With the start of the 2016-17 NBA campaign on the horizon, here are a random assortment of interesting and noteworthy numbers to keep an eye on this season…
Might an all-time record be bested in 2016-17?
38.74% was the usage rate Kobe Bryant posted during the 2005-2006 season. According to BasketballReference.com, that represents the highest single-season usage percentage ever recorded. Kobe’s mark has stood for over a decade, but it could fall this year, as a revenge-minded Russell Westbrook takes aim at the rest of the NBA. Westbrook’s numbers without Kevin Durant in the lineup have been mind-boggling. The best indication of what we might expect from Westbrook is the 2014-15 season, when Durant appeared in just 27 games due to a foot injury. That year, Russ averaged 28.1 points, 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game. He also posted the second-highest usage rate of all time at 38.36. This season, Westbrook won’t share the floor with KD for a single second and, thus, has a legit chance to shatter Kobe’s all-time mark.
Can Zach LaVine continue to shoot as well as he did over the second half of last season?
By dominating the Dunk Contest two years in a row, LaVine has established himself as the NBA’s preeminent highflier. However, by dramatically improving his shooting stroke, LaVine showed last season that he’s far more than just a one trick pony. Long-range shooting was certainly not a strength of his when he first entered the league. Over the first 50 games of his rookie season in 2014-15, LaVine shot just 27.5 percent from three-point territory (20-of-71).
Over his final 50 games last season, LaVine shot 43.3 percent from behind the arc (87-of-202).
Consider this: In the games played following the 2016 All-Star break, LaVine was one of only five players to make at least 60 three-pointers and shoot above 43 percent from behind the arc: The other four were Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, C.J. McCollum, and J.J. Redick. If LaVine can keep up this level of accuracy, he’ll return tremendous fantasy value this season.
Can James Harden make a run at the exclusive 31 ppg club?
There is actually also a dark horse candidate to challenge Westbrook for the league lead in usage rate, and that’s James Harden. Harden will be the point guard and the focal point of the Houston Rockets up-tempo offense. Harden finished third in the NBA in Usage last season at 32.5, and that was when he was playing shooting guard. With Mike D’Antoni now the coach in Houston, expect the Rockets offense to be kicked into high gear. And with Harden running the point, he will be both facilitating the offense and doing lion’s share of the scoring. Add it all up and it’s a recipe for a fantasy bonanza.
In fact, the combination of Harden and D’Antoni may lead to offensive exploits we haven’t seen since “Seven Seconds or Less” captivated the fantasy community. Michael Jordan (37.1 ppg in 1986-87), Tracey McGrady (32.1 ppg in 2002-03) and LeBron James (31.4 in 2005-06) are the only three players to average over 31 points per game for a full season since 1975. Harden has the ultimate green light, and a golden opportunity to crack the 31-point plateau…
Any chance Andre Drummond starts making a few more free throws?
We know the many positives that Drummond brings to the table. He led the NBA in double-doubles (66) and rebounds per game (14.8) last season. He recorded five 20-plus points, 20-plus rebound games in 2015-16, while the rest of the NBA combined recorded just five such games. However, free throw shooting is still his kryptonite. Drummond shot an abysmal 35.5 percent last season. If Drummond had hit even just 59 percent of free throws in 2015-16, he’d have seen his scoring average jump from 16.2 points per game all the way up to 18 points per game. With Drummond shooting so terribly and so often (as teams often employ the ‘Hack-A-Drummond’) you essentially have to punt the category when you draft him. If he can somehow improve from an ‘incredibly horrific FT shooter,’ to possibly just a ‘bad free throw shooter,’ it would make a major difference for the Pistons and his fantasy owners.
* 37% for Six Straight Seasons
Courtney Lee is a better shooter than you think and could be a super sleeper this season…
Lee has stated during training camp that the Knicks want him to fire away with increased frequency. Also working in Lee’s favor is the startling lack of depth in the Knicks backcourt. New York’s backup shooting guard is Sasha Vujacic. Even at the point guard spot, Knicks currently only have two injury-prone players they can rely on (Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings). All things considered, Lee is likely in line for career-highs in minutes played and three-pointers made.
Can Russ come close to catching Oscar?
The record for the most triple-doubles in a single season is held by Oscar Robertson, who recorded a seemingly unfathomable 41 triple-doubles during the 1961-62 season. As noted above, the amazingly aggressive Westbrook was unstoppable at times last year. Westbrook joined Robertson as the only other player in NBA history to average 23+ points, 10+ assists and 7+ rebounds. Westbrook also recorded 18 triple-doubles, which equals the most in the NBA since Magic Johnson during the 1981-82 season. During the month of March, Westbrook posted seven triple-doubles to become the first player since Michael Jordan (in April of 1989) to register seven triple-doubles in a single month. We know the scoring in double-figures won’t be an issue, and he did average over 10 assists per contest last season. With Durant now in Golden State and Serge Ibaka in Orlando, it is reasonable to assume we’ll see an uptick in Westbrook’s rebounding numbers. Nonetheless, even approaching 41 triple-doubles seems nearly impossible.
Will the Knicks finish with a pace north of 100.0 for the first time since Ronald Reagan was in office?
The Knicks have finished dead last in fast break points per game in each of the last four seasons, never averaging more than nine fast break points per contest. Unsurprisingly, New York has been near the bottom of the league in pace (possessions per 48 minutes) each year since 2011-12 (when Mike D’Antoni was fired). New York has posted an average pace of just 91.2 dating back to 2011. The last time the Knicks maintained a pace north of 100 for an entire season was 1988-89, when they were running and gunning under coach Rick Pitino.
Remarkably, the Knicks finished this preseason ranked as the 8th fastest-paced team in the NBA (103.7 possessions per-48 minutes). This is the “Hornacek Effect.” From the moment Jeff Hornacek was hired as head coach, he has made it clear that his objective was to speed up the Knicks’ offense. His team followed his orders in the preseason, which shows it wasn’t just lip service. He wants this team running and getting easy buckets in transition. This quicker pace will translate into increased fantasy value for all Knicks. In particular, Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony Melo and Derrick Rose are all getting bumped up on my cheat sheets.
* More than 1,300 & less than 140
Will DeMar DeRozan step a few feet back and start knocking down three-pointers?
DeRozan is the extremely rare NBA shooting guard who doesn’t shoot three-pointers. Last season, he became the first guard in five years to attempts at least 1,300 field goals, yet attempt fewer than 140 three-pointers. As a result of his hesitancy to launch from distance, DeRozan’s fantasy value is somewhat capped. That’s not to say he isn’t an effective scorer. DeRozan still finds a way to score relatively efficiently (he’s a career 44 percent shooter) and he gets to the free-throw line with regularity (8.4 free throw attempts per game last season). In addition, he posted an impressive (career-high) 21.5 PER last season. Still, he struggled in the postseason, as opponents knew he wasn’t going to shoot threes and they crowded his favorite spots.
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo become just the fifth player in league history to average at least 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game over the course of full NBA season?
Russell Westbrook won’t be the only player flirting with triple-doubles on a nightly basis. ‘The Greek Freak’ showed us last year he is capable of stuffing the stat sheet as well. In fact, over the second half of the 2016-17 season, Antetokounmpo averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists. There are currently only four players in the exclusive 18/8/8 club: Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan.
The Warriors will most likely shatter the record for most made three-pointers in one season.
Steph Curry, arguably the greatest shooter of all-time, has made more three-pointers than any other player in the NBA this decade (1,427). Second on the list of most made three-pointers this decade (since the start of the 2010-11 season): Well, that would be Curry’s backcourt mate, Klay Thompson. Seventh on that list? Yup, their new teammate Kevin Durant.
Curry and Thompson combined for 678 made three-pointers in 2015-16. That total was more the more than that of 13 other NBA teams. Draymond Green also knocked down 100 three’s. All told, the Warriors set a new NBA all-time record for most three-pointers made in a single season (1,077). With Durant on board, it would seem the questions isn’t whether or not the Warriors break their own record, but simply by how much.
Could a pair (or trio!) of teammates set an efficiency record?
Steve Nash shot better than 50% from the floor, 40% from three-point territory, and 90% from the free-throw stripe in 2009-2010. Only two players have matched those slash lines since. Kevin Durant in 2012-13 and Steph Curry last season. With Curry and KD playing alongside each other and stretching defenses until they snap, it’s certainly conceivable that both players end up with far more wide-open looks than they are accustomed to. Thus, it’s possible that both Durant and Curry could set career-highs in terms of shooting percentages and efficiency.
Only nine players in NBA history have ever shot 50/40/90 over a full season, so obviously, KD and Curry would be the first set of teammates to ever accomplish the feat in the same season. However, is it possible that a third Warrior could join the club as well? Last season, Klay Thompson shot 47% from the floor, 42.5% from three-point territory, and 87.3% from the charity stripe. Klay is knocking on the door. Amazingly, Klay Thompson is arguably the second best shooter on the planet, yet only the third best scorer on his own team.