter, five off the bench, but there is a big difference in his fantasy scoring in those games.
In his five starts, Ayton has averaged 40.28 points in 33 minutes, while averaging 32.76 points in his five bench appearances in 28 minutes.
Deandre Ayton's averages over his last 8 games:— NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) January 17, 2020
☀️ 17.9 PTS
☀️ 12.1 REB
☀️ 1.6 BLK
☀️ 40.1 FPTS pic.twitter.com/FtCCXy7abn
Obviously there is a playing time discrepancy, so if we look at the numbers per 36 minutes, we still see Ayton being more productive as a starter, averaging 44.16 as a starter versus 41.87 as a reserve.
Interestingly, he has a huge usage off the bench (28.4%) compared to a below-average 19.5% as a starter.
What is the difference then? Well, on the bench, Ayton is more of a black hole than usual, averaging just 1.0 assist per 36, which makes sense when he is spending a lot more time as the clear number one offensive option.
That, plus his increased turnover numbers, is contributing to his lower output. I doubt it’s a long time before he is starting again, but for now, this gives us a buy-low opportunity.
Every week, I’ll be looking at some weird trends across the NBA and seeing what they mean, so make sure you’re checking out The Edge, here every Friday.