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Notable Numbers

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Notable Numbers

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Here in "Notable Numbers," each week we attempt to unearth some interesting stats and facts. Today we discuss the potential value of De'Aaron Fox and the three talented and promising players the Bulls received in exchange for Jimmy Butler.

 

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* Windy City Building Blocks
When it was first announced back in June that the Bulls had traded Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton to Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, the move was widely criticized. Most pundits adamantly argued that the Bulls did not get nearly enough in return for an All-NBA talent such as Butler.


Now, seven months later, most of us have a different opinion the package Chicago received, despite the fact that Butler is playing at a very high level with the Timberwolves. Not only have the Bulls won three games in a row, and 14 of their last 21, but their future looks far more promising today than it did six months ago, and the trio of talented youngsters they acquired from Minnesota are the primary reasons for that optimism.


Let's start with the youngest member of the triumvirate, Lauri Markkanen. Coming into this season, there were plenty of questions about the 20-year old Finnish rookie's readiness to make an impact during his debut NBA campaign. Well, the neophyte let it be known right away that he was ready to rock. He averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 triples over the Bulls first three games. According to Basketball-Reference, not only was he the first rookie to make 10 or more 3-pointers in his first three games, but he was also one of just ten first-year players since 1983-84 to tally at least 49 points and 28 rebounds over their first three career games. The other nine players in this exclusive club are Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaq, Lamar Odom, Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns.


Now, exactly halfway through his rookie year, Markkanen has continued to exceed expectations. Among member of the 2017 Draft class, Lauri currently ranks fourth in scoring (15.5 points per game), second in rebounding (7.6), second in free-throw percentage (.851), third in 3-point percentage (.375), and first in made 3-pointers (101). And when it comes to 3-point marksmanship, Markkanen's numbers aren't just impressive relative to his draft class; they are literally historic.

 

Markkanen has knocked down 100 3-pointers faster than any player in NBA history. Consider this: It took Stephen Curry 58 games (17 more than Lauri) to make his 100th triple. It took Ray Allen 76 games. MJ didn't make his 100th trey until his 382nd career game.

 

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And it's not just rookies that Lauri compares favorably with. According to Basketball-Reference, there have been only four players (Antoine Walker, James Harden, Ryan Anderson, Kevin Durant) in league history to ever average at least 15 points, seven boards and 2.5 treys per game over the course of a full season at any point in their careers. Markkanen is on pace to make it five.


Next up, we have point guard Kris Dunn. It's extremely rare that a player can be viewed as a reclamation project just one year into his career; however, Dunn's value had dropped dramatically over his one season in Minnesota. Despite his disappointing debut in Minny, the Bulls were confident he could bounce back, and they have to be ecstatic with the early returns.


Dunn dished out ten dimes in the Bulls victory over the Heat on Monday. It was his seventh straight games with at least eight assists. Russell Westbrook and John Wall are the only two players with longer such streak in the league this season. Concerning just the Chicago franchise, Dunn's seven-game streak is the longest by a Bull since Michael Jordan had at least eight assists in 19 straight games back in 1988-89.


But it's not just the assists that have raised eyebrows and the hopes of Windy City denizens. Over the Bulls last 25 games, Dunn is averaging 15.3 points (on 45.1 percent shooting), 7.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.1 steals. Rather impressive, considering that Chris Paul, John Wall, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook are the only four players this decade to have averaged at least 15 points, seven dimes, four boards and two steals over the course of a full NBA season.


Lastly, the Bulls knew they would have to be patient with Zach LaVine, who was working his way back from a torn ACL. However, LaVine was diligent in his rehab, stayed on schedule, and returned to the lineup Saturday night. Then, on Monday, in just his second game in a Chicago uniform, LaVine scored 18 points (on 7-of-12 shooting) and added five rebounds, five assists, two steals and two triples. Per NBA.com. LaVine became just the seventh player ever to record at least 18/5/5 playing 20 minutes or less in a game. LaVine has shown no signs of rust and has not been bashful, posting a usage rate north of 30 percent.


Chicago will continue to take it slowly with LaVine, but this is player who averaged 18.9 points, 3.4 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.6 triples over 47 games as a 21-year old last season. His upside is undeniably high, assuming he can stay healthy.


Sum it all up and you have foundational building blocks that Bulls fans believe can be the core of a contender. Also, something else fantasy folks can get excited about is the increased pace Chicago has been playing with over the last six weeks. From the beginning of the season through Dec. 7, the Bulls ranked 23rd in the NBA in pace (98.3). Since then, according to NBA.com, Chicago has upped its pace to 101.1, which ranks fifth overall.


* Fox on the Rise
While De'Aaron Fox hasn't struggled quite as much as Kris Dunn did his rookie season, Fox hasn't lived up to expectations over his first few months in the NBA. However, there are reasons to believe that will turnaround over the second half of the season.


The main issue for Fox early on was a lack of extended opportunity. After drafting Fox with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Kings signed veteran point guard George Hill in free agency. They also selected Kansas PG Frank Mason with their second-round pick.


Over his first 29 games this season, Fox, who was splitting time with Hill and Mason, averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 assists and 0.9 steals in 25.1 minutes per contest. Then, in mid-December, he was sidelined by a partial tear in his right quadriceps muscle.


Since his return to the lineup this month, Fox has seen his playing time and production increase sharply. Frank Mason was injured in late December and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks due to a partial tear of the plantar fasciitis tendon, opening the door for added minutes. In the seven games Fox has played since the calendar flipped to 2018, Fox is averaging 14.0 points, 6.4 assists and 1.6 steals in 31.7 minutes. Fox flashed his upside last Sunday when he scored 17 points and dished out ten assists vs. the Clippers.


Going forward, I expect Fox to continue to see the lion's share of playing time at point guard. Mason is expected to be sidelined into February. And, on Monday, coach Dave Joerger said that he will be resting two veterans in every game going forward. Obviously, George Hill will be one of those oft-rested vets. In addition, Hill is a possible trade candidate.


All things considered, Fox's outlook over the second half of the season is quite bright. Due to his limited production over the first half of 2017-18, he is a prime ‘buy low' target right now. Savvy fantasy GM's should act accordingly.




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