Here in “Notable Numbers,” each week we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts. The topics discussed today include LeBron James’ sustained excellence and the remarkable start to Robert Covington’s career.
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* No Signs of LeBron Letting Up
LeBron James made his NBA debut on Oct. 29, 2003. Just how long ago was that? Here are some other notable events that took place in October of 2003: Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governor of California. "Wicked" premiered on Broadway. Steve Bartman deflected a fly ball away from Cubs outfielder Moises Alou, and Chicago would go on to give up eight runs in that inning and lose to the Marlins 8-3. “In Da Club” by 50 Cent was on top of the music charts.
In that debut contest, LeBron tallied 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals in 42 minutes. The Cavs second-leading scorer in that game was J.R. Bremer, an undrafted point guard out of St. Bonaventure University, who had 20 points off the bench. Other than LeBron, the other 17 players that played in that game all retired by the end of the 2014-15 season. Yet, LeBron is still going strong.
King James is now in his 15th NBA season. He turns 33 years old next month. After leading the league in minutes, LeBron is once again averaging more minutes per game (37.9) than every other player in the league. Before we highlight how incredibly well he’s performing, let’s take a second to focus on just how many minutes he’s logged over these past 14-plus years.
Combining both the regular season and the playoffs, LeBron has appeared in 1,295 games logged a total of 51,045 minutes. The player with the second-most minutes played over that stretch is Joe Johnson with 43,040. Dirk Nowitzki is third (40,505), and Dwyane Wade ranks fourth, with 39,287 minutes. Yes, LeBron has played at least 8,000 more minutes than every other player in the NBA since he entered the league. That’s roughly the equivalent of three extra full seasons of wear-and-tear.
Somehow, LeBron is still producing at an incredibly high level. He is currently shooting 58.2 percent from the floor, which would be the best mark of his career. He’s also averaging career-highs in 3-pointers (1.8 per game), 3-point shooting (41.3 percent), free-throw shooting (78.3 percent) and blocks (1.2 per game). Oh, he’s also dishing out 8.5 assists, trailing only James Harden, Russell Westbrook and John Wall in that category this season. At some point in the future maybe LeBron will slow down slightly; but it won’t be this year.
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* Coveting Robert
Last week in this space we discussed the uniquely impressive start to the career of Kristaps Porzingis. Well, Robert Covington, who inked a four-year, $62 million extension last Wednesday, has posted some similarly superb stats over his first few years in the league.
Covington has played in a total of 227 games over his four-plus seasons in the NBA, and he’s already knocked down 535 3-pointers. Per Basketball-Reference, that’s the third most all-time by a player prior to playing in their 230th career game. To put that in context, that’s 16 more treys than Steph Curry had after his 227th contest.
In addition, RoCo has 358 steals. He’s one of only 60 players with more than 350 steals less than 230 games into his career. Not too shabby for an undrafted kid out of Tennessee State University, huh?
Lastly, Covington is also one of just four players in league history with at least 300 treys, 300 steals and 150 blocks in their first 230 games. The other three members of this club are Paul Pierce, Latrell Sprewell and Vince Carter. In a league that places tremendous value on 3-and-D wings, Covington is at the very top of the genre.
* Enes The Menace
Heading into this season, the center spot in New York appeared to be a jumbled mess, with plenty of candidates vying for a playing time.
However, Enes Kanter has been able to fight off all challengers and maintain the starting gig right from opening night. And Kanter has continued to earn increased playing time by exceeding expectations. He is currently averaging 13.8 points and 10.6 rebounds, while shooting 64.0 percent from the floor. Per Basketball-Reference, only three players in league history have averaged at least 13 points and ten boards while shooting 64 percent or better over the course of a full season: Wilt Chamberlain (3 times), Artis Gilmore (twice) and Rudy Gobert (in 2016-17).
An additional benefit Kanter has brought to the table has been his surprisingly impressive free throw stroke. Enes is 28-of-31 from the charity stripe (90.3 percent) this season. None of three players listed above shot better than 78 percent from the line. If he can somehow maintain his current efficiency, Kanter would become the first player ever to average a double-double while shooting over 60 percent from the field and over 90 percent from the free-throw line. In fact, the only player to average a double-double while slashing even 60/80 was David Lee back in 2006-07. He finished the year at exactly 60 percent from the floor and 81.5 percent from the stripe, and averaged 10.7 points and 10.4 rebounds.
* A Return to Normalcy
One of the weird trends we highlighted earlier this season was the shockingly impressive free throw shooting of Andre Drummond and stunningly poor free throw shooting of Russell Westbrook.
Over the Pistons first nine games this season, Drummond made 77.8 percent of his free throws.
Over the Thunder’s first 11 games this season, Westbrook made 57.7 percent of his free throws.
Over the Pistons last eight games, Drummond is shooting 47.6 percent from the line.
Over the Thunder’s last five games, Westbrook is shooting 90.2 percent from the line.
On a somewhat similar note, Aaron Gordon generated a lot of praise early on for his 3-point accuracy. Over his first ten games this season, Gordon was shooting a league-leading 59.5 percent (25-of-42) from behind-the-arc. Over his last five games, Gordon is shooting 22.6 percent (7-of-31). As an aside, the Magic were 7-3 in those first ten contests and are 0-5 since.
The moral of the story is to always keep small sample size data in perspective and assume players will regress or progress towards their career averages.
* Kyrie Irving is getting plenty of praise, as well he should, for the Celtics incredible run. However, 21-year old Jaylen Brown has been a beast of late as well. Over the Celtics last five games, Brown is averaging 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 treys, and 1.8 blocks, while shooting 55.9 percent from the floor and 48.1 percent from downtown.
* Since I mentioned Kyrie, I feel obligated to highlight his spectacular play. Over his last two games, Irving has 77 combined points on just 34 field goal attempts. He’s shooting 76.5 percent from the floor, 76.9 percent from 3-point range and 93.8 percent from the stripe. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Irving joined Kevin McHale as just the second player in Celtics franchise history to score over 75 points on better than 75.0 percent shooting over a two-game span.
* Kyle Korver has attempted 46 shots over the Cavs last seven games. 42 of those 46 shots have been from behind the 3-point arc.
* Over the first 275 games of his career, Tim Hardaway Jr. tallied five or more assists and five or more rebounds in the same game just twice. Over his last 22 games, THJ has had at least five assists and five rebounds in the same game five times… Over his last four, Hardaway Jr. is averaging 20.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.8 treys and 1.8 steals.
* If you are looking for a player on the verge of breaking out, keep a very close eye on John Collins. He’s increased his point total in five straight games. Over Atlanta’s last three, Collins is averaging 17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds, while shooting a mind-boggling 82.8 percent (24-of-29) from the floor. On the season, he is averaging 18.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per-36 minutes. With Luke Babbitt (back) and Mike Muscala (ankle) currently nursing injuries (both players have already been ruled out for Wednesday), Collins has a chance to make some noise in the short-term, which should lead to a larger slice of the playing time pie going forward. At the very least, I’m going to invest heavily in him in all DFS formats on Wednesday night.