From news of John Wall's season-ending injury to a quartet of 40-point scorers, this past Saturday revealed the highs and lows of fantasy basketball in a single day. James Harden, Kemba Walker, Jamal Murray and Damian Lillard each scored at least 40 points on Saturday, the most on a single day over the past two seasons.
Harden joined Moses Malone as the only players in Houston Rockets history with three straight 40-point games. Additionally, Harden scored 35 in his seventh straight game, tied for the fourth-longest streak since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger. Murray had his second 45-point game of the season, becoming the first player in Denver Nuggets franchise history with multiple 45-point games at age 21 or younger, per Elias. Over the past 30 seasons, Murray is one of five players with multiple 45-point games by that age. Lillard scored 40 points in the Portland Trail Blazers' 115-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors. It was Lillard's fourth career 40-point game against the Warriors, his most against any team. Walker, meanwhile, scored 21 points in the final six minutes of a close loss to the Wizards, tied for the most by any player in the past 20 seasons.
Pivoting to Washington's roster now that Wall will require more than six months to heal from heel surgery, there is a sizable slice of offensive usage to divvy up among the team's key backcourt talents. Usage percentage is an estimate of team plays consumed by an individual player, such as shots, assists, turnovers. Wall ranks 15th in the NBA in usage this season.
Bradley Beal averaged 5.9 assists and scored 20 PPG with clean shooting percentages during a 27-game stretch without Wall in the lineup last season. Already a high-usage combo guard of sorts, Beal is set to shine statistically the rest of the way. My favorite player to pursue in a trade right now might just be Otto Porter Jr., who has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play this season. Without Wall in the lineup last season, Porter's usage jumped 2.1 percent, leading to an awesome line of 16.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.9 combined blocks and steals, and 2.0 3PG on 46.2 percent from beyond the arc during that same sample referenced for Beal. Porter's managers might have soured on him by this point, making this an ideal time to submit offers.
During a 26-game sample that lasted from late January until late March last season with Wall sidelined, Tomas Satoransky posted the following stats:10.4 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG. On Saturday, Satoransky poured in 20 points on 11 shots to go with six dimes. Most impressively, Satoransky sank four of seven 3-point attempts, potentially suggesting he'll retain efficiency in the face of increased usage in the months ahead. As noted in my fantasy free agency piece this week, Satoransky is available for the price of a roster spot in 99 percent of ESPN leagues. Surging center Thomas Bryant and 3-and-D maven Trevor Ariza also merit mention as widely available assets worthy of your attention.
With an eye on meaningful fantasy performances and relevant statistical trends, let's delve into the weekend that was in the NBA.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets: 46 points (16-24 FG), 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 TO
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: 47 points (18-29 FG), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 TO
Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks: 6 points (2-7 FG), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 TO
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra recently declare Justise Winslow, a 6-7 wing, as the team's de facto point guard with Goran Dragic sidelined for several months. While coach-speak can prove difficult to trust at times, this is already showing up on the floor and in the box score, as the statistical response from Winslow has been impressive; he's averaging 22.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, and 2.3 SPG during the past seven days and leads the team with 51.4 passes per game the past five outings, 11 more than Josh Richardson. Winslow is a priority addition to consider from free agency, as he's a long-term building block for Miami and could enjoy the rewards of this new distribution-driven role until Dragic returns, which is likely well after the All-Star break.
Speaking of point forwards, on Sunday evening, Brandon Ingram showed some of the passing prowess that saw his assist rate spike in the second half of last season. Ingram's usage and overall offensive output has taken a hit with LeBron James on the floor, typified by Ingram nearly notching a triple-double in the win over the Kings on Sunday with LeBron sidelined. Josh Hart, available in free agency in most ESPN leagues, scored a season-high 22 points yesterday. It has been impressive to see Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Hart and Ingram rotate big games with James still out with a groin injury suffered on Christmas Day. It will be interesting to see how this young core can produce with James back at the helm in the coming weeks.
Deandre Ayton is eighth overall on the Player Rater the past 15 days, just behind teammate Devin Booker. With all the deserved hype Luka Doncic has netted, Ayton merits our attention as well given he'd be just the fourth rookie since 1972 to average at least 16.8 PPG, 10.9 RPG, and 2.2 APG. It's also impressive to note that Ayton has produced more assists than turnovers as a 20-year-old center with a demanding role.
Injuries of note
Joel Embiid sat out the Sixers' game in Portland on Sunday night with knee soreness. On the broadcast, coach Brett Brown discussed the move was precautionary and with maintenance in mind, signaling we could see Embiid against the Clippers on Tuesday.
Booker is listed as questionable ahead of Monday's tilt with the Warriors due to a lower back contusion sustained in a close loss to Denver on Saturday.
Analytics advantage for Monday
The fantasy hoops community rightfully spends a good amount of energy and attention seeking high-scoring games to target for streaming in redraft formats and for stacking (loading up on specific rosters). The inverse can prove helpful as well in that we can look for matchups that might be worth avoiding within reason.
For instance, Memphis faces Houston tonight in a game with a decidedly modest point total of 200, while four other games are above 220 points. The Grizzlies are back to the grit-and-grind model in some sense, as they are 30th in pace, which is a measure of possessions per 48 minutes. The Grizzlies will seek to slow down the game, meaning the fringe players on Houston might not be helpful DFS options, with the same likely proving true for Memphis' roster. Instead, we can expect the tempo to be turned up on Phoenix, as the Suns host the Warriors in a game with a point total approaching 230, signaling a strong opportunity to build around Ayton (especially if Booker sits).
Top players to watch
Towns and Anthony Davis face off tonight New Orleans. Both superstars are capable of making almost any statistical line believable. For instance, the line above from Towns is the only one I could find with at least 34 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and six blocks since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar produced 35 points, 19 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks against Phoenix in November of 1975. In a game with encouraging Vegas indicators (point total of 229.5), this is a riveting matchup between two top frontcourt talents.