With a week of games in the books, there is already a treasure trove of new stats, facts and numbers to dissect. Let’s get to it…
Last week in this space we discussed the very real possibility that Russell Westbrook would make a run at the all-time usage rate record, which is currently held by Kobe Bryant, who posted a usage percentage of 38.7 during the 2005-2006 campaign. Well, sure enough, Westbrook has burst through the gates this season. Through Oklahoma City’s first three games, Westbrook’s usage rate sits at 40.4.
Remarkably, that is not the highest usage rate in the NBA right now. The top overall number belongs to none other than “The Process” himself, Joel Embiid.
The Sixers are understandably taking a very cautious approach with Embiid, as coach Brett Brown has avowed Philadelphia will leave a 20-minute restriction cap on Embiid for the time being. Nonetheless, Embiid is one of the more truly enjoyable and entertaining stories of the fantasy season thus far. Despite playing a combined total of 38 minutes over the Sixers first two games, Embiid has already supplied a handful of impressive plays. In these limited minutes, Embiid has flashed the tantalizing upside that made the Sixers organization fall in love with him in the months and weeks leading up to the 2014 NBA draft. He has invigorated and energized many within the dispirited 76ers fan base. Embiid’s current per-36 minute averages are mind-boggling: 32.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks. Better yet, his usage rate is an astronomical 43.7. Yes, that’s even higher than Russ Westbrook.
In addition to 76ers fans, any fantasy owner that drafted Embiid is imbued with hope and excitement as well. It would be completely unrealistic to expect Embiid to come close to maintaining these lofty per-minute averages once his playing time starts increasing substantially. However, if he can stay healthy, there is no denying that both this kid’s future and present are extremely bright.
While his usage rate may not lead the league, Russell Westbrook is near the top of the NBA in just about every other category. Russ lead the league in both scoring (38.7 points per game) and assists (11.7 dimes per contest). Oh, and he’s also averaging 12.3 rebounds and 2.7 three-pointers. He has scored at least 32 points, grabbed at least 12 rebounds, and dished out at least nine assists in every game this season.
In fact, his start to this season has been historic. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Westbrook is the first player in NBA history to have at least 100 points, 30 rebounds and 30 assists through his team's first three games of a season.
Having posted back-to-back 30-point triple-doubles, Russ now has nine such games since the start of the 2014-15 season. The rest of the league combined only has eight such games over that same stretch.
* 8 and 11
Avery Bradley is a quiet guy and his game tends to be understated, but Bradley is posting loud numbers this season. He was flat-out dominant in the Celtics victory on Saturday night. He made a career-high eight 3-pointers and also grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds. Per BasketballReference.com, Bradley is the first player in Celtics history with at least eight 3-pointers and 11 rebounds in the same game. On the season, Bradley is averaging 21.3 points, 4.7 assists, 8.7 rebounds and four 3-pointers.
In fantasy drafts prior to this season, Bradley’s ADP hovered around 90th overall. He was typically selected after 40-plus other guards were already off the board. However, due to his well-rounded stat line, Bradley currently ranks 9th overall in nine-category fantasy leagues, one spot behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and ahead of Chris Paul. There is no way Bradley manages to stay in fantasy’s top-10; however, I’d argue that there is a very good chance he maintains top-50 value all season. As a result, he’s a player I’d recommend targeting in trade talks.
* 25.7 and 4.7
After finishing last season as the No. 1 ranked fantasy player in the sport (by a wide margin), Steph Curry sits at 33 overall through the first week of the 2016-17 season.
Curry is averaging a very respectable 25.7 points, 4.7 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game. For any other player, that would be phenomenal, but it’s obviously not what we are used to seeing from Steph. In fact, Curry scored fewer than 26 points and dished out fewer than five assists in just four games over the entirety of the 2015-16 season.
It’s still very early in the season and the Warriors are obviously working out some “Super Team” kinks, so there is certainly no reason to be overly concerned. However, some of us selected Curry ahead of James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and/or Anthony Davis, which makes Curry’s early season adjustment period a bit disconcerting.
The other Splash Brother is also having a difficult time finding his groove playing alongside Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson has scored just 11 points with one made 3-pointer in the Warriors season opener. And he was 0-for-6 from three-point territory on Sunday, finishing 14 points. Thompson played in 80 regular season games last season, and in only six of those 80 games did he fail to make at least two 3-pointers and scored fewer than 15 points.
One player not having trouble knocking down three-pointers is Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
Heading into training camp and the preseason, there was talk that new Memphis coach David Fizdale wanted Gasol to extend his range out past the 3-point arc. As context, it is important to note that Gasol had never made more than more than three 3-pointers in any season over the first eight years of his career.
Well, Fizdale encouraged Gasol to let it fly, and the big man has obliged. Gasol has attempted at least three 3-pointers in each game this season. He’s made a total of six 3-pointers, which actually equals the number of made 3-pointers from Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson COMBINED. Gasol is shooting 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from downtown this season. That’s a higher percentage than Steph Curry (42.9 percent).
LeBron currently holds the all-time NBA record for the most consecutive seasons averaging at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. Amazingly, King James has averaged at least 25/5/5 each and every year since 2004-2005. Yes, that’s twelve straight seasons. No one else is even close. Oscar Robertson is second on the all-time list, having matched those numbers in eight straight NBA campaigns. Michael Jordan is third, with six consecutive seasons.
The last couple of years, heading into fantasy drafts, some have predicted that LeBron would finally start to decelerate and begin posting relatively pedestrian numbers. Well, it appears those folks will have to wait at least one more year. LeBron has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, he is currently averaging 10.0 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game. Both of those numbers would represent career-highs if he were somehow able to maintain this pace. His scoring at just 21 points per contest, but I think we all can agree that will soon spike.