On one hand, you could imagine it was 2010 while watching Derrick Rose deliver a signature scoring night reminiscent of his best days with the Chicago Bulls. Quickly reminding you this is indeed 2018, Rose set a new career high with seven 3-pointers in the game on the way to his second 30-point game this season after having as many across the past two seasons combined. This shooting success and usage is quite the departure from his normally midrange-driven game. Rose finished the close loss to the Lakers just one 3-pointer shy of tying the franchise record (eight by Kevin Love in 2013 and Stephon Marbury in 1997).
It's now obvious that Rose is a must-add fantasy free agent, especially as he's still available for a few clicks and a roster spot in more than half of ESPN leagues as of Thursday morning. Once a seemingly inevitable Jimmy Butler trade is executed, Rose could enjoy even more unfettered usage as the team's alpha scorer out of the backcourt. We can be confident coach Tom Thibodeau will be on board with supporting Rose's revival. It appears the more time fantasy managers spend doubting Rose's resurgence is merely affording league mates more time to catch on.
It's far less clear how to navigate the Karl-Anthony Towns experience. For one, his splits between the first and second halves of games have been profoundly wonky. After scoring just two points without hitting any of his nine shot attempts in the second half against the Lakers last night, Towns is now shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc in the second half of games this season, compared to robust rates of 48.7 percent from the field and 59 percent from 3-point range in the first two quarters of contests this season.
There appears to be a blend of issues with the player, scheme and usage share among peers. Dating back to last season, Towns has been brilliant statistically sans Butler from the lineup, signaling there could be potentially massive profits in dealing for "KAT" before an eventual Butler deal is consummated.
Confirming we can keep stacking and streaming against the Lakers going forward despite the hype surrounding newly signed Tyson Chandler's defensive contributions last night, the team has now allowed at least 110 points in all 11 games -- the longest such streak by any team to start a season since the 1983-84 Nuggets. Those early-80's Alex English Nuggets teams, mind you, were famously loose on defense, so this is quite the precedent to model.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the night that was in the NBA.
Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets: 2 points (1-7 FG), 3 rebounds, 2 TO
If not for Rose's renaissance performance on a national broadcast last night, the basketball world might be talking exclusively about Whiteside's amazing performance against the Spurs. Whiteside became the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989 to deliver a line with at least 29 points, 20 rebounds and 9 blocks. I don't trust the scoring surge to continue, but it's worth noting Whiteside is back in elite company on the glass (15.2 RPG) and in rim protection (3.4 BPG), which rate as sizable leaps from last season's somewhat disappointing results.
I saw a light flurry of Jokic panic on Twitter last night after taking and missing his only shot in what is surely an outlier outing against the Grizzlies. For a positive spin, Jokic's lone shot was incredibly high-leverage, as it was a potential go-ahead 3-point attempt with two seconds on the clock. Then again, having a franchise center's lone shot came on a last-second shot from 23 feet might not be an ideal plan. My main counsel here it to buy, buy, buy if there is any deflation in Jokic's stock apparent in your league(s). The Grizzlies are fully back into grind mode in regards to slow pace and stout defensive metrics, aiding to the outlier angle for Jokic's no-show outing.
As part of the "grit and grind" mentality for Memphis, defensive savant Jaren Jackson Jr. is now 15th in blocks per game after swatting three shots last night. We're also starting to see his offensive game evolve, with the rookie becoming the second teenager in franchise history to score at least 20 points in multiple games in a season, joining Shareef Abdur-Rahim in this unique club.
While Whiteside and Jokic are understandably universally rostered, we still find emergent forward Pascal Siakam floating in free agency in nearly 80 percent of ESPN leagues. In another solid win for the Raptors last night, Siakam produced 21 points on 11 shots and is shooting nearly 62 percent from the field on the season. Acquiring key complementary players on elite teams is often a rewarding practice.
With Russell Westbrook sidelined for the Thunder's win over the Bulls last night as he heals from a high ankle sprain, we can expect him to also miss tonight's matchup with the Rockets. In his place, Dennis Schroder tallied a season-high 28 points on Wednesday night and is now averaging 19 PPG in three games starting in place of Westbrook this season. Schroder should again be a key offensive playmaker for the Thunder tonight.
In the bizarre stat update of the day, the Mavericks' DeAndre Jordan made all but one of his eight free throw attempts last night and is now shooting 84 percent from the line on the season. Jordan entered the season, his 11th NBA campaign, sinking just 44.6 percent of his free throws. Drummond pulled off a marked leap in free throw efficiency last season, so we'll be watching to see if Jordan can sustain some modicum of success at the stripe.
Injuries of note
Draymond Green has been ruled out ahead of tonight's epic matchup with the Bucks. His minutes and touches are expected to splinter throughout the frontcourt rotation, with the likes of Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney earning added exposure.
Analytics advantage for Thursday
The Warriors host the Bucks on Thursday in a matchup between the top two scoring teams in the NBA this season. Golden State is averaging 123.5 points per game and has started 10-1. As for Milwaukee, the Bucks are perched at 8-2 while averaging 120 points per game.
The Bucks have played a completely different offensive style under new coach Mike Budenholzer; averaging more than 41 3-point attempts per game, second only to the Rockets. Last season, the Bucks ranked 25th in 3-point volume. This space-friendly trend can prove rewarding for proactive fantasy managers, particularly in regards to acquiring shares of Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez in free agency ahead of tonight's compelling matchup.
Top players to watch tonight
Sticking with tonight's marquee matchup of respective conference contenders, it's a given Giannis Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly test the Warriors' rim and paint protection early and often, especially with Green, the team's top interior defender, sidelined. Antetokounmpo has been a force inside this season in averaging 18.7 paint points per game -- more than three points better than any other player this season.
Per Second Spectrum, Antetokounmpo has been efficient on drives this season, recording 1.26 points per direct drive -- which ranks third best among 68 players with at least 75 drives this season. The only players better? Kemba Walker and Kevin Durant. Tonight should be fun.