Here in “Notable Numbers,” each week we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts. Topics tackled today include Lonzo Ball’s brutal shooting percentages and Jayson Tatum’s impressive efficiency.
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* Mythical Numbers From The Unicorn
One of the more pressing questions coming into this season was whether or not Kristaps Porzingis would be able to handle the pressure and responsibility of captaining the Knicks after Carmelo Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City. Well, only a few weeks into the 2017-18 campaign, and I think we have our answer. Porzingis has exceeded even the most optimistic prognostications. He has scored 300 points over the Knicks first ten games, becoming the first player in franchise history to accomplish that feat. In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, KP is the youngest player for any team to score at least 300 points in his first ten games of a season. Four other players achieved that feat before their 23rd birthday (Rick Barry, Shaquille O’Neal, Carmelo Anthony and Giannis Antetokounmpo), but none were as young as Porzingis (22 years, 97 days) at the time of his 10th game.
Porzingis has also been incredible in the clutch. In each of the Knicks last two games, they entered the fourth quarter down double-digits. However, KP poured in a total of 24 points over those fourth quarters, while shooting 77.8 percent from the floor. On the season, Porzingis is averaging 8.8 points in the final frame, which is second in the league, behind only LeBron James.
And it’s not just points that Porzingis is producing. In Tuesday’s thrilling win, Kristaps also blocked three shots and knocked down four 3-pointers. It was his 13th career game with at least three rejections and three treys. That’s as many such games as all other players in the entire Knicks franchise has combined.
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* Simmons Still Stuffing the Stat Sheet
Another young player who has exceeded expectations and who we’ve discussed previously in space is the Sixers’ Ben Simmons. Big Ben has ten games on his professional resume, and those ten contests have been remarkably impressive. Per Elias, he’s one of only two players in league history with at least 100 rebounds and 80 assists in the first ten games of his career.
On the season, Simmons is averaging 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game. There are only three players in NBA history who were able to average at least 17 points, 10 boards and eight dimes per game for a full season: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook.
* Is Tatum The Truth?
Continuing on our theme, Jayson Tatum is off to a surprisingly solid start in Boston. Not only has he been productive, he’s also been incredibly efficient. These are typically not adjectives attached to teenagers just getting their feet wet in the Association. Tatum has started all 11 games for the Celtics (who are currently riding a nine-game win streak) and is averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists. The only player under the age of 20 to ever average at least 14 points and six boards over the course of a full season was Carmelo Anthony in 2003-04.
However, it’s Tatum’s efficiency that has been equally eye-opening. He is shooting 50.0 percent from the floor, 52.9 percent from 3-point range and 82.2 percent from the free throw line. He’s one of only three players with more than 100 total field goal attempts shooting at least 50 percent the field and from behind the arc. The other two are Otto Porter and Aaron Gordon. Among those three, Tatum is the only player also shooting above 80 percent from the stripe.
Tatum currently ranks just outside the top-50 overall in nine-category fantasy leagues. It’s safe to assume his percentages will come back down to earth a bit, but if he continues to see 30-plus minutes a night, he’ll still provide solid mid-round value all year long.
* Harden’s Historic Night
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge James Harden’s incredible performance in the Rockets’ recent win over the Jazz on Sunday night. The Beard poured in a career-high 56 points (on 19-of-25 shooting) and dished out 13 assists. Per Elias, the only other players ever shoot 75 percent or better while taking over 20 shots and distributing at least a dozen assists in a game are all in the Hall of Fame: Wilt Chamberlain (three times), Magic Johnson (twice), Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, and Clyde Drexler.
In addition, nine of Harden’s 13 assists led to 3-point makes by his teammates. That means Harden accounted for a total of 91 points in the game, which is the second-highest total ever for a single NBA game. The all-time record is held by Wilt Chamberlain (104), who had two assists on the night he poured in 100 points.
* Big Baller Bricks
One young player not living up to the hype early on has been Lonzo Ball. Lonzo has been dishing out plenty of assists (6.9) and rebounding at a solid rate (6.4 boards per game); however, he has struggled mightily with his shot. Per Basketball-Reference, Ball is just the second player since 1984 to attempt more than 100 shots yet shoot below 30 percent from the floor over the first ten games of a season. But it’s not just his field goal percentage that is putrid.
Ball is currently shooting just 29.9 percent from the floor, including 23.4 percent from downtown, and 53.8 percent from the charity stripe. Just how horrible and unprecedented are those percentages? According to Basketball-Reference, no qualified player in NBA history has ever finished a season shooting below 30 percent from the floor, 25 percent from 3-point territory AND below 55 percent from the free throw line. In points leagues, Ball is still an asset. However, in nine-cat formats, he’s been dragging down categories.
* Bledsoe the Buck
Our own Mike Gallagher did a phenomenal job yesterday breaking down the Suns/Bucks trade involving Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe and multiple draft picks (you can read it here). I’ll add just one stat: Bledsoe was one of only seven players to average at least 21 points, six rebounds and four assists per game last season. The other six were James Harden, LeBron James, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry and John Wall… Milwaukee is not an ideal landing spot, and Bledsoe won’t have the same green light he had in Phoenix, but he does have the talent to put up plenty of counting stats.
*LBJ vs. MJ
LeBron James appeared in his 1,072nd regular-season game on Tuesday evening. Why is that number significant, you ask? Well, that happens to be the exact number of games Michael Jordan appeared in during his illustrious NBA career. Considering how often LeBron gets compared to MJ, it seems like a good time to see how they stack up against each other given an opportunity for a (relatively) apples-to-apples comparison.
Michael Jordan’s cumulative career stats:
50-point games: 31
LeBron James' cumulative career stats:
50-point games: 11