Here in "Notable Numbers," we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today, I'll discuss a handful of players that have greatly exceeded expectations early on in 2019-20.
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Andrew Wiggins - Minnesota Timberwolves:
For those of us drafting in nine-category fantasy leagues last month, Andrew Wiggins was about as desirable as the plague.
Wiggy has accrued decent counting stats the last couple of seasons, but his empty-calorie numbers and awful percentages have made him persona non grata in fantasy circles. In 2018-19, despite scoring over 18 points a night, he shot just 41.2 percent from the floor and below 70 percent free-throw stripe, finishing the season ranked 171st overall in nine-cat formats, just behind David Bertans.
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However, this season, we've seen a new, improved version of Mr. Wiggins.
Through the Wolves' first ten games, Wiggy is averaging career-highs in points (25.5), assists (3.3), blocks (1.1) and made 3-pointers (2.2) in 35.0 minutes (which is actually below his career mpg average). He's also dished out at least five dimes in each of Minnesota's previous four contests, which is the longest such streak of his career. (During this current four-game stretch, he's averaging 32.0 points on 52% shooting, 5.8 assists vs. just 1.5 turnovers, 4.3 boards, 2.3 made trifectas and 1.5 blocks.) On the season, he's committing a career-low 1.5 turnovers a night. Yet, the most impressive and surprising aspect of his performance thus far in 2019-20 has been his efficiency on the offensive end. Coming into this season, he had never posted an eFG% north of 48 percent. This season, it currently sits at 52.7 percent.
The key for Wiggins this season has been drastically reducing the number of mid-range jumpers he's attempting. Per Basketball-Reference, here's the percentage his of shots that were 16+ foot 2-pointers:
You can see, compared with his shot selection from three years ago, he's halved his mid-range attempts. Sum it all up, and Wiggins shockingly ranks 40th overall, just one spot behind Nikola Jokic. While it's unlikely he'll remain inside the top-50 for the foreseeable future, if Wiggins keeps this same approach on the offensive end, he will still dramatically outperform his ADP.
Aron Baynes - Phoenix Suns:
In the Suns season-opener, Aron Baynes logged nine minutes off the bench, tallying five points and two boards. That was essentially what was expected of Baynes in the first game of the year, as well as the remaining 81 contents.
However, as we know, the NBA announced on October 24th that Deandre Ayton had been smacked with a 25-game suspension for violating the NBA's Anti-Drug policy with a positive test for a diuretic. Baynes was inserted into the starting lineup the following night. He stepped in and stepped up, and hasn't looked back.
In the nine games the Suns have played since the Ayton suspension, Baynes is averaging a whopping 17.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 blocks, 2.3 triples and just 0.9 turnovers, while shooting a scorching 58.8 percent from the floor and 73.3 percent from the charity stripe. He's currently the only player in the league this season who has scored more than 150 points and made more than 20 treys, yet committed ten or fewer turnovers. So, yes, congrats are in order to those fantasy GM's that scooped up Baynes off the waiver wire last month.
We know the Baynes party will eventually come to an end once Ayton is reinstated following his suspension. However, that's still five weeks and 16 games away, so enjoy the fireworks until then.
Jabari Parker - Atlanta Hawks
Parker is another player that has dramatically benefited from a star's suspension. Over the Hawks' first four games, Jabari was averaging 11.5 points, 2.8 boards and 0.8 assists in 21.3 minutes. On November 5th, we found out that John Collins had been suspended for 25 games after testing positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2. Parker, coming off a couple of solid performances, was immediately inserted in the starting lineup.
Parker has scored at least 18 points in each of Atlanta's past six contests and, during this current stretch, is averaging 22.0 points (on 56.1 percent shooting), 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 helpers, to go along with one trey, one steal and one block.
Collins will be sidelined until December 23rd, so those of you that snagged Parker off the wire can continue celebrating up until Christmas Day.
Tristan Thompson - Cleveland Cavs:
The Cavs, who just barely lost to the Sixers Tuesday night in Philadelphia, have been far more competitive than many pundits predicted this season. A principal reason for their success early on has been the production from grizzled veterans, Kevin Love and Thompson. Rookie head coach John Beilein clearly has not been afraid to lean on his older players, as Love and TT lead the team in minutes played.
While we knew that Tritan Thompson could score, bang, and board; we didn't expect the nine-year vet to score and board at this rate. Thompson is currently averaging career-highs in points (16.5), rebounds (11.4), assists (2.3) and blocks (1.4). This is due in no small part to the fact that he's logging team-high 33.5 minutes a night.
As a cherry on top of the fantasy sundae, TT has sprinkled in a few 3-pointers. He was 0-for-9 from downtown coming into this season, but is 3-of-6 from deep this season. On Tuesday night, he was 2-of-3 from behind the arc.
It should be noted that the high number of minutes will likely catch up to Thompson, who has played just 96 out of a possible 164 games over the past two seasons. And I certainly wouldn't count on him developing into a 3-point threat. Thus, his No. 31 overall ranking is unsustainable. However, I certainly wouldn't dump him just for the sake of selling high. TT will still provide plenty of rebounds and points (with a high FG percentage), as long as he can stay healthy.
D'Angelo Russell - Golden State Warriors:
The Warriors, who lost Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins via free agency in July, started the season short one Splash Brother, with Klay Thompson recovering from an ACL tear. Then, just four games into the 2019-20 campaign, Stephen Curry broke his hand.
Think about how much offensive firepower Golden State has been forced to play without. Last season, Curry, Klay, KD and Boogie averaged a combined 91.1 points on 67.5 FG attempts. No other player on the team averaged more than seven points or six FG attempts.
Thus, it's not surprising to see new-addition D'Angelo Russell account for such large slices of the offensive pie in Golden State. Russell has scored at least 30 points and handed out at least five helpers in each of the four games he's played since Curry went down. Surprisingly, that ties Durant and Steph for the longest such streak in Warriors franchise history.
During this current four-game stretch, D'Angelo is averaging 36.3 points (on 48.6 percent shooting), 7.0 assists, 4.8 triples, and 1.5 steals in 34.9 minutes. Unlike the other players detailed above, I think Russell will continue to put up prolific numbers going forward. Klay is almost assuredly out for the entire season. Curry has said he plans to return to the court in March, but will the Warriors really rush him back into action if they are already eliminated from playoff contention? Russell should have a clear pathway to all the shots and scoring opportunities he can handle for at least the next four months.
Last Second Shots:
* Coming into this season, only five players in NBA history averaged at least 28 points, eight assists and four rebounds per game: Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James. Welp, Trae Young is currently averaging: 28.0 points, 8.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds.
* Young has scored at least 30 points, dished out at least ten dimes, and knocked down at least three 3-pointers in three straight games. James Harden is the only other player in league history with 30/10/3 in three consecutive contests.
* Heading into Tuesday's tilt vs. the Knicks, Coby White was 6-of-40 (15%) from 3-point territory in the Bulls previous eight games. In the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game, White was 7-of-8 (88%) from 3-point territory.
* As expected, Kristaps Porzingis has shown some signs of rust early on. He is the only player in the NBA this season attempting more than 15 FG's per game, yet shooting 40% or worse from the floor and below 70% from the FT stripe.
* Here's the list of the most points ever scored over the first ten games of any NBA season:
1. Wilt Chamberlain (1962-63): 529
2. Wilt Chamberlain (1961-62): 496
3. Rick Barry (1966-67): 381
4. James Harden (2019-20): 373
5. Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60)
6. Michael Jordan (1986-87)