Around the League in 30 Stats
With apologies to Jules Verne's estate, this week's column is a trip around the NBA in 30 statistics -- one for each team. Fantasy relevance is the primary goal, but there are also stats I find curious, amusing or surprising. There's a ton to cover so let's jump in.
The following stats, quotes and information are drawn from NBA.com, Basketball Reference, HoopsStats, Popcorn Machine, ESPN, NBA Wowy and Rotoworld player-news archives.
14%. The league's newly-minted draft lottery rules stipulate that "the teams with the three worst regular-season records will each have a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery." If the season ended today, those teams would be the Hawks, Bulls and Suns. At face value, this should be good news for fantasy owners. All non-lottery teams have reduced incentive to 'tank' -- the lottery odds have been 'smoothed' to avoid drastic differences between, say, the No. 26 team and No. 24. That should result in more predictable late-season rosters, fewer random DNPs for veterans and possibly even a less protective attitude toward young players like John Collins, Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen. I'm hopeful that these changes will make the final weeks of the regular season less chaotic.
31.7. Not a single player on the Celtics' roster is playing more than 31.7 minutes last season, and that's Kyrie Irving. The only players above 30 are Kyrie, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, and with Horford's recent knee tendinitis even he might fall out of that range. There are five more guys in the 23-17 range -- Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. It was easy to see this coming since Kyrie led the Celts with 32.2 minutes last season, and they now have a healthy Gordon Hayward, but it's a vivid reminder that coach Brad Stevens' deep rotations are brutal for fantasy -- he's installed drop ceilings on all his players' fantasy values.
5. The Nets have won five straight games, their longest streak since 2014-15, and they're doing it with team-wide contributions -- the Nets bench ranks 4th in the league with 45.5 points per game. Joe Harris has been terrific during the streak with 15.8 points on 54.9% FGs and 83.3% FTs, 2.6 triples, 3.8 assists, 2.2 boards, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a mere 0.8 turnovers in 301. minutes per game. Spencer Dinwiddie is celebrating his new contract extension with a run of Sixth Man of the Year-worthy play, D'Angelo Russell is piling up points, 3s and assists, and even Allen Crabbe has found his shooting stroke while averaging 4.0 triples. Jarrett Allen has lost minutes lately with Ed Davis playing well off the bench (the two are both averaging 21 minutes in this five-game span), but Allen has still hit mid-round fantasy value with an emphasis on boards (6.8), blocks (1.6) and percentages (60.6% FGs and 91.7% FTs). That they're doing this without Caris LeVert is remarkable.
6.9. No team in the league gets blocked more often than the Charlotte Hornets, whose opponents average 6.9 swats per game -- next on the list are the Knicks (6.3) and Bulls (6.3). Michael Kidd-Gilchrist alone has been blocked on 22 of his 141 shot attempts -- that means a ridiculous 15.6% of his shots are being sent back. Each one of those blocks-against can be viewed via this link, assuming you don't mind the second-hand embarrassment. Queue up your shot-blockers for their upcoming opponents, including Cleveland (Larry Nance), Detroit (Andre Drummond is obvious, but Bruce Brown has swatted six shots in the past five games) and Boston (if Al Horford doesn't play, Robert Williams could host a block party).
18.7. No team in the league draws fewer personal fouls than the Bulls, whose opponents commit an average of 18.7 fouls per game. The caveat here is that Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis all missed extensive time with injuries, but combined they're attempting a modest 5.6 free throws per game. That's the same number Rudy Gobert attempts by himself. The Bulls player attempting the second-most FTs, Jabari Parker, is out of coach Jim Boylen's rotation, and Chicago might never get to the line while Zach LaVine (6.0 attempts per game) is injured.
That's great news if you have a foul-prone player like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Markieff Morris going up against Chicago. Unfortunately, the league-leader in fouls per game is Kris Dunn (4.4 fouls...or 7.7 per 48 minutes) and neither he nor Wendell Carter Jr. (6.8 fouls per 48 minutes) can play against themselves.
83. The Cavaliers don't have a single player ranked higher than No. 83 overall for 9-cat value this season, and that's Larry Nance Jr. -- he's surging lately as a top-30 player in the past few weeks. Elsewhere, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (who shot horribly in limited games) both fall outside the top-100, Collin Sexton has been a fantasy drag despite his starting role, and guys like Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman and Alec Burks have flopped. Matthew Dellavedova has been surprisingly good since joining the Cavs, and Jordan Clarkson is reliable for points, 3-pointers and FT%, but it's hard to sugar-coat how awful the Cavs have been for fantasy purposes.
33.1. According to HoopsStats.com, the Mavericks have been exceedingly tough vs. opposing benches this season. They've allowed the fewest points (33.1 per game), rebounds (14.0), assists (6.5) and blocks (1.2), and the key is simply that they're not facing second units as often as other teams. Opposing benches have averaged only 16.5 minutes vs. the Mavs, compared to a league-high 20.1 minutes per game vs. Atlanta. This isn't the space to examine the 'why' of this phenomenon (factors include a lack of blowouts, and the Mavs' own willingness to ride their starters), but it's worth remembering if you're using reserves vs. Dallas...particularly in DFS.
1. After winning four straight games, the Nuggets are the top team in the West. That's 11 wins in the past 13 games, and they're doing it without Will Barton (hip, core), Paul Millsap (toe) and Gary Harris (hip). Isaiah Thomas is out indefinitely but he's another potent weapon they can add to the rotation, which makes the current success so striking. Players like Mason Plumlee and Juancho Hernangomez have been terrific, and Nikola Jokic's quiet start to the season is long forgotten. He's destroying opponents lately and his play-making deserves extra attention -- he's ninth in the NBA with 7.4 assists and already has three 15+ assist games in his brief career. According to Nuggets PR, "No other starting center in the NBA over the last 20 seasons has recorded one game of 15+ assists." He's as unique as they get.
4. The Pistons are tied for the most overtime games in the league this season with four, joining the Clippers and Sixers (Detroit and Philly are both 2-2 while the Clippers are a pristine 4-0). Despite the extra sessions, coach Dwane Casey has done a good job managing his stars' workloads -- Blake Griffin had a DNP-rest recently and has played a total of 962 minutes, which is 32nd most in the league. Andre Drummond has played 925 minutes (45th most) and the reasonable workloads should help keep both guys healthy throughout the grind of an 82-game campaign. That's critical for Blake, especially, since he's missed an average of 26.8 games over the past four seasons.
Golden State Warriors
28.2. Golden State averaged 28.2 drives per game, and the next-lowest mark in the league is the Sixers at 33.5. That's a huge disparity which illuminates the principles of Golden State's offense, including selfless passing (No. 1 in both assists and potential assists), ball-and-body movement, and of course lethal shooting (third in catch-and-shoot scoring). When they do drive the ball, the Warriors convert 51.1% of the time -- sixth-best in the league. For more Warriors-centric stats, click on any random ESPN link.
37.4%. That's James Harden's usage rate this season, which is ridiculous even by his standards. (Usage is "An estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor.) That would stand has Harden's career-high for usage and it's far ahead of all other superstars. Joel Embiid? His usage rate is 31.4%. LeBron James? 31.7%. Harden is way above Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.5%), Kevin Durant (31.8%) and anyone else you care to mention. That's partly due to his 5.6 turnovers being included in the usage-rate equation, but it speaks to just how ball-dominant he is for the under-performing Rockets. Chris Paul recently called him "the best offensively player" he's ever seen, and we won't argue with the assessment -- unfortunately, Harden's solo brilliance leaves little room for guys like P.J Tucker and Eric Gordon, let alone guys on the lower rungs of Houston's rotation.
77.8%. The Pacers' reserves (plus Bojan Bogdanovic) have the highest assist percentage of any qualifying 5-man unit in the NBA this season. In 65 minutes together, the unit of Cory Joseph, Aaron Holiday, Bogdanovic, Doug McDermott and Domantas Sabonis have assisted on 77.8% of all made field goals. The next five lineups for unselfish offense belong to Denver (twice), Golden State (twice) and Philly. That's great company, and the strength of Indy's second unit is one reason they survived Victor Oladipo's 11-game absence and still sit No. 3 in the East.
Los Angeles Clippers
23.4. The Clippers lead the NBA with 23.4 free throws made per game, which is 8.9% more than the next-closest team (Philly, at 20.9). Montrezl Harrell is tied with Danilo Gallinari in attempts per game at 5.9, though Gallo's pristine 92% shooting gives him far more makes than Harrell, who is 61% at the line. Lou Williams is a perennial free-throw stud and Tobias Harris is padding the Clippers' lead in the category, but some unlikely sources are also contributing -- rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is making 2.1 per game, and even Boban Marjanovic is making 2.3 of his 3.0 attempts per game (when he plays). In a sign of just how passive Avery Bradley has become offensively, he's attempting a mere 0.5 FTs in 29.7 minutes per game. That's among the lowest FT rates in the entire NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers
62.1% With LeBron James on the court, the Lakers are averaging 1.12 points per possession with 52.6% of their shots coming off jumpers. With LBJ off the court, the PPP dips slightly to 1.09 and the attempts off jumpers leap to 62.1% (per NBAWowy). Given that jump shots are a relatively inefficient shot type, that's bad news for L.A...especially if they hope to give LeBron some rest as the season progresses. He's currently at 34.9 minutes per game without a single DNP, resulting in the sixth-most minutes of any player this season. The top four players for cumulative minutes are Jrue Holiday, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan, but No. 5 might surprise you -- Justin Holiday.
96.1. The Grizzlies are a rare team that still tries to slow down and control the pace of games -- they rank 30th in pace with 96.1 possessions per game, just below the Rockets, Cavaliers and Nuggets. Add in their elite defensive rating (allowing 104.9 points per 100 possessions), and it's no surprise they tend to suffocate opposing players. They're particularly hard to target for DFS, unless your name is C.J. McCollum -- the Blazers SG averaged 30.5 points vs. Memphis last year and dropped 40 on them in their only meeting this season. The Grizzlies give up the fewest points to opposing centers and the 2nd-fewest to opposing PFs, so think about benching your fringe frontcourt players when you see them on the schedule.