Fantasy Basketball Edge: How Zach LaVine became a scoring machine

Each week, we edge closer to the fantasy playoffs and it becomes more important to take advantage of trends in the NBA. In this week’s Edge, I’ll take a look at a few that could help you strengthen your team.

Zach LaVine is quietly putting up huge numbers

Over the last week, your number 12 player in fantasy basketball is Zach LaVine - which is a huge surprise.

For the season, Zach is 34th, averaging 37.66 points per game, but the last four games have seen a huge spike, up to 48.43 fantasy points. Why?

It’s not usage, which is very similar to his season-long numbers. It’s his shooting and more specifically, his finishing.

For the season, LaVine is at 57% in the restricted area, but in his last four games, that number skyrockets to 70% and he has significantly reduced his most inefficient shot, the ‘in the paint (non-RA) shot, down from 9% to just 4% of his attempts.

An increase in shots at the basket has led to an explosion in Zach laVine's fantasy output. (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

That level of finishing is not something that will be able to continue, but it at least gives us a level of explanation as to why LaVine is so far up the rankings.

What’s up with Jimmy Butler’s scoring?

We all know what Jimmy Butler had to say about TJ Warren after Thursday’s action, but flying under the radar is the fact that Butler’s scoring is down.

Over his last three games, Butler is averaging only 15 points per game, and that number sits at just 19.6 over the last month.

In his last season in Minnesota, as the number one guy, Butler averaged 22.2 points, so it is a different approach Jimmy is taking this season, especially lately.

So what has that meant for his fantasy output? Not that much, actually.

Jimmy Butler's scoring has dropped, but it hasn't led to a fall in his fantasy value, thanks to better assist and rebounding numbers. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

Butler is averaging 43.46 fantasy points this season, and while that has dipped to just 40.03 in the last three games, it compares favourably to his last season in Minnesota, where he was at 41.15 fantasy points per game.

If you hadn’t figured out why it’s because he is acting as a primary facilitator. Butler is averaging a career-high 6.6 assists per game, as well as a career-high 6.8 rebounds per game.

Those numbers are offsetting his lower usage and scoring, but if he ever goes back into take over mode, we could actually see a big increase in fantasy scoring, pushing Butler to levels he hasn’t been at before.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is coming into his own

There has been one player in NBA history to hit at least three threes and block at least three shots in three consecutive games. His name is Jaren Jackson Jr.

This ability to block shots and be a big offensive contributor is what drew me to JJJ before the draft and before this season, and while it was a rocky start to the year, Jackson appears to have overcome the fouling plague and is on his way to being an elite player in the NBA.

Jackson is the 30th ranked player over the last week, and for category leagues, it’s even better, as he comes in 13th.

Will his recent production last? Well, he is converting his threes at 50% in those games and while that is obviously high, JJJ is shooting the deep ball at 43% over the last two months - he is just that good.

As for the blocks, he is contesting an additional two shots per game during this run of increased swats, which might not stay quite so high, but this kid is here to stay.

Jae Crowder, the most inconsistent man in the world

In the last week, Crowder is your 35th ranked fantasy player. That, in itself, is amazing.

But when you dig into his game log, it becomes even wilder. These are Crowder’s last nine games in fantasy points scored, rounded up to the nearest whole number - 27, 36, 12, 18, 12, 33, 64, 10, 43.

If you average 25 points a game, which Crowder does, you are worthy of a 12 team spot. But, the problem is you just never know which Crowder you get, the one who is a top 50 or the one who is barely a top 200 player.

He is worth having for now, but be aware of the roller coaster.

Markelle Fultz: Master Thief

In the last week, there are three players averaging three steals a game - Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Markelle Fultz.

Two are perennial All-Stars and one is considered a bust by many. So, what to make of this surge by Fultz, who is also averaging over five assists and almost 30 fantasy points per game in the last week?

In those games, his deflection numbers have increased from 2.3 per game up to 4.0 per game, but before we write this off as just an anomaly that is creating these extra steals, it’s important to realise that the Magic’s most impactful perimeter defender, the season leader in deflections, Jonathan Isaac is out.

Is this a change by Steve Clifford to make Fultz the primary guy to attack passing lanes? The numbers would sure back that up in this small sample size, so if Fultz can keep his steal numbers elevated, he will cement himself on fantasy rosters for the rest of the season

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.