Here in "Notable Numbers," we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today, I'll discuss some exceedingly solid production from some surprise starters.
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* Dinwiddie Steps In and Steps Up
On November 15th, the Nets lost to the Nuggets in Denver. It was their third consecutive defeat and, 11 games into the 2019-20 campaign, they were just 4-7 on the season. The following day, it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be unable to play in Chicago due to a shoulder impingement. Irving has returned to the court since.
Yet, in the six games he's missed, the Nets are 5-1, thanks in large part to the player who replaced Kyrie in the starting lineup. Spencer Dinwiddie was putting up decent numbers over the first 11 games of the year, but has taken his production to another level of late. Since being inserted as a starter, Dinwiddie is averaging 24.7 points, 6.7 assists, 2.7 boards, 1.7 triples, a steal and a block. He's also getting to the line a ton (8.2 attempts per game) and knocking down 93.9% of his free-throws. Dinwiddie had never scored 20+ points in more than three straight games, but has scored at least 20 in each of his last six. On the season, Dinwiddie is averaging 8.1 free throw attempts per-36 minutes. Per NBA.com, the only guards attempting more freebies per-36 minutes are James Harden (13.7) and Luka Doncic (9.4).
During this stretch, Dinwiddie is fourth among all Eastern Conference players in points per game, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal and Trae Young. He leads Brooklyn in scoring, assists, free throws made/attempted/percentage and usage rate.
Dinwiddie's long term fantasy success is obviously tied to the health of Kyrie Irving. The Nets have been cryptic about Irving's status going forward and haven't provided an update since last week. Still, as I discussed on this week's podcast with my guy Matt Stroup, Dinwiddie has value even with Kyrie in the mix. In that respect, he's sorta like the hoops version of Chargers running back Austin Ekeler. When Melvin Gordon is out, Eckler is a stud RB1. Yet, even when Gordon plays, Ekeler still contributes enough to use as a FLEX play. Last season, Dinwiddie scored 30+ points off the bench four times, and 25+ points twelve times.
* The French Prince
Frank Ntilikina is another New York-based point guard that has taken the reigns of his team in the absence of others. It took an injury to Elfrid Payton (hamstring) and an unfortunate situation that kept Dennis Smith Jr. away from the team, for Frank to land the starting PG gig in NYC. However, he's made the most of his opportunity.
In the 12 games he's started, Ntilikina is averaging 7.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists (vs. just 1.0 turnovers), 2.1 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.0 made 3-pointers. He obviously doesn't excel in any one category other than steals, but his all-round consistency provides excellent value for fantasy folks in nine-category formats. Dating back to November 1st, Frank ranks 61st overall in nine-cat leagues, or two spots ahead of Joel Embiid.
Over the Knicks' last six games, French Frank has dished out 28 dimes, recorded 11 thefts while only turning the ball over four times. That's a ridiculous assist-to-turnover ratio of 7-to-1. On the season, Ntilikina is the only player in the NBA with at least 50 assists, 25 steals and ten blocks, yet fewer than 20 turnovers.
No player has ever averaged more than four assists and two steals, yet one or fewer turnovers for a full season. As a starter, Ntilikina is averaging 4.3 apg, 2.1 spg and 1.0 turnovers.
Yes, Ntilikina's FG% isn't pretty, and he will likely cede some playing once Elf Payton is healthy. Still, Frank certainly deserves to keep the starting PG gig, which should be enough to continue producing favorable, fantasy-friendly stat lines.
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* Mook Making His Mark
Ntilikina isn't the only Knickerbocker exceeding expectations this month. Marcus Morris has been scoring at a remarkable rate, especially from behind the arc.
Through the 12 games New York has played in November, Morris is averaging 21.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 3.5 trifectas, while shooting 44.2% from the floor, 54.5% from downtown, and 82% from the charity stripe.
He's one of only three players averaging at least 20 points, seven boards and three made 3-pointers per game this month. The other two are Luka Doncic and Karl-Anthony Towns. Morris ranks 38th overall in nine-category formats in November.
Coming into 2018-19, no player had ever no player in NBA history has ever shot 50% or better from 3-point range over a full season, while attempting more than five 3-pointers per game. The highest all-time mark with 5+ attempts currently belongs to Kyle Korver at 49.2% in 2014-15. Stephen Curry's career-high is 45.5%. Over the first five weeks of this season, Marcus Morris is shooting 51% from downtown on 5.8 3-point attempts. The bad news is that this accuracy isn't sustainable. The good news is that he's earned the right to keep firing away.
* Can THJ Stick In The Starting Lineup?
Tim Hardaway Jr. was stumbled out of the gates this season. Over the Mavs first 13 contests, he was averaging 10.2 points and 1.5 assists in 22.2 minutes off the bench, while shooting a putrid 34.4% from the floor, 29.5% from downtown and 73% from the charity stripe. He hit rock bottom in back-to-back games ten days ago, when he shot 2-of-11 from the floor vs. Toronto and laid a goose egg (on 0-of-5 shooting) two nights later vs. the Spurs.
Then, starting shooting guard Seth Curry unexpectedly was forced to miss three straight games due to an illness. Coach Rick Carlisle decided to shake things up, and inserted Hardaway into the starting lineup, in hopes of resuscitating his season. Well, it seems to have worked. After scoring more than 15 points just once in the first 13 games of the season, he scored 16+ points in three straight.
Dallas won each of the first three games it has played with THJ in the starting lineup, and over those three contests, he averaged 22.3 points, 4.3 assists and 4.3 made 3-pointers in 26.7 minutes while shooting a scorching 66.7% from the floor, 65% from behind the arc and 83% from the FT line.
Hardaway came back down to earth Tuesday night, when the Clippers put the clamps on the entire Mavericks offense. THJ scored only eight points but did have three steals, and encouragingly, logged over 29 minutes, his second-highest total this season.
Of course, THJ, a notoriously streaky shooter, is not going to be able to maintain his ridiculously high percentages of late. Still, even with a regression to the mean, there is reason to believe he will continue to provide plenty of points and triples. Hardaway also said over the weekend that his left leg finally feels close to 100% after undergoing surgery due to a stress fracture in April. "My leg feels amazing," Hardaway said. "I'm getting back to my old self and just trying to make the most out of the opportunity right now."
* Over the first five years of his career (2013 through 2018), Giannis Antetokounmpo made three or more 3-pointers in a game a total of five times. In 2019 alone, he's done it nine times.
* Unlike the two Knicks noted above, Julius Randle has struggled mightily this season. He is the only player in the NBA averaging more than 14 FG attempts, yet shooting below 45% from the floor and below 65% from the FT line. According to Basketball-Reference, the only player since 2001 to average 14+ FG attempts and more than four free throws, yet shoot below 45% on FG's and 65% on FT's is Antoine Walker.
* Over Kevin Knox's first six games this season, he averaged 12.0 PPG and 2.2 made 3PT's, while shooting 44% on FGs, 46% on 3PTs and 79% on FTs. Over Knox's last 11 games, he's averaging 5.9 PPG and 0.9 made 3PT's, while slashing 34/31/57.
* As if Karl-Anthony Towns needed to add anything to his incredible repertoire, he's developing into an elite long-range marksman. KAT is averaging 4.0 made trifectas per game and has knocked down a total of 60 triples this season, trailing only James Harden and Buddy Hield. In addition, Steph Curry is the only player in league history to average at least four made treys and shoot above 44% from the floor. Towns is currently shooting 44.4% from downtown.
* Coming into this 2019-20, the all-time record for "Most Free Throw Attempts Per 36 Minutes" in a season was Wilt Chamberlain at 12.6 FTA's (in 1961-62, the year he averaged 50.4 points per game). This season, James Harden is averaging 13.7 free throw attempts per-36 minutes. Harden is making 12.2 FT's per game this season. Nobody in NBA history has ever averaged more than 10.6 made freebies.