Ethan Norof

The Specialists

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Specialists: Randle's Rebound

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers: Points, Rebounds, Field Goal Percentage

 

Some might call Randle’s current campaign a microcosm of his career, but there has been far too much consistency in order for that to be true. Heretofore, Randle’s reputation—from his 14-minute rookie season to his ever-changing hybrid role within the Lakers schematic—had largely differed dependent upon who was asked, but there was one similarity that united all opinions: The inconsistency was impossible to overlook. And although the same thing could be said of Randle to begin this season when he was coming off the bench, it’s been a completely different story since Luke Walton—who has been harder on Randle than any other player since the head coach took over—rewarded him by inserting him into the starting five.

 

It might be easy to overlook the fact that Randle, who is still just 23 years old, has improved his efficiency each season he’s been in the NBA, but it’s not hard to see how effective he’s been in the starting five with averages of 19.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists on 57.1% shooting over 39 games. Randle has been even better since the All-Star Break (15 games) with averages of 21.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists en route to establishing himself as one of the biggest matchup problems in the NBA, and the Lakers are going to have to give real consideration to re-signing the blossoming young bull this summer. Randle’s dynasty arrow is pointing way up, and if he can figure out how to turn his activity on defense into an increase in steals and/or blocks, Randle is going to be a highly intriguing player to evaluate moving forward regardless of what uniform he’s wearing. 

 

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Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland Trail Blazers: Steals, Rebounds


At this juncture of the season—with championships on the line—it’s inconceivable that Aminu is on a shade more (54%) than half of Yahoo rosters.


In addition to an insanely favorable four-game week ahead vs. New Orleans, Memphis (x2) and the Clippers, Aminu had been showing out prior to Sunday’s contest against OKC with averages of 15.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 3.4 triples on 27-of-51 (52.9%) from the field. And while the “hot hand theory” has advocates on both sides of the debate, it’s categorically undeniable that momentum plays a factor in determining who takes home the crown. In addition to playing huge minutes, Aminu doesn’t turn the ball over and has virtually no competition for playing time given the unique construction of this Portland roster.


Bottom line: There really isn’t a legitimate argument for Aminu to be sitting on the waiver wire in any 12-team format.


Nerlens Noel, Dallas Mavericks: Steals, Blocks


Count me as a believer. Noel has received a raw deal for most of his NBA career, but I think he’s poised to show more than most think down the stretch of the regular season. So long as Noel gets at least 20 minutes of action, the athletic big fella is capable of making a positive impact on any fantasy roster. It certainly helps Noel’s case for minutes that Harrison Barnes—who the Mavs have been miscasting as a small-ball four for too long—has been vocal about his enjoyment playing small forward again, and that move opens up more minutes along the front line for Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri, and Noel.


If we put together the five games this month where Noel has been granted at least 20 minutes on the floor, he has averaged 6.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks with just 0.2 turnovers. That’s a very useful fantasy asset, especially after we factor in the 14-of-26 (53.8%) shooting. For the season (27 games), Noel has per-36 minute averages of 10.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals, and 1.8 blocks, so his effectiveness shouldn’t be a surprise when he’s granted a chance to play. Defensive stats are like always golden, and a difference-maker in both categories shines like a diamond when competing for a title. And while Noel won’t necessarily be a part of the Mavs uncertain future, he’s showing why so many teams should be interested in acquiring his services when he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer.


Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns: Points, Steals


Devin Booker’s (hand) return looms as a potential threat to Jackson’s involvement, but the rookie can still be effective while playing second-fiddle with T.J. Warren (knee) sidelined, and I still wouldn’t dismiss the idea of Phoenix eventually shutting down Booker for the season.


Including Jackson’s career-high 36-point outing, the No. 4 overall pick has averaged 20.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.0 steals on 46-of-105 (43.8%) shooting over his last six contests. And given that the Suns play Golden State (x2), Houston, New Orleans, Sacramento, and Dallas in six of their final eight games, there should be ample opportunities for Jackson to produce due to either the style of play, the competitiveness of the game, or a combination of both factors.


Tim Hardaway Jr, New York Knicks: Points, 3-pointers


It hasn’t been quite the “breakout season” that so many—myself included—were hoping for, but THJ has come alive at the right time for patient fantasy GM’s to see a positive return on investment. Prior to Sunday’s outing vs. Washington, Hardaway had been coming off a career-best 39 points vs. Minnesota and enjoying his best month (11 games) of the season with averages of 21.5 points, 3.7 boards, and 2.5 3-pointers on 46.0% shooting. Even with the Knicks very obviously invested in “player development,” Hardaway’s role should be safe the rest of the way with someone needing to provide the offense, especially when things get stagnant.


Looking ahead toward next season, it’s hard to get excited about Hardaway as more than a two-category specialist given that he doesn’t really get to the foul line, contributes marginally defensively, and will not be a harbinger of efficiency on this Knicks team as constructed, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a guy like that in the middle rounds so long as you draft accordingly. 



Follow Ethan Norof on Twitter @Ethan_Norof for more fantasy basketball analysis, advice and all things Los Angeles Lakers.
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