We are nearing the midway point in the NBA season, meaning it is time to re-evaluate what we thought of players and approach the rest of the season with a fresh perspective. Fantasy owners that are unable to adjust and learn are the ones that fade as the season progresses: don’t let that be you! Here are 10 stats that you would not have predicted at the beginning of the season but can be used as a tool moving forward when attempting to forecast Fantasy Basketball upside, potential, and/or ways to make up ground in specific categories. Stats included are for games through January 8.
1. Marresse Speights (33.4) ranks third in all of basketball in points per 48 minutes … With the injury-prone Andrew Bogut and David Lee also in the Warriors front court, Speights has stepped up and earned a consistent role. His versatile skill set makes him a tough cover in a high-powered offense and he should remain involved as opponents focus on chasing the Splash Brothers around. He may not finish the season as the third most efficient scorer on a minutes basis, but if his minutes are sustained or continue to increase (they’ve increased with each passing month up to this point), he is a more than viable Fantasy option that should not be viewed as a sell-high candidate in Fantasy Basketball.
2. Jimmy Butler has obviously taken on a much heavier offensive role than anyone could have projected, and there is little reason to expect regression. The health of Derrick Rose is an X-factor, but it won’t change the style in which Butler plays. Much like James Harden, Butler excels at drawing contact and getting to the rim, a near slump-proof approach. In fact, his number of free throws made (220) would rank him sixth in free throws attempted this season. He has played at least 40 minutes in 57.6 percent of games this season, making his counting stats as stable a source of Fantasy production as there is in the NBA.
3. Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis are converting the same percentage of their two-point attempts this season. Curry’s accuracy from downtown and his flair in the open court make the highlight shows, but don’t consider him a one-dimensional scorer. His calling card is the long ball, but he is maturing into a well-rounded scorer that is getting improved looks closer to the bucket. He’s quickly becoming a gifted scorer and well rounded Fantasy Basketball option … not just a shooter.
4. The Lakers aren’t a good basketball team, but they have a budding star in Jordan Hill. No player has more double doubles and plays fewer minutes per game than Los Angeles’ big man. His minutes and involvement in the Lakers system have increased ever since he joined the squad in the middle of the 2011-2012 season, and with an eye on the future, there is no reason to expect a decline in his playing time or production moving forward.
5. Can you name the three qualified players that have more blocks than personal fouls? Anthony Davis was your gut reaction and Pau Gasol would have likely been considered, as he plays alongside another dominant big in Joakim Noah to absorb some of the fouls. The third? Rudy Gobert. He’s as efficient as it gets when it comes to protecting the rim, and with his playing time rising, he should be considered a game-changer in terms of blocked shots (league-leader, minimum 25 games, in blocks per 48 minutes).
6. Trevor Ariza’s 181 missed three pointers would rank him 18th in three point attempts this season. Most leagues reward makes more so than accuracy, and there are few better volume bets than a limited offensive player in a system that focuses on the trifecta. Ariza is averaging a career-high 36.8 minutes (only Kemba Walker has played more minutes this season), a trend that makes him an elite producer, even if it isn’t in the most efficient of manners.
7. Back to Pau Gasol. Foreign born big men are often assumed to be good passers and, for the most part, that has proven to be accurate. Brother Marc Gasol (second most assists and Top 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio at the Center position) is among the best, and while Pau has shown the ability to distribute, the Bulls offense doesn’t need him to showcase that skill (Joakim Noah is an elite passing big and the backcourt can create their own looks). As a result, Gasol ranks last out of 82 qualified players in assist-to-turnover ratio. Don’t get me wrong, he is having a great season, but don’t assume that the passing numbers are going to return to his career norms. This is also worth noting for daily gamers on FanDuel, a site where turnovers are penalized more heavily than across the industry.
8. At 44 percent, Mike Conley is the most accurate shooting point guard from distance. Obviously, the volume of attempts is not the same as a Steph Curry or a Damian Lillard, but Conley does rank in the Top 5 in total number of three pointers made, giving the elite percentage legs to stand on. We are in a golden age of point guards, but Conley lacks the “sex-appeal” of the flashy/high-flying PGs, making him a strong value in a midseason deal.
9. Kenneth Faried ranks 14th in the league in rebounds per game, yet he only has seven more defensive rebounds than Andre Drummond has offensive rebounds. With Josh Smith out of the way, Drummond is finally getting the playing time he’s deserved and showing what he can do. Remember Dwight Howard in Orlando? Yeah, he’s going to be that kind of dominant and it is going to happen sooner rather than later.
10. Ty Lawson, Rajon Rondo, and Chris Paul are the only players that average more assists per 48 minutes and own a higher assist-to-turnover ratio than Mo Williams. Now, the Timberwolves are set to welcome Ricky Rubio back this month and Kevin Martin is also slated to return in the near future (currently projected for late January or early February), so the role of the veteran point guard could soon change, but he should continue to hold nice value until then and is playing at a high enough level to stay in the primary rotation even when this roster is fully healthy.
It’s been a great start to the NBA season and it is only going to get better. Use these trends to drive a midseason Fantasy Basketball run and contact me with any specific questions that you’d like input on.