Here in “Notable Numbers,” we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. The topics discussed today include DeMar DeRozan’s increased 3-point proficiency and Kyle Kuzma exceeding expectations.
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* DeRozan Stepping Up By Stepping Back
DeMar DeRozan is one of the most talented shooting guards on planet earth. He is the Raptors all-time leader in career points (12,227), field goals made (4,339), free throws made (3,283). However, last season, he knocked down just 33 3-pointers on 124 attempts (26.6 percent). To put that in context, 229 players made more treys than DeRozan in 2016-17, including such luminaries as Jason Smith, Quincy Acy, Lance Thomas, Andrew Harrison and Brandon Rush. 13 centers nailed more triples than DeRozan. Brook Lopez made 101 more 3-pointers. Marreese Speights made 70 more.
In a league that places such increasing importance on taking and making shots from behind the arc, it has puzzled pundits as to why DeMar seems to deliberately avoid 3-point territory. Last season, he led the NBA in shots from 15-19 feet from the hoop. DeRozan attempted 452 shots from that distance, which was at least 75 more attempts than every other player in the league.
Well, this season, DeRozan has begun to stretch his range. On Tuesday, it was announced that DeRozan had been selected as Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Dec. 18-24. He averaged 34.0 points (third in the NBA), 4.3 assists and 4.0 assists in three games last week, while shooting .571 (32-for-56) from the field. However, the most surprising and impressive statistic from this stretch was his 3-point proficiency. DeRozan averaged 4.3 treys while shooting 65.0 percent from downtown (13-for-20). Considering he made a total of nine 3-pointers over his first two years combined in the league (159 games) and averaged just 0.5 per game last season, 13 triples in a week is quite a statement.
For the season, DeRozan is up to 30 treys on 90 attempts, a respectable 33.3 percent clip. He’s also shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, his highest mark since his rookie season. As defenders are forced to guard him out past the arc, it appears to be creating easier scoring opportunities for him elsewhere on the floor (he’s shooting 68.4 percent at the rim this season). It would be beneficial for both himself and the team if he can continue increasing his attempts from long range.
The other aspect of DeRozan's game that has improved this season is his dishing. He’s currently averaging a career-high 4.9 dimes per game (nearly a full assist higher than his previous best) and a career-high 24.0 percent assist rate.
Sum it all up, and it’s to see why DeRozan is on pace to finish inside the top-40 overall in nine-category fantasy leagues for the first time in his career.
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Attempting to predict how a rookie will transition into the NBA is always a precarious proposition.
In the 2017 NBA draft, there were 26 players selected ahead of Kyle Kuzma. One of the reasons he slipped so far was his relatively inefficient offensive production on the NCAA level. Over his three seasons (96 games) at the University of Utah, Kuzma shot 30.2 percent (51-of-169) from college 3-point range (which is obviously closer than the NBA line) and 63.3 percent from the free-throw stripe.
31 games into his professional career as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kuz is shooting 41.6 percent (64-of- 154) from downtown and 75.7 percent from the charity stripe.
Kuzma has been particularly prolific of late. Over his last six games, he’s averaging 26.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 3.8 treys, while shooting 52.5 percent from the floor, including 52.3 percent from deep. In the process, he joined Elgin Baylor and Jerry West as just the third Laker rookie to score 25-plus points in three straight games.
Just how impressive has Kuzma's season-long production been? Consider this: Since 1985 there have been only eight rookies to average at least 18.0 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting 50 percent or better from the floor. Those eight players are Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Kyle Kuzma is currently averaging 18.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and converting 49.9 percent of his field goal attempts.
Another rookie greatly exceeding efficiency expectations is Boston’s Jayson Tatum. In his lone season at Duke, Jayson Tatum shot 34.2 percent (40-of-117) from behind the college 3-point line. This season as a Celtic, Tatum is shooting a league-leading 50% (56-of-112) from NBA 3-point territory.
* Aldridge All Day
The Spurs have been forced to play without Kawhi Leonard, their best offensive and defensive player, for much of this season. Leonard has appeared in just five games, with Tuesday night being the first time he logged more than 20 minutes. However, San Antonio has not only managed to keep their heads above water, but are an impressive 24-11 on the season, trailing only the powerhouse Warriors and Rockets in the Western Conference. One of the critical reasons for the Spurs sustained success has been the play of LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge’s numbers are up across the board. He’s averaging 22.1 points (on 49.6 percent shooting), 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 blocks and a career-high 1.5 treys. Aldridge has led the Spurs in scoring 28 times this season. Per NBA.com, that’s the most games a player has led a team in scoring in the entire NBA (James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are tied for second, having led their respective teams 24 times apiece).
Aldridge has also already has notched eleven 20-point, 10-rebound games this season after tallying just three such games in the entire 2016-17 campaign. He also has four additional games this season in which he scored at least 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
After finishing outside the top-50 overall in 2016-17, Aldridge ranks inside the top-25 in nine-category leagues in 2017-18. Considering he carried an ADP of 51 back on draft day in October, Aldridge has been one of this year’s most profitable picks.
* Draymond Green recorded his first triple-double of the season on Christmas Day. It was the 20th trip-dub of Green's career, and the Warriors are a perfect 20-0 in those 20 games. According to Elias, among the 24 players who have racked up at least 20 triple-doubles in the NBA, Green is the only player whose career scoring average (9.1) is below 10 points per game.
* Over the Pistons first 25 games of the season, Reggie Jackson averaged 16.4 points and 1.5 treys, while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from 3-point territory. Over his last eight games, Jackson is averaging 9.3 points and 0.6 treys, while shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and 17.2 percent from downtown. On Tuesday afternoon, the Pistons announced that Jackson will be sidelined for 6-8 due to a severe ankle sprain. Drop R-Jax and scoop up Ish Smith.
* Mike Scott has is shooting a blistering 68.8 percent (64-of-93) from the field in his last 11 games, which is the second-best shooting percentage in the league over the timespan. Scott is averaging 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 treys in this current 11-game stretch.