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Notable Numbers: White Hot

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Here in “Notable Numbers,” we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today we highlight, among other topics, Derrick White’s scoring surge, Luka Doncic’s historic start and Trae Young’s new and improved approach.

 

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* The Don on a Historic Pace
The Mavs played their 40th game of the season on Monday night, and Luka Doncic scored a team-high 27 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers. On the edge of the mid-point of his rookie campaign, Doncic has already shown he is a truly special, well-rounded player.

 

Looking for proof? Consider this: Per Basketball-Reference, Doncic is just the third player in NBA history to tally at least 750 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists over the first 40 games of his NBA career. The other two players in this unique club are Oscar Robertson (1960-61) and Magic Johnson (1979-80).

 

It’s also important to keep in mind that Doncic is still just a teenager. He doesn’t turn 20 until the final day in February.

 

Luka has also already notched six 20/5/5 games. The only other rookies, age 19 or younger, to register more games with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five dimes are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

 

One of the keys to Doncic’s scoring success this season has been his remarkable ability to get to the free-throw line consistently. In the month of December, Doncic averaged 8.3 free-throw attempts per game. James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo were the only two players in the league that earned more trips to the charity stripe last month. Only one rookie (Blake Griffin) in the previous 25 years averaged more than eight free-throw attempts per game for a full season.

 

Doncic has struggled with his efficiency of late, shooting below 40 percent over Dallas’ past five games, but his healthy doses of boards, dimes and treys help stabilize his fantasy value. Fascinating to think what kind of numbers this kid will put up once he acclimates himself to the NBA and spends a few years weight training with the Mavs strength coaches. The sky is the limit.


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* Young’s Improved Approach
While we are discussing Doncic, let’s check in on the player he was traded for on draft night.

 

Early on in his rookie campaign, Trae Young fired away at will, from all angles, often from far away. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in inefficient offensive production. Over the first 30 games of the 2018-19 season, Young attempted 5.5 3-pointers per game. Many of those attempts were forced and/or contested, and he shot just 25 percent from downtown. This dragged his overall field goal percentage down, as he converted only 38 percent from the floor.

 

However, dating back to mid-December, Young has made a concerted effort to improve the quality and reduce the quantity of his shots. Over the Hawks' last 10 games, he is averaging 3.2 3-point attempts per game, and is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. His field goal percentage has improved as well, jumping up to 44.3 percent. His assist rate has also improved in conjunction with him attempting fewer long-range jumpers.

 

This has resulted in a dramatic improvement in his fantasy ranking. Young ranked outside the top-250 overall in nine-category formats over the first 30 games. He is at 139 during this current ten-game stretch.

 

It’s also worth noting that his disciplined approach has benefitted the Hawks as well. Atlanta was 7-23 over their first 30 games. They are 5-5 over their last ten. Young’s Plus/Minus over those first 30 games was minus-9.1. It’s at plus-1.3 over the past 10 games.


* Slo-Mo Style
Another player that has seen his fantasy value spike in recent weeks has been Memphis’ wing, Kyle Anderson.

 

The Grizzlies lured Anderson away from San Antonio this summer by inking him to a four-year, $37.2 million contract. The first impression and early returns weren't overly encouraging. Anderson scored more than 10 points just once over the first five weeks of the season. His assist and rebound rates weren’t where Memphis had hoped they would be either. Over the first 28 games of 2018-19, he averaged 6.7 points (on 48.8 percent shooting), 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists 1.1 steals and 0.2 treys in 29.2 minutes. He ranked 133rd overall in nine-cat leagues.

 

On December 15th, Anderson missed a game due to an ankle sprain. Since returning, he’s been a far more efficient scorer and an improved player. In the last 11 games the Grizzlies have played, Anderson is averaging 11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.4 triples in 32.5 minutes, while shooting a sweltering 65.5 percent from the floor.

 

During this current, nearly month-long stretch, Anderson ranks inside the top-50 in nine-category formats. He’s one of those players that has a boring game and will very rarely produce any eye-popping numbers, but he fills the stat sheet each night and is solid in nearly every category. He is still unowned in over 25% of Yahoo Leagues, and my guess is that he’s greatly undervalued by the vast majority of casual fantasy owners. Thus, I’d send out some offers and see if I could snag him at a discount.


* Gordon Getting it Going?
Gordon Hayward also got off to a slow start this season for the Celtics. Although there were flashes of his former All-Star self, those instances were few and far between. He closed out 2018 with a scoreless dud of a performance when he missed all six of his field goal attempts in a loss to Sacramento on New Year’s Eve.

 

However, since the calendar flipped to January, there’s reason to be optimistic. He poured in a season-high 35 points in a victory over the Timberwolves on Jan. 2nd and followed that up flirting with a triple-double and finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight dimes in a home win vs. the Mavericks. Hayward has scored more than 10 points in each of the three games Boston has played in 2019, which is his longest such streak this season.

 

The buy-low window on Hayward remains open for the time being, but could slam shut shortly.

* White Hot
The Spurs, currently riding a league-best five-game winning streak, are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. And a major reason for their recent success has been the stellar play of second-year guard Derrick White.

 

White has scored at least 12 points in each of San Antonio’s last five victories and is averaging 17.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 treys in 30.7 minutes per contest during this stretch. However, the most impressive aspect of White’s recent productions has been his incredible efficiency. He’s shooting a scorching 76.2 percent from the floor, 75 percent from downtown (6-of-8) and 90.5 percent from the free-throw line, while averaging just 0.8 turnovers per game.

 

And White has plenty of defensive upside as well. He’s averaging 1.5 steals per-36 minutes and recorded six steals in just 28 minutes in the Spurs last loss, back on December 28th.

 

Sum it all up and White ranks 11th overall in nine-category fantasy leagues over the last two weeks. Of course, his shooting percentages are unsustainable and will regress rapidly towards the mean, but he’s still an above-average marksman that takes care of the basketball.




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