Already averaging 14.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, the 2011 MVP put on a throwback performance that also marked a career high with 50 points, plus he added 6 assists, 4 3-pointers, 2 steals, 4 rebounds and a win-preserving block.
As with any player in a relatively new situation (he appeared in only nine games for the Timberwolves last season), it's important to track how said player's role is evolving. Trades, free agency, the draft, injury (or recovery from injury), a new coaching staff, dissension in the rotational ranks -- there are many factors that can suddenly thrust a player into a new role.
A reshuffled role can radically alter a player's fantasy outlook. In Rose's case, several forces have coalesced to reignite Rose' statistical fortunes. Rose's long-term recovery from injury, the roster-wide ripple effect of the Jimmy Butler situation, his relationship with coach Tom Thibodeau, and Jeff Teague's injury have intersected to give Rose a real chance to turn back the clock on a night-in, night-out basis.
Hopefully, you were fortunate enough to pick up Rose's services before last night. It's been clear from the jump that Rose could prove tp be more than Jeff Teague insurance for fantasy managers.
It's a common fantasy trap to place too much worth on early-season performance. It's also a common fantasy trap to be lured into the promise of acquiring the services of a former big name. But in this case, there's been one second-level stat that portended Rose's revival: usage rate.
If you're unfamiliar with usage rate, our NBA Analytics Glossary defines it as such:
"The percentage of a player's possessions in which he was directly involved in the attempt at a basket (via a shot attempt, free throw attempt) or a turnover. Can give fantasy players an expectation of volume for certain counting statistics."
Usage rate's impact within fantasy is easy to assess: The more you have the ball in your hands, the more you're liable to accrue production. (If you hail from the world of fantasy football, think of usage rate as touches, carries, targets.)
Any usage rate above 30.0 is elite. Fourteen players cracked a 30.0 usage rate in 2017-18. It's no shocker that star players dominate usage rate. Lead roles demand possession. Last season's leaders: James Harden (36.3), Russell Westbrook (34.1), Joel Embiid (33.5), DeMarcus Cousins (32.3), LeBron James (31.6) and Devin Booker (31.4).
But what position dominates usage rate's upper middle class? Point guard. One look at the second tier in usage rate (25.0-29.9) underscores the point guard's importance in fantasy basketball.
It's certainly possible for players to excel in fantasy without running a high usage rate. Big men who generate a high volume of blocks and rebounds don't need to dominate possessions to be useful.
But if you're looking to gauge a player's fantasy potential -- even after fewer than ten games -- usage rate is a great place to start. It can portray how sixth men like Rose and Lou Williams can be counted on in fantasy, even in supporting roles. And when a non-point guard's usage rate begins to spike past the 25.0 mark? It invariably means that player is tabbed for greater fantasy relevance.
Let's take a look at some early season movers and shakers in usage ... players whose usage rate has helped certain players outpace preseason expectations.
LaVine has flashed a propensity for high shot volume throughout his injury-curtailed career. But his usage rate spiked after joining the Bulls in 2017-18, rising from 21.0 to 28.4 (albeit across just 24 games). With Lauri Markkanen still out, LaVine is getting a chance to assume the alpha dog role within Chicago's offense, and is clicking to the tune of 28.1 points, 2.4 3s, and 3.6 assists per game.
Devin Booker, SG, Phoenix Suns (33.8 usage rate)
Booker already cracked elite status in possession in 2017-18, posting a 30.7 usage rate. Whenever a young player excels early in usage, it underscores a high fantasy ceiling, and Booker hasn't disappointed my expectations across his four games this season (27.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.0 3PG).
Walker has always been a scoring point guard. But on a team relatively bereft of offensive options, he's taken his shot volume to new heights so far, improving from 17.0 FGA per game to 21.9 FGA per game. Walker can be streaky. He can't be counted on for those 4.5 3s per game over an entire campaign. But who else can you go to in Charlotte?
Hardaway is an example of what can happen for a high-usage player on a team with low expectations. Historically, his 3-point efficiency (31.7 3FG% in 2017-18) leaves much to be desired, but he's hitting 41.1 percent of 3s to start the season. And someone has to carry the load until Kristaps Porzingis returns. Hardaway's high usage has meant he's stayed remarkably consistent to date, with only one sub-20-point performance.
Over the course of his career, Griffin has been an injury-limited fantasy tease. He hasn't cracked 67 games in a season since 2013-14. But despite the lack of games played, Griffin has been slowly expanding his fantasy portfolio, especially after landing in Detroit. He's become a genuine 3-point threat (2.7 3PG) and has pushed his rebounding (10.6 RPG) back near his early career heights. And we certainly know he can score.
Since he doesn't add much in blocks and steals, Griffin's elite potential is intrinsically linked to his usage. His secret sauce lies in the assist rate. If it holds, Griffin's 29.5 usage rate would notch a career high, and probably would push his APG over 5.0 per night.
Remember when I mentioned how it's important to track usage for players in new roles? Since becoming a sixth man, Valanciunas has become the big man equivalent of Lou Williams. Thanks to his career-high usage, he's producing starter volume (13.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG) in limited minutes. His peak efficiency (27.49 PER) only punctuates how well Valanciunas is functioning off the bench.
Prince's inconsistent shooting has weaved all over the map. Over his past two games, Prince has shot a combined 4-of-23 from the floor. But with John Collins on the shelf, Prince will continue to garner a high volume of possession, which means plenty of chances to find some offensive consistency.
Ingram's suspension dented his early season momentum. But his fantasy production continues to gain steam, as evidenced by the 20.5 PPG he's averaged since his return. Ingram has the makings of a fantasy star. He has 2.0 blocks+steals potential and elite 3-point upside. What Ingram needs to flourish are touches. And the 26.9 usage he's posted (even aside LeBron) portends he's ready to push his production into fantasy's top 40.
Always a ball-dominant player, Rose's usage has remained high even throughout the ups and downs (mostly downs) of his past few seasons. But Rose's efficiency (52.2 TS%, 20.1 assist ratio) has rebounded in a big way over his opening eight games.
If you roster Rose, you have to be rooting for a Jimmy Butler deal. If Butler is traded -- especially if Minnesota gets mostly draft picks back in return -- Rose will be in line for a huge boost in fantasy value.
The key to LeVert's rising fantasy production: his versatility. Playing in a rotation with a high amount of fluctuation, LeVert's ability to adapt to different roles means he'll hold steady within the Nets' offense. He's a streaky shooter, but his usage should remain high, even when DeMarre Carroll returns.