Here in “Notable Numbers,” each week we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts. The topics discussed today include a pair of rookie guards exceeding expectations and two others off to slow starts.
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* Kingly Per-Minute Production
Here are the per-36 minute averages for Sacramento’s three point guards this season. See if you can guess which stat line belongs to which King.
Player A: 15.8 points, 6.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 3-pointers.
Player B: 14.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 0.5 3-pointers.
Player C: 12.5 points, 3.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 3-pointers.
Coming into this season, Mason was considered merely an afterthought by most pundits. Everyone in Sacramento was wildly excited to watch De'Aaron Fox, the top-5 pick with blinding speed impressive college credentials. Then the Kings signed free agent veteran George Hill, who was coming off the best year of his career, having averaged 16.9 points (on 47.7 percent shooting), 4.2 assists, and 1.9 treys for Utah in 2016-17. Mason was selected in the second round (34th overall) and it was assumed he’d rarely see the court if both Hill and Fox remained healthy.
However, Sacramento has been toying with playing two PG’s alongside each other of late, which has allowed Mason to see an uptick in playing time. While Fox has not yet lived up to the enormous hype he initially generated and Hill has fallen far short of expectations, Mason has made an undeniably impressive first impression. Over Sacramento’s last six contests, Mason is averaging 10.3 points and 4.5 assists in just 21.0 minutes, while shooting a scorching 53.3 percent from the floor, 66.7 percent from downtown and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Unfortunately, this all adds up to a committee timeshare that caps the fantasy value of all involved. However, for those in deep leagues (and especially in dynasty formats), Mason is now squarely on the radar. The other conclusion to be drawn is that both Fox and Hill are unlikely to see their disappointing production improve dramatically, as Mason will continue to fight for his fair share of playing time.
* Mitchell Making His Name Known
Another rookie guard significantly exceeding expectations is Utah’s Donovan Mitchell. After a relatively solid October, in which he averaged 9.3 points, 2.4 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 22.2 minutes, Mitchell has exploded on the scene in November. In the 14 games the Jazz has played this month, Mitchell is averaging 17.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 treys in 31.3 minutes.
How impressive are those numbers? Per Basketball-Reference, only two rookies in NBA history have averaged at least 17 points, four boards and two 3-pointers per game in their debut season. Those two players were Allen Iverson and Stephen Curry.
It’s asking a lot to assume Mitchell can continue at this pace, as he’ll likely hit the rookie wall at some point. However, the Jazz desperately needs offense wherever they can find it and Mitchell has proven he can put the ball in the bucket. Also, he’s been able to improve his efficiency as the season wears on. He shot just 34.5 percent from the floor over his first 12 games, but has connected on 43.0 percent of his attempts in the nine games since.
* French Prince Problems
On the other end of the rookie guard expectation spectrum sits Frank Ntilikina. The neophyte from France has been unable to find his offensive rhythm since opening night. On the season, Frank is shooting just 34.3 percent from the floor, 25.0 percent from downtown and 64.3 percent from the line. He has shot above 50 percent from the floor only twice over the first 18 games of his NBA career.
Among the 231 players that have logged at least 300 minutes this season, only two are shooting below 35 percent from the field, south of 30 percent from 3-point range and below 65 percent from the stripe: Lonzo Ball and Frank Ntilikina. (That’s the not the company you wanna keep when it comes to shooting accuracy, French Prince.)
Unlike Lonzo, Ntilikina’s mechanics and form are solid, and he has a history of efficient shooting on his resume. Last season, as an 18-year old playing in France’s Pro A League, Frank shot 48.5 percent from the floor, including 43.1 percent from downtown, over 32 games. He also shot well in international competitions. He made 43 percent of his spot-up jumpers and a 68 percent of his pull-up J’s at the U18 European Championship in 2016. He’s also been able to salvage some fantasy value this season by providing steals and assists (averaging 6.3 dimes and 2.6 steals per-36 minutes). Ntilikina’s percentages will start to improve sooner rather than later, and he has tremendous upside in dynasty leagues, but he’s tough to roster in re-draft formats at the moment.
* Monk Missing in Action
There were some questions marks surrounding Malik Monk heading into the 2017 draft, but the one thing everybody agreed on was that he would be able to fill it up offensively right away. However, 20 games into his rookie year, Monk is shooting just 34.6percent from the floor and 76.9 percent from the charity stripe.
In addition, his inability to defend has landed on the outside of Charlotte's rotation looking in. Prior to Saturday's loss to San Antonio, Monk had played a combined total of four minutes over the Hornets previous four games, including two DNP-CD’s. On the season, he is averaging just 1.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.3 steals in 17.6 minutes per game. He ranks 305th overall in nine-category fantasy leagues.
Kemba Walker (shoulder) has been ruled out of Wednesday’s game, so Monk should see an uptick in minutes. However, coach Steve Clifford has already declared Michael Carter-Williams will start at point guard. Monk should be left on waivers in all standard leagues.
* KP’s Elbow Issue:
Kristaps Porzingis was an absolute monster over the first few weeks of the 2017-18 campaign. With Carmelo Anthony relocated to OKC, KP came storming out of the gate. Over New York’s first 11 games, he averaged 30.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 treys and 2.3 blocks in 32.4 minutes, while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 41.1 percent from 3-point territory.
However, on November 7th, in a home win over the Hornets, Porzingis suffered an elbow contusion. He was forced to sit out the Knicks next game. After practice the following day, KP told reporters that he would likely need a have a procedure done to address the bursitis in his right elbow after the season. "When I hit [the elbow] again it just swells up and it’s sensitive and I can’t stretch my arm," Porzingis said. "It bothers me a little bit but not that bad... But I think once the season’s over, I might have to do something about it. I just can’t keep going like this every year.”
Over the last seven games he has appeared in, from November 13th thru this Monday, KP is averaging 21.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 triples and 2.1 blocks in 34.1 minutes, while shooting 37.5 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from downtown. Porzingis is actually playing more minutes of late, but his scoring has dropped off drastically due primarily to the dip in shooting percentage. KP has avoided blaming his struggles on the elbow issue, but the correlation seems quite strong. It will be interesting to see if Kristaps can snap of his mini-slump and return to the ultra-efficient unicorn we fell in love with back in October.
* Quick Hits:
With so much attention (understandably) devoted to Giannis Antetokounmpo, and even newcomer Eric Bledsoe, it seems Khris Middleton’s fine play has flown under the radar. Prior to Tuesday night, when Middleton was a game-time decision due to illness and ended up playing just 23 minutes in the Bucks blowout win, he was averaging 19.3 points, 5.6 boards and 4.6 assists this season. Only five other players are averaging at last 19 points, 5.5 boards and 4.5 dimes in 2017-18: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.
* After a sluggish start to the season, Willie Cauley-Stein is starting to heat up. Over the Kings last seven games, WCS is averaging 15.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks, while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 73.1 percent from the stripe. Cauley-Stein flashed his upside late last season when he nearly averaged a double-double over the final month. He should be universally owned in all formats.