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Notable Numbers

Fantasy Royalty in Sacramento

by Tommy Beer
Updated On: October 31, 2018, 12:36 pm ET

Here in “Notable Numbers,” we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. The topics discussed today include Klay Thompson’s historical performance, the unexpected and staggering success of the uptempo Kings, and Khris Middleton’s ascension to fantasy superstar status.

* Nuc-Klay-er Explosion
If we are talking notable numbers posted over the past week, we have to start with 52 and 26. That’s the number of points scored in the number of minutes played by Klay Thompson Monday night in Chicago.

It was truly an epic performance by Thompson. We all already know that his Thompson's 14 3-point makes are the most ever in a single NBA game, but that certainly doesn't tell the whole story. Just how incredible and unprecedented was this accomplishment, you ask?

- 2018-19 is the 73rd season the NBA has been in existence. There have been over 150,000 games played since it's inaugural season in 1946. In only two of those games has one player logged fewer than 30 minutes and scored more than 50 points. Incredibly, in each of those two games, that player has been Klay Thompson.

- Thompson also became the first player in league history to score more than 50 points in fewer than 28 minutes.

- The L.A. Lakers won the NBA championship in 1981-82. Over the course of the entire 82-game regular season that year, the entire Lakers team combined to make a total of 13 three-pointers on 94 attempts. On Monday night, in 26 minutes, Klay Thompson made 14 3-pointers on 24 attempts.

- Heading into Monday night, Klay was 5-of-36 from 3-point territory this season. In the first half of Monday’s game in Chicago, Thompson was 10-of-14 from 3-point land.

- Thompson is only the second player ever to score more than 50 points and attempt 2 or fewer free throws. The other is his fellow Splash Brother: Stephen Curry.

- Some insight into why the Warriors are the best offensive team ever created: Within the last week, Steph scored 51 points on 24 FG attempts in one game and Klay scored 52 in 26 minutes in another .... yet, dating back to the start of the 2017-18 season, Kevin Durant leads the team in scoring.

- According to Basketball-Reference, there have been only 14 games in which a player made more than ten treys. Steph and Klay have combined for eight of those games. All other players that have ever played in the NBA combined have the other six.

- To help put Klay’s explosion in some context: As of Monday night, Paul Millsap (who is earning $30 million this season) has scored 51 points in 139 minutes over five games during the 2018-19 campaign. Draymond Green (an All-NBA performer) has scored 59 points in 249 minutes over eight games this season. Otto Porter (in the second year of $100+ million max deal) had 59 points in 178 minutes over six games this season. Klay scored 52 points in 26 minutes.

- Over his first two seasons in the NBA, Michael Jordan played 100 games and made a combined total of 12 three-pointers on 70 attempts. Thompson knocked down 14 treys in 26 minutes and 33 seconds.

So, yeah, it was a pretty good game by Klay.


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* Fantasy Royalty in Sacramento
There have plenty of surprises early on this season. On one end of the spectrum, there are the teams off to terribly disappointing starts, such as Houston and Washington, who have a combined record of 2-11. On the opposite end, you have the squads that have significantly exceeded expectations. Incredibly, the Kings currently have more wins (five) than the Lakers, Wizards and Rockets combined.

Just as shocking as their win-loss record has been the shift in Sacramento’s offensive approach this season. Nearly all NBA teams are playing faster and attempting more 3-pointers, but the drastic shift in Sacramento has been startling.

In 2017-18, per NBA.com, the Kings ranked dead last in the league in Pace (95.6 possessions per 48 minutes) and scoring (98.8 points per game) and were 27th in eFG%.

This season, the Kings rank second in the NBA in Pace (107.2 possessions per 48 minutes), seventh in scoring (116.5) and fourth in eFG%.

Possessions are the lifeblood of fantasy statistics. Fantasy experts view playing time as such an important predictor of a player’s fantasy success because it’s impossible to compile stats from the bench. Similarly, if a player is on a team that creates more possessions each night, there is a greater opportunity to grab rebounds or dish out assists, etc. Thus, several Kings are on track to post career numbers.

Over his first three years in Minnesota, Nemanja Bjelica was a part-time role player with the Wolves. In Sacramento, Bjelica is off to a torrid start and stuffing the stat sheet. Through the Kings first eight games, he is averaging 15.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.3 treys, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes, while shooting a scorching 58.2 percent from the floor and 54.5% from distance. Over his last three games, he’s at 22/8/3. On the season, he ranks 20th overall in nine-category leagues, just behind Karl-Anthony Towns. There is no way Bjelica will be able to maintain his insane efficiency numbers, but his playing time should be steady, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to average around 14 points with plenty of other goodies. If he is still available in your league, run - don’t walk - to the waiver wire and scoop him up.

Another King that has burst out of the gates is Buddy Hield. The third-year shooting guard is shooting the lights out. He leads the team in scoring at 18.9 points per contest (on 52.2%) and is also averaging a career-high in rebounds (6.1) to go along with 2.4 assists. He 3-point attempts are actually down, but he’s still making 2.1 treys a night, as he’s shooting 44.7% from deep.

Hield has been one of the league’s top marksmen since he entered the NBA. Dating back to the start of last season, he is one of only six players who has attempted more than 400 triples yet is shooting over 41% from downtown. The other five are Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Joe Ingles, Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick. Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee) is expected to return in early November, which could eat into Buddy’s playing time and production, but I am still high on Hield going forward.


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Willie Cauley-Stein has also flourished this season in SacTown. Back in September, at the start of training camp, Willie made it known he was ready to prove his worth, literally. “I’m ready to get paid,” said Cauley-Stein, who will be a free agent next July. “This is what we’ve got to do, that’s what type of focus I’m on. I’m ready for it. I’ve seen everybody else -- all my peers. All right, I’m ready for that. What do I got to do to do that? That’s what they’re doing? All right, I’m going to go ahead and do this now. I was doing it this way, obviously it wasn’t working, so now let's do it this way.” He also added: “Consistency, that’s the word of the decade for me. Consistency. That’s what’s going to get you paid.”


Based on the early returns, Cauley-Stein is headed for a pay raise. Willie is currently averaging 17.4 points (on 55.6% shooting), 9.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.4 blocks. As was his stated goal, he’s been remarkably consistent, scoring in double-figures in each game this season and posting a double-double in four straight, which is the longest streak of his career. He ranks 85th overall in nine-cat leagues at the moment, with a chance to rise if he can swat some more shots.

After an uneven rookie season, De'Aaron Fox is showing Kings fans why Sacramento invested a top-5 pick in the playmaker out of Kentucky. When SAC signed Yogi Ferrell over the summer, there was some concern that Fox would have to compete with Yogi and Frank Mason for playing time at point guard, but that hasn’t been the case. Ferrell has played almost exclusively at shooting guard, while Fox leads the team in minutes (32.4 mpg).

De'Aaron has played well thus far, averaging 17.5 points, 6.9 assists 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals. The blemishes on Fox’s fantasy resume are his free-throw shooting (63.0 percent), turnovers (3.4) and his 3-point woes (he’s 4-of-19 from downtown). In five-category leagues, Fox ranks 34th overall. In nine-cat leagues, he drops all the way down to 159th. I’d try to trade him in nine-cat formats if another owner is willing to overpay.

* Coach Bud Maximizes Middleton
The Bucks are the last remaining undefeated team in the league at 7-0, which ties the best start in franchise history, joining the 1971-72 team squad led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. Like Sacramento, Milwaukee is playing an uptempo brand of basketball under new head coach Mike Budenholzer. After finishing 2017-18 ranked 20th in Pace, they rank 6th this season. They have also been incredibly efficient. The Bucks are second in the NBA on effective field goal percentage and True Shooting percentage, trailing only the Golden State Warriors in each category.

From a fantasy perspective, all the Bucks have benefitted from Milwaukee's new offensive approach. However, the biggest beneficiary, by far, has been Khris Middleton.

Although he tended to fly under the radar playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton was a stud last season, finishing the year ranked 25th overall in nine-category leagues. However, Middleton has taken his game to another level in 2018-19. He’s currently averaging career-highs in rebounds (5.6) and points (20.7). What makes this truly is remarkable is that he’s scoring more points despite playing six fewer minutes per contest! Yes, Middleton logged 36.4 minutes a night last season, but is at just 30.6 this year.

This due to two factors. First, Khris (is he the best player in the NBA without a nickname??) has been incredibly accurate and efficient, shooting a career-best 49.5 percent from the field. The other crucial advancement in his game is the increase in his number of takes and makes from downtown. Heading into 2018-19, Middleton had never averaged more than 1.8 made treys per game over a full season. Through the Bucks first seven games, he is averaging four made triples per contest. He’s averaging 7.3 attempts from 3-point land (his previous high was 5.0) and shooting a ridiculous 54.9% (his previous high was 43.3%).

13 players have attempted more than 50 treys this season. Only two are shooting above 42% from downtown: Steph Curry (51.6%) and Middleton (54.9%)

Eventually, his percentages will regress to the mean. (No player in league history that has attempted more than six 3-pointers has ever shot above 46% from deep over a complete season). However, even if he ends up shooting around 39%, the volume of attempts will ensure he notches plenty of makes.