Just ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, we find the Philadelphia 76ers' freewheeling Tony Wroten on the usage rate leaderboard. Usage rate is an increasingly leveraged metric that aims to estimate the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the floor. Before suffering a partially torn ACL that likely will end his season, Wroten ranked eighth in the NBA in usage rate this season with a gaudy 29.7 rate -- a massive figure that would have placed him fifth in the league last season, just ahead of LeBron James in the advanced statistic.
Wroten is currently first in the league in points per game on drives to the basket, just ahead of James and James Harden, as well as first in the league in points per 48 minutes on drives (for players with at least 10 games played this season). ESPN Insider and fantasy basketball analyst Joe Kaiser recently discussed how several injury scenarios around the league might affect the fantasy landscape. With that angle in mind, it is of interest to fantasy basketball investors for us to assess the aftermath of Wroten's injury to the 76ers' rotation.
While Wroten ranks eighth in the NBA in usage rate, backcourt peer Michael Carter-Williams is currently 13th in the league in usage with a healthy 27.5 rate, just ahead of elite position peers Kyle Lowry, John Wall and Damian Lillard. Much like Wroten, scoring efficiency completely escapes Carter-Williams' profile, as he's last in the league in shooting percentage on jump shots according to NBASavant.com with a lowly 26.5 percent clip. Yet also like Wroten, we find MCW just behind Wroten in drive production, as he's fourth in the league in points per game on drives and eighth in points per 48 minutes from drives. If the usage party is over for Wroten, Carter-Williams' consumption of the 76ers' offensive plays is only rising since his teammate's injury. In seven games since Wroten was sidelined, Carter-Williams is posting a usage rate of 31.2 (compared to 27.3 before) and is taking 16.4 shots per game (8.6 percent increase from before Wroten's injury). We're finding MCW averaging 17.4 points, 6.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds and, most impressively, 2.4 steals post-Wroten.
This recent rich usage spike pushes Carter-Williams into one of the handful of busiest roles in the NBA, affording him a jump in fantasy value in all formats, and particularly in daily fantasy competition where his nightly potential for nearing triple-double lines offers a degree of cost certainty. In a traditional redraft format, be it weekly or a season-long rotisserie, the presence of his dramatically inefficient shooting percentages and glaring turnover rate counters some of the rewards of Carter-Williams' post-Wroten usage riches. However, similarly to how we analyzed Brandon Jennings' usage leap in the wake of Josh Smith's departure earlier this month, countering MCW with some high-percentage big men, Mason Plumlee or Tyson Chandler for example, can help offset the percentage risks and instead promote the rich counting stats the Syracuse product offers.
Another potential heir to increased usage and offensive output would be block-happy rookie K.J. McDaniels, who has seen his usage rate go from 18.2 before Wroten's injury to 22 in eight games since. Despite the uptick in work, McDaniels is mired in an enduring shooting slump (31.6 percent from the field in past eight games). That all said, the reliable rates for McDaniels are on the defensive side of the ball, where he's averaging 1.4 blocks and nearly a steal per game despite fluctuations in minutes. Of players to have logged at least 1,000 minutes this season, McDaniels joins Anthony Davis, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Andre Drummond, Gorgui Dieng, Derrick Favors and teammate Nerlens Noel as the only players to average at least 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes in the league this season. While a fairly handpicked set of qualifiers, those are all well-known rim protectors, with McDaniels as the lone swingman among the block giants. If anything, the specialization element of McDaniels' game increases with increased minutes sans Wroten, and thus more blocks and steals.
Grantland's Zach Lowe recently offered some insight into Jerami Grant's entertaining game: "Are you a lonely, self-hating person prone to choosing activities that cause you misery? Meet your next reason to tune in to the Philadelphia 76ers: Jerami Grant, a 6-foot-8 multi-positional something who is shooting 35 percent from deep and jumps around a lot. Grant had eight blocks against the Knicks last week. He tries to dunk everything around the rim, a search-and-destroy mentality that produces highlights regardless of whether Grant crams it or misses." Similarly to McDaniels, we're not going to reap much besides blocks and steals from Grant, but daily league value could emerge, given bottom-dollar pricing and increased minutes for the rookie.
Outside of these beneficiaries, we find shooting specialist Robert Covington afforded 6.4 3-point attempts per game since Wroten's injury (compared to 5.4 per game before). Covington takes more 3-pointers per 36 minutes (7.3) this season than Kyle Korver, offering him real value for those coveting help from beyond the arc. Larry Drew II is simply fighting for 10-day contract action, but could actually become an interesting daily fantasy play as one of the most inexpensive guards likely to see 25-plus minutes most nights. Even if it's not pretty to watch, as Lowe points out, targeting some of the 76ers' commodities could prove helpful in some specific statistics.