Here in "Notable Numbers," we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting statistics and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today, I'll discuss the uniquely impressive start to Zion Williamson's NBA career, Larry Nance's rising fantasy value, as well a the fallout from the mammoth four-team, 12-player trade that was agreed to Tuesday evening.
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* Eying Zion
We are just two weeks into the "Zion Williamson Experience" it's been a delightful, entertaining ride thus far.
When you watch Zion play, it often seems like he's only playing at somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of his total capacity. Yes, he produces some incredible highlights on occasion, but he has plenty of rust to knock off as he gets into game shape, and it looks like he's about 15-20 pounds from his ideal playing weight. Yet, he posts incredibly impressive numbers nearly every time he steps onto the floor.
Through seven games, Zion is averaging 19.6 points (on 54.6% shooting), 8.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 27.1 minutes per contest. To put that in context, according to Basketball-Reference, he is the first player in NBA history to tally at least 125 points, 50 rebounds and 15 assists in his first seven career games, despite logging less than 200 total minutes.
Zion already has four games with more than 20 points (while shooting over 50% from the floor) and more than five boards. The only player with more such games this early in his career was Shaquille O'Neal in 1993.
Are there flaws in his game? Yes. After nailing all four of his 3-pointers in his debut, Williamson has since gone 0-for-5 from downtown. The sub-60% free-throw shooting is also definitely a concern, especially considering he hit just 130 of his 203 FT attempts (64%) in college. Zion also hasn't supplied the defensive stats we were hoping for early on, with just four steals and two blocks thus far. (He failed to block a single shot in four preseason contests.)
Nonetheless, his upside is undeniably tantalizing. It's also important to note that his playing time has steadily increased, and he hasn't suffered any setbacks with his knee injury. He's currently averaging 26 points and 10.6 boards per-36 minutes. If/when he puts it all together… watch out.
* Let's Nance!
I had Larry Nance Jr. slotted higher than most in my preseason rankings. And I've stuck with him through rough patches and slumps this year. And, with his impressive all-around play of late, he's rewarded me.
Nance has scored in double-figures in each of the Cavs last eight games. During this current stretch, he is averaging 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists (vs. just 0.8 turnovers) and 1.3 made triples in 27.5 minutes, while shooting 57.3% from the floor. He only started one of those games, this past Monday, when he replaced Tristan Thompson, who was held out due to a sore quadriceps muscle. In that contest, Nance logged 42 minutes and racked up 18 points (8-of-13 FGs), eight rebounds, six assists, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers. Those beautifully well-rounded stats are gold in nine-category fantasy formats.
Dating back to mid-January, Nance ranks inside the top-50 overall in nine-cat leagues. As a potential added bonus, the Cavs have reportedly been active in trade discussions. Not only is Kevin Love very much on the block, but Tristan Thompson (who is listed as questionable for Wednesday vs. the Thunder with a "right quad injury") also has let it be known he would prefer to get traded to a contender. If either of the Cavs' veteran bigs are moved, Nance would be a significant beneficiary, and his fantasy stock would spike.
* Fantasy Fallout From Wednesday's Blockbuster
Let's take a quick look at the potential winners and losers from the massive four-team, 12-player deal that went down late Tuesday night.
Minnesota: The Timberwolves will receive Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt and Brooklyn's 1st-round draft pick (via Atlanta).
Beasley definitely benefits from the move to Minny. He showed plenty of promise 2018-19, averaging 11.3 points (on 47.4% shooting) in over 23 minutes a night, but was in and out Denver's rotation this season due to their incredible depth. For his career, he's averaged 16.2 points, 1.2 steals and 2.8 treys per-36 minutes. With limited competition, he will likely spend most of the second half of this season the Wolves starting shooting guard. Juancho Hernangomez is also looking at a significant increase in playing time. He will be given a legitimate shot to win the starting PF gig. Both Beasley and Hernangomez will be restricted free agents, so they will certainly be motivated. Lastly, with Shabazz Napier out of the picture, Jarrett Culver and Jordan McLaughlin will dominate minutes at point guard.
Houston: The Rockets will receive Robert Covington, Jordan Bell and Golden State's 2nd-round draft pick (via Atlanta).
Covington averaged 6.5 three-point attempts in 29.4 minutes per game this season with Minnesota. Expect both those numbers to rise in Houston, especially the 3PT tries. RoCo will be able to hang out in the corners and bomb away from downtown as James Harden and Russ Westbrook attract defenders. Covington is a player that doesn't need the ball in hands to impact the game or post positive fantasy value in nine-cate formats. I expected to finish the season ranked inside the top-40 overall. Jordan Bell is now on the fantasy radar due to the move to H-Town. With Clint Capela traded away, and P.J. Tucker now the team's starting "center," Bell will have an opportunity to earn plenty of minutes. Remember how Kenneth Faried arrived in Houston and starting posting substantial numbers last year? Well, Bell has a similar opportunity. The Rockets now have two empty roster spots, so they will likely add a couple of bigs, but Bell can stake a claim to playing time with strong play. Isaiah Hartenstein will also have a chance to earn extra minutes in certain matchups.
Atlanta: The Hawks will receive Clint Capela and Nene.
ATL now has their own "Big 3," with Capela, John Collins and Trae Young forming the foundation upon which the Hawks will build their franchise. Capela ranks 25th overall this season, and I expect the numbers he posted in Houston will look similar to the stats he'll put up in Atlanta. Capela and Harden were a phenomenal pick-and-roll tag-team, but the Rockets P&R frequency had reduced in recent seasons. In contrast, according to Second Spectrum data, Trae Young has received 251 more on-ball screens than the next-closest player in the league this season. Expect plenty of Young-to-CC lobs converted at the rim. Nevertheless, Capela has been battling a bruised right heel, so it remains to be seen how healthy he'll be over the second half of the season.
Denver: The Nuggets will receive Gerald Green, Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, Noah Vonleh and Houston's 1st-round draft pick.
Napier is arguably the biggest loser in this trade. After the Wolves traded away Jeff Teague, Napier was logging all the minutes he could handle at point guard and had carved out solid fantasy value. Over his final six games in Minnesota, Napier averaged 12.2 points (on 52.2% shooting), 8.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 triples and 1.7 steals. Now, stuck in Denver behind Jamal Murray and Monte Morris, Napier may be out of the rotation altogether. Noah Vonleh could have some short-term value with Michael Porter Jr. (ankle), Mason Plumlee (foot) and Paul Millsap (knee) banged up. However, once the Nuggets frontline is healthy, Vonleh will drop off the fantasy radar.
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* They say you live by the three, then you die by the three… Welp, last Monday, Eric Gordon poured in a career-high 50 points, to go along with six trifectas (6-for-11), in the Rockets win over Utah. Then, last night vs. the Hornets, Gordon launched 12 3-pointers and didn't hit a single one. Per Basketball-Reference, that's the most 3-point attempts in a game without a make in NBA history.
* Over the first 16 seasons of his career, LeBron James never recorded more than ten triple-doubles prior to the All-Start break. Yet, in Saturday's victory over the Kings, King James tallied his 11th triple-double of the 2019-20 season, finishing with 15 points, ten rebounds and 11 assists in 34 minutes. And the Lakers still have four more games to play before the break.
* I have no choice but to give a shoutout to Damian Lillard for his unprecedented recent hot streak. Prior to putting up "only" 21 & 9 on Tuesday night, Dame was on a heater for the ages. In the Blazers' previous six contests, he averaged 48.8 points, 10.2 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 8.2 made 3-pointers, while shooting 55% from the floor, 57% from downtown and 92% from the free-throw stripe. Read that sentence again. Consider this: In 1985-86, Larry Bird led the NBA with a total of 82 made 3-pointers over the entire 82-game season. Lillard made 55 made 3-pointers over two weeks.
* One last tidbit on Dame's dash...
Here are the Total CAREER games with more than 45 points and more than five made 3-pointers for the following players:
Kevin Durant: 3
Ray Allen: 2
Carmelo Anthony: 2
Michael Jordan: 1
Here are the total games with more than 45 points and more than five made 3-pointers over the last 16 DAYS:
Damian Lillard: 5