Here in “Notable Numbers,” we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. The topics discussed today include the incomparable start to Joel Embiid’s career and Jrue Holiday’s incredible production during the Pelicans nine-game winning streak.
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* Green With Envy
The Grizzlies are a mess right now. They’ve lost 14 straight games (which is more losses than the Rockets have this entire season) and have been forced to shift their focus to lottery positioning, rather than racking up meaningless victories in a lost season. Mike Conley (knee) has already been shut down for the year. Marc Gasol will likely be rested more frequently going forward. Tyreke Evans is sidelined with a rib injury. Andrew Harrison (wrist) will be out for at least a week. That’s four of the Grizzlies top-five scorers.
Thus, there are plenty of minutes, and rebounds, and scoring opportunities up for grabs in Memphis. Which brings us to Mr. JaMychal Green...
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Green has posted a double-double in each of Memphis’ last six games. That’s the longest double-double streak by a Memphis player this season, and a career-best streak for J-Mike. In fact, the only other player with a longer double-double streak for the franchise this decade is Zach Randolph.
Over this current six-game stretch, Green is averaging 13.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 treys in 33.2 minutes per contest.
There’s a strong possibility that Green will lead the Grizzlies in total minutes over the final five weeks of the season. And depending on how the team handles Gasol and Evans going forward, JaMychal could be their top scorer and rebounder as well. Fantasy success if so often about being in the right place at the right time. Green is an ideal position to rack up stats in relatively inconsequential games. However, those boards and buckets count just the same as stats compiled in pressurized situations with the postseason on the line. Snag him off the waiver wire if he’s still floating around out there.
* Jrue The Damaja
Many predicted that DeMarcus Cousins’ devastating Achilles injury would derail the Pelicans season, especially considering how competitive the Western Conference playoff race has been.
Plot twist: The Pelicans are one of the league’s hottest teams right now and have reeled off nine straight victories, catapulting themselves into the top half of the West’s crowded postseason picture. Much of the credit for the team’s success has been heaped on Anthony Davis, and for good reason. Davis is currently playing at an otherworldly level, as we detailed here in Notable Numbers last week.
However, Jrue Holiday has also played a crucial role in the Pelicans unexpected success. Over New Orleans’ current nine-game winning streak, Holiday is averaging 25.1 points, 8.6 assists 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 triples, and 1.3 steals, while shooting a scorching 52.0 percent from the field, including 43.3 percent from downtown.
* Humbled Horford
The Celtics are 5-1 since the All-Star break, but their stud forward/center has struggled mightily over those six contests. Al Horford is averaging just 8.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while converting only 38.0 percent of his field goal attempts.
Part of the reason for his statistical downturn has been a decrease in playing time. Horford averaged 32.2 minutes per contest in the 54 games he appeared in before the break. He is logging just 26.3 minutes a night since.
In addition, he’s a career 52.6 percent shooter, so there is no reason to believe his percentages won’t progress towards the mean over the final 20 games of the year. In fact, Horford is shooting a career-best 43.3 percent from downtown in 2017-18. For nervous owners out there, this is likely nothing more than a blip on the radar. As long as coach Brad Stevens plays him close to 30 minutes a night, Horford will be a reliable fantasy contributor to close out this campaign.
* C Lee Sinking
Horford has seen his minutes reduced, but Courtney Lee has seen his playing time decimated.
Lee was one of the more pleasant surprises in fantasy basketball over the first half of the season. In the 59 games prior to the All-Star break, Lee was averaging career-highs in points (13.1), assists (2.7) and triples (1.6) across 32.6 minutes per contest. He didn’t miss a single game and was shooting a league-leading 93.8 percent from the charity stripe. (At one point, he made 52 straight free-throws, breaking the Knicks franchise record). He ranked 58th overall in nine-category fantasy leagues over the first half of the season.
Since returning from the All-Star break, it’s been an entirely different story for C Lee. With the Knicks determined to give plenty of minutes to their young guards (Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson), veterans like Lee have taken on a different role. In the five games Lee has played since All-Star weekend (he was not available Tuesday night due to personal reasons), he’s averaged 7.4 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.6 steals. He’s been efficient, shooting 50 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent from downtown. The issue is solely playing time. He is logging just 18.6 minutes a night.
Unlike Al Horford, C Lee’s value is unlikely to bounce back anywhere close to his high-water mark. In fact, he belongs on waivers in most fantasy formats.
* Are you Jokic-ing me?
Nikola Jokic entered March coming off his best month as a pro. Coach Mike Malone was adamant that he be included in the MVP conversation and, based on Jokic’s production, it didn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea.
The Nuggets played ten games in February and Jokic averaged 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 1.8 treys.
However, March has been a mess. Paul Millsap returned from his wrist injury and seemingly siphoned Jokic's superpowers as if he was a Monstar from Space Jam. In the three games he has played since Millsap returned to the starting lineup, Jokic is averaging just 7.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists, while shooting 31.8 percent from the floor, 14.3 percent from distance, and 63.6 percent from the stripe.
Things hit rock bottom on Tuesday night when Malone benched Jokic for the entire fourth quarter in a disappointing loss to the Mavericks. Let’s hope the benching produces the desired result and snaps Jokic back on track.
* Embiid’s Unparalleled Start
Joel Embiid played in his 82nd career game Sunday night in Milwaukee. Yes, it took him far, far longer than most to accrue those 82 appearances. Nonetheless, the numbers he’s posted over the full season’s worth of games is undeniably impressive. It seems like an excellent delineation point to compare him with some other great players.
Consider this (per Basketball-Reference),
Over the first 82 games of their respective careers:
- Joel Embiid scored more points than Larry Bird and LeBron James.
- Embiid grabbed more rebounds than Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Andre Drummond.
- Embiid blocked more shots than Rudy Gobert, Yao Ming and Dwight Howard.
- And, the cherry on top, Embiid made more 3-pointers than Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
Joel Embiid is the first and only player in league history with at least 1,800 points, 800 rebounds and 80 made 3-pointers over the first 82 games of his career. In fact, no one else is even close. No other player has ever tallied even 1,600 points, 600 boards and 60 treys.
Not a bad start to an NBA journey. Let’s hope the big guy can stay healthy, so we see how this whole thing plays out…