Mike Gallagher

NBA Fantasy Trends

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Stats: Trust The Passes

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


It's not often you hear a team complain about their top-ranked offense, but that's what happened last week when the Warriors blew a 24-point lead against the Grizzlies on their home floor. In case you missed it last week, Draymond Green spent a lot of time talking about how the offense is just not good right now, especially in the fourth quarter. He didn't hold back at all and it seemed like this is a lot of built-up frustration.

 

Here’s the video via Lets Go Warriors: 

 

Draymond is associated with atrocious like DeMarcus Cousins is to ridiculous. Clearly, he wasn’t happy with how the Warriors aren’t running pick-and-roll as effectively as last season. He’s absolutely right.

 

Quite shockingly, Stephen Curry is just at 26.4 percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler this year. Last year Curry was an absurd 97.6 percentile in what was arguably the best play in the NBA. On top of the dip in efficiency, Curry also has 2.1 fewer possessions per game in that set. That should come up and Curry needs to be better there, too.

 

So what about Dray? This year, Dray is only 15.3 percentile as a pick-and-roll roll man. Last year, he was 55.7 percentile in that set. He’s also ended possessions 0.8 fewer times per game. Plus, Dray has only assisted Klay Thompson 1.8 times per game this year, which down from last year despite his overall assist total rising this season. So he's not kicking out quite as much to Klay and that was also a concern for Green. In the press conference, he was saying how Klay was just standing around and that was also messing with the flow. He did say it wasn't Klay's fault and it was basically everyone's fault.

 

The other trendy topic on the Warriors has been them “overpassing” in certain spots. This year, they have 308.7 passes per game, which actually ranks 12th in the NBA despite leading the NBA in assists by a ton. They also lead the NBA in secondary assists at 10.3 per game. Last year, they had 323.1 passes per game and 9.7 secondary assists, so technically they aren't passing more than last year.

 

This all makes sense when Kevin Durant comes into the mix. KD is arguably the best isolation scorer ever, so he should get plenty of shots in that set. This season, the Warriors are still only running isolation a 25th-ranked 6.4 percent of the time and not surprisingly they are first in points per possession. Last season, they were still ranked first in isolation scoring with only 6.3 percent of their plays coming in that set, which ranked 23rd last season.

 

Most of the time, it's KD bringing up the overpassing stuff. That makes sense because KD's 2015-16 OKC team was dead last in the NBA for passes per game, so it's been an adjustment for him with how the Warriors get flow in their offense.

 

Obviously the Warriors have arguably the best offense in NBA history, so they are doing plenty right. They’re tied for first in scoring off handoffs, are second in off-screen scoring, are third in transition scoring, lead in spot-up, and are way out in front in scoring off cuts. Basically, all their passing has helped offset the dip in Stephen Curry’s season — oh and Kevin Durant’s 64.9 true shooting percentage on a 27.5 usage rate certainly helps.

 

So what do we think about Curry? In case you missed it in the past week, he looks like he’s back. He ended his historic 2016 calendar year on a very down note with just 19.0 points per game over his final three. He also only averaged 20.9 points per game in December, which is his worst full month of scoring since November of 2012! Well, 2017 has yielded some attractive numbers, headlined by his 31.8 points per game. Even with the slight bump up, last year's unofficial record for high-volume efficiency of 66.9 true shooting percentage has still only dropped to 63.4 for this season. That’s still really, really good. Plus, he’s also leading the NBA in free throw percentage at 93.2 with 5.0 attempts per game.

 

There are a lot of reasons to explain this MVP-like uptick recently. For starters, the Warriors are getting the ball to him more with Curry touching the ball 88.8 times per game in those four. That’s up from 76.1 in the 2016 portion of this season and also just 73.1 in December. He’s also holding it more with 5.8 minutes of possession, and that is up from 4.6 in December.

 

Obviously when Steph is at his best, it’s usually because he’s locked in from deep. He’s attempted 12.3 treys in his last three. On the year, he’s still getting a similar distribution on open treys and is making them, too.

 

One big difference has been his pullup treys. This year, pullup treys account for 25.4 percent of his shot total. That’s down from his 31.7 percent last year, but really it’s been the performance that has hurt Steph there. He made 43.0 percent of his pullup treys last year, but has fallen off to just 28.7 percent this year. Curry also made 42.5 percent of those in 2014-15, so it’s not like that 43.0 is totally a fluke. He can shoot, ya know?

 

We all knew that Curry was going to see a dip in usage. Last year, he was at a career-high 32.0 and has seen it drop to 27.7 this year. That’s not a bad drop at all considering KD is in the mix. That actually is very close to his MVP 2014-15 season, coming in at 28.3 on his usage rate. 

 

So what does this all mean for fantasy? As most of you fantasy guys know, Curry had arguably the best fantasy season in the fantasy era last season and he did have KD coming, so we all knew he wasn’t going to repeat. Plus, he’s also seen his rebounding, assists and steals all take a slight dip, which all could come back up in no time due to how the Warriors are actually running at a faster pace than last year. Another massive positive for the Warriors is the Spurs are right on their heels just 1.5 games behind them in the standings. Whenever the Warriors players and coaches get questions about rest, they usually talk about securing homecourt advantage.

 

Just quickly on KD, his fantasy owners can’t complain with his No. 1 ranking on the season. Despite how the Grizzlies really attacked him on Friday, KD’s defense has been helpful and his fantasy owners are loving his career-high 1.7 blocks per game. He should go off all season.

 

Trust The Passes Process

 

One team that has been passing a lot has been the 76ers. They actually lead the NBA in passes per game, which is a lot for a team that is 10th in the NBA for assists per game. Plus, that’s a little hard to believe based on how their top scorer, Joel Embiid, is assisted only 57.9 percent of the time as a big man — Jahlil Okafor is only assisted 34.4 percent of the time, too. The 76ers are a lot of fun to watch and it's not just because of The Process.

 

We talk about the 76ers pretty much every week on this column, so I don’t want to spend too much time. We do have to talk about how good the team is with T.J. McConnell at the point. When he starts, the 76ers are 4-1 with three of those wins coming on the road, too.

 

The new 76ers starting unit of McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova and Embiid has a net rating of 19.0! Crazy! That’s only a shade worse than the Mega Death Lineup’s 21.7. Clearly, T.J. should stick in the first unit.

 

One last thing on the 76ers is how much better their defense has been. In their last 15 games, they rank first in the Eastern Conference for defensive rating. Embiid is no joke on guarding perimeter guys and that's been a big reason why. These were great on Sunday.

 

This one is on my guy Caris LeVert:

 

Brook Lopez isn’t a perimeter guy, but making up this ground was special: 

 

In case you missed it yesterday, Jonas Nader joined me on the season-long pod. Lots of stuff about the hot topics. 

One last thing that’s really different is Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) of Hoop Mag putting together some point guard defensive rankings. I chipped in on the eye-test stuff and had a blast doing so. I don’t value rebounding too much, but I put that into my valuation of the point guards. Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley end a lot of possessions on defensive rebounds, so that should count for something. I also really liked what Tyler Johnson does on defense with some added rim protection at the guard spot and also how he can protect the rim. 

 

Take that with ya, Enes Kanter!

 

Here's the link to the piece!



Mike Gallagher has covered fantasy hoops for eight years and this season is his second with Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter talking about a player's shots at the rim.



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