The countdown to Christmas is on, so what fantasy basketball presents do you want? Hopefully, as you unwrap some of these nuggets, your festive season will kick off on the right foot.
Blake Griffin is back, but is he really?
Last season, Griffin was the 23rd ranked player in fantasy leagues. This season, he is 81st. That is a big drop off, but to be fair, he is playing fewer mintues. If we look at his per 36 fantasy value, Griffin was 42nd last year. Not too bad.
This year, he is at 113th. So, not only is he playing less, but his per-minute production is down. Why? Well, firstly, he entered the season with a hamstring/knee issue, so that has to be an issue, but I’m more concerned with his lack of assists.
The last two seasons, Griffin was at 5.8 and 5.4 assists per game. He is at 3.3 per game this season. So, is it an issue with players just making shots or is Griffin not being used as a playmaker as much. Last season, Griffin averaged 61 passes made per game. He is at 43.5 this season. Last season, he averaged 11.0 potential assists per game.
This season, he is at 8.0 per game. That indicates, to me, that in this small sample, the Pistons aren’t using as a hub on offence as much and we should not be expecting a jump back up to the top 30 for fantasy.
Jonas Valančiūnas is surging
It was a slow start to the season for Valančiūnas, as he missed all of the preseason with a foot issue. That’s always a worry for big men and then JV struggled to begin the season. But, of late, he has been a monster, ranking third in fantasy points leagues over the last week, averaging 55.75 points in his last two games.
His minutes are up, but it’s not just that. Valančiūnas has posted a 30% usage rate in those games versus only 23% over the season. One of those games, he played with Ja Morant (25% usage) and one without (34% usage). So, with Morant out week-to-week with a back injury, Valančiūnas has an opportunity to feast.
This season, when JV and Morant have shared the court, Valančiūnas had a usage of 22.4% and averaged 1.14 fantasy points per minute. Without Morant, Valančiūnas is at 25.5% usage and 1.35 fantasy points per minute. So, for now, with both Morant and Brandon Clarke out, Valančiūnas is ready to dominate.
Terry Rozier as a shooting guard
I was pretty low on Rozier as a free agent signing by Charlotte, but I was also equally high on Rozier as a fantasy points league player. He has been a little below expectations this season, as the 73rd ranked guy, averaging 30.69 points, but over the last two weeks, he is finding his groove a little, averaging 33.95 points, ranking 50th.
Now, he isn’t the point guard and is playing off-ball next to Devonte’ Graham. When they play together, Rozier has an eFG% of 53.9% and averages 0.96 fantasy points per minute with 4.4 assists per 100 possessions.
When he is playing as the point guard, Rozier has an eFG% of 49.6%, an assist rate of 8.7 assists per 100 and 0.87 fantasy points per minute. So, fantasy managers will want to hope Rozier stays playing off-ball next to Graham as much as possible.
Is Jaylen Brown for real?
Last season, Brown was outside of the collective fantasy consciousness, ranking 155th with 22.91 fantasy points per game. This season, Brown is a new player, giving us 34.18 fantasy points which is good for 52nd overall. How is he doing it? Well, it’s mainly coming from his shooting.
Brown is creating his own shot more, seeing his assisted percentage drop from 68% to 63%, while also seeing his eFG% jump from 52.8% up to 56.2%.
We don't talk enough about how much better Jaylen Brown is this season. He scored 31 points last night in a Celtics win over the Heat and is averaging a career-high 19.9 points on good scoring efficiency. I made this video to show Brown’s improvement as a scorer off the dribble. pic.twitter.com/2AHDrrTKRd— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 5, 2019
The interesting thing is that his shot profile has gotten worse, with a drop from 41% at the rim to 37% of his shot attempts, and those rim attempts have turned into mid-range shots shorter than 14 feet (thanks to Cleaning The Glass).
This is a little scary for Brown and his value, because if his shooting regresses in that mid-range, where he is 78th percentile, then his value could take a hit, and this isn’t even factoring in that Gordon Hayward is still to return.
How worried are we about Devin Booker’s Slump?
Booker has been a top 30 player the last two seasons. This year, despite having Deandre Ayton out for all but one game, Booker has dropped down to 43rd, losing almost five fantasy points per game. Why? Well, the main reason is usage.
Booker was at 32% last season and now he is at 28%. It’s pretty confusing, considering that the Suns brought in Ricky Rubio primarily to help Booker focus more on scoring than running an offence. Is Kelly Oubre really taking that much? Not really, his usage is almost identical to last season.
Devin Booker ERUPTS for 68.1 FPTS in New Orleans!— NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) December 6, 2019
☀️ 44 PTS
☀️ 8 REB
☀️ 9 AST
☀️ 5 3PM pic.twitter.com/NoJvnDGcDx
There is no one clear reason as to why Booker to seemingly more passive except that the Suns are just a better team. Rubio replaces Isaiah Canaan and De’Anthony Melton, Dario Šarić is taking his shots, Aron Baynes is the new Hakeem Olajuwon, and Frank Kaminsky has his moments. So, will Booker snap out of it?
Maybe, but when Ayton comes back, it’s getting harder to see that usage spiking back up and I think we need to reassess Book for the rest of the year.
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.