Multiple overtime games, 40-point performances and blockbuster 20/20 (points and rebounds) efforts defined just another high-scoring night in the NBA.
The most exciting performance of Monday's nine-game slate featured Denver's Jamal Murray compiling a career-high 48 points as his Nuggets downed the Boston Celtics. Not only did the breakout scoring display secure Denver a pivotal win to improve to 9-1, with signature wins over contenders such as the Warriors, Jazz and now Celtics, but Murray's 48 points are the most by a Nuggets player since Carmelo Anthony dropped 50 against the Rockets in February of 2011.
Murray's 48 points are the most by a Nuggets player since Carmelo Anthony dropped 50 against the Rockets in February of 2011. They were also the most points ever scored by a Canadian-born player, while Murray became the seventh different player from the University of Kentucky to score 40 in an NBA game during the last three seasons -- more than twice as many as any other school. A rising fantasy asset, Murray is enjoying a 16 percent leap in shots per game and a 13 percent jump in scoring output in his third professional season compared to last season's strong sophomore effort.
While impressive box scores defined the night in the positive sense, seeing Oklahoma City's superstar Russell Westbrook leave Monday's win over the Pelicans with a seemingly serious ankle injury was undoubtedly a tough takeaway from Monday. Westbrook needed help leaving the court and subsequent tests revealed a high-ankle sprain, although thankfully with x-rays proving negative in regards to any fracture.
Westbrook was on the way to yet another triple-double performance, with the Thunder earning their fifth straight win after starting 0-4, becoming just the third team since the merger to start 0-4 and then win as many as five straight. Though Westbrook's status is currently unclear, the Thunder have a favorable upcoming schedule; each of their next six games come against teams with losing records, including four against the Suns, Mavericks and Cavaliers -- owners of three of the four worst records in the NBA.
As Westbrook heals, shares of Dennis Schroder could prove profitable, as he's available in roughly a third of ESPN leagues and unsurprisingly posted a season-high usage rate of 33.2 percent last night. With a strong offensive rating of 114 (team points per 100 possessions while he's on the floor) and a usage rate at 28.3 percent the past three games, Schroder could capably turn in rewarding fantasy production with Westbrook sidelined.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the night that was in the NBA.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets: 48 points (19-30 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 TO
Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics: 8 points (3-7 FG), 9 rebounds, 1 TO
Toronto's Kyle Lowry is producing a point guard season on par with Steve Nash's second MVP season in 2005-6. I saw this comparison made on Twitter, and it stuck with me how remarkable Lowry's season has proved to date. He's sporting a stronger true shooting rate (measure of scoring efficiency at all three levels) than Nash's epic season, higher assist rate, offensive rating, net rating, fewer turnovers, more steals and more made 3-pointers. Clearly, Lowry has quite a way to go to match Nash's sustained 79-game brilliance during that "seven seconds or less" era with Phoenix, but his amazing start merits more attention during this offensive explosion in the NBA. The Raptors improve to 3-1 without Kawhi Leonard with a resounding win in Utah last night. Toronto is scoring 117.8 PPG when Leonard does not play and 117.1 with, signaling just how special Lowry has been.
Detroit's Drummond is again pacing the league in rebounding and finished one rebound shy last night of matching Dwight Howard and Hakeem Olajuwon with the most performances with at least 25 points and 25 rebounds in the 3-point era. I find it even more remarkable Drummond sustains his elite rebounding rate next to a capable rebounder in Blake Griffin, but the two have proved productive together for a sizable sample now. Speaking of huge nights on the glass, the Knicks' Enes Kanter became the first player to compile at least 20 points, 20 rebounds and five assists since Charles Barkley in the fall of 1986.
Derrick Rose took four more shots than any other player on the Wolves in Monday's loss to the Clippers. The most notable part of Rose's output is that he did so with Jimmy Butler on the floor, having previously conceded the leading usage role when Butler has been active this season. The game marked the third-highest usage rate of Rose's season, signaling he could continue to provide scoring pop for fantasy managers. As for Butler, he looked particularly listless on defense and freelanced too often on offense, finishing with a team-worst net rating. A trade truly seems best for all parties.
Murray stole the headlines by flirting with 50, but Chicago's Zach LaVine also posted a career-best scoring effort with 41 points and the game-winning free throws in a double-overtime win over the Knicks. LaVine is now sixth in scoring, and despite still being a sieve defensively, his fantasy stock has never been higher. While he earned a spot in the "lowlights" section, Justin Holiday played 47 minutes in the win over New York and should continue to provide helpful 3-point and scoring rates until Kris Dunn rand Lauri Markkanen return to the lineup.
Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. impressively posted five blocks for Memphis last night and led the team in field goal attempts, an equally impressive feat given the competitive veteran roster Memphis claims. "JJJ" is going to be a fantasy star sooner rather than later, it appears.
Injuries of note
Donovan Mitchell sat out his second game of the season with an ankle sprain. The Jazz lost their fourth straight game for the first time since last December, a sign the team needs his scoring production back in the lineup. The Jazz next play Wednesday, with Mitchell's practice status noteworthy in the coming days.
A right foot injury kept Draymond Green from joining the Warriors in the second half last night. It's unclear how serious the injury is, though X-rays were negative. Jordan Bell, Jonas Jerebko and Kevon Looney will likely split Green's workload if he misses any time.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
Tonight appears to be a quiet four-game slate at first glance, but it's actually flush with great fantasy climates -- each game opened with a point total of at least 219, and three of the four games have point spreads of one or fewer points, signaling what should be competitive games. Don't run away from this smaller slate, instead load up on shares of the Bucks and Nets, two rosters primed to produce strong results in their respective games on Tuesday evening.
Top players to watch tonight
The list of players averaging at least six assists and 0.8 in each blocks and steals per game includes Green, Nikola Jokic, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. Wall and Bledsoe are both in action tonight and face interesting respective matchups worth targeting.
Bledsoe takes his dynamic defensive game up against Damian Lillard and his 28.1 PPG in what is likely the marquee matchup tonight in both real and fantasy terms. Wall, meanwhile, must contend with the Mavericks' young backcourt, which could prove beneficial for his fantasy upside.