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Blake Griffin’s Historic Start

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


In this edition of Notable Numbers, we'll discuss the impressive early season play of Joe Ingles, Caris LeVert, Blake Griffin, Cedi Osman and Elfrid Payton.

 

Caris’ Coming Out
During training camp and the preseason, Nets players and coaches alike all raved about Caris LeVert. They proclaimed that the work he put in during the offseason would pay tremendous dividends during the 2018-19 campaign. While it’s not unusual for an organization to hype up a former first-round pick about to enter his third year in the league, it appears the Nets weren't exaggerating.


LeVert is off to a phenomenal start this season. He tied a career-high by scoring 27 points in the Nets opener at Detroit. In Game 2, a victory over the Knicks in Brooklyn, Caris set a new career-high by pouring in 28. (In the process, he became just the fourth player in franchise history to post 27+ points in each of the Nets’ first two games of a season.) The next night in Indiana, he shot 8-of-9 from the floor and en route to a team-high 19 points.


However, LeVert’s contributions have not been limited to just scoring the ball. He is currently averaging 4.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.3 treys and 1.0 steals. He’s the first Net ever to tally 27+ points, four or more boards and four or more assists in the first two games of a season. In fact, per NBA.com, no Nets player recorded more than one 27/4/4 game all of last season.


LeVert, who is shooting a scorching 65% from the field, is one of just five players currently averaging at least 24 points, four boards and four dimes, while also shooting over 50 percent from the floor. The other three are Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis.


LeVert’s talent has never been in question. He slipped all the way to the 20th pick in the 2016 draft because he was coming off an injury-marred career at the University of Michigan. Despite starting just ten games last season, it was clear the breakout potential was there. (He was the only NBA player with at least 700 points, 200 assists and 70 steals off the bench.) It looks like Caris is ready to put it all together. If he can stay healthy while logging plenty of playing time (he’s yet to play 30+ minutes in three straight games in his career), the sky’s the limit.

 

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Average Joe
Another player off to an incredibly efficient start to the season is Utah’s Joe Ingles. I’ve often joked about Ingles being a “boring” pick in fantasy drafts, and how while everyone else is reaching for rookies with upside and tempting bounce-back candidates, your league mates will yawn when you select Ingles. However, it’s also important to note that those same folks will cry if you take home the title year after year. And “Average” Joe Ingles is a rock-solid pick the middle round that can serve as a foundational piece of a winning squad.


Despite finishing last season ranked 61st overall in nine-category leagues, Ingles still flies under the radar. Although he struggled on Monday in a loss to Memphis (nine points on 4-of-13 shooting), Ingles is still averaging 19.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.0 treys and 2.7 steals, while shooting 57.5 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3-point territory. James Harden is the only other player in the league averaging over two steals and four triples.


The beauty of Ingles fantasy game is that he doesn’t hurt you in any particular category. Last season, he was one of only two players to average at least 2.5 treys and one steal, yet fewer than two turnovers.


The Arrival of The Cedi
Many fantasy pundits predicted Cedi Osman would see plenty of playing time for the Cleveland after LeBron James took his talents to Los Angeles, and that Cedi would be one of the Cavs leading scorers this season.

 

Thus, it’s not all that surprising that he is averaging 17.0 points per game. However, he’s also stuffing the stat sheet across the board, which was not expected by even the most ardent Cedi acolytes. Over Cleveland’s first three contests, Osman is averaging 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists 2.7 triples and 1.3 steals. Chris Paul and James Harden are the only players currently matching or exceeding Osman in those categories.


Last season as a rookie, Osman averaged just 2.2 assists per-36 minutes. He had a total of only 28 dimes in his first 600 minutes of NBA action. This year, Cedi has dished out 16 assists in 107 minutes. We’ll see if he can keep it up.

 

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Is BG Detroit’s New PG?
If we are going to discuss notable numbers over the first week of the season, we have no choice but to highlight Blake Griffin’s phenomenal start.


It’s early in the year, but it’s hard to imagine an individual performance being far more impressive than what we witnessed from Blake in Detroit on Tuesday night. BG erupted for 50 points (on 20-of-35 shooting), 14 rebounds, six assists, five 3-pointers, and committed just one turnover. His final three points came on an And-1 with less than two seconds remaining that that sealed the win for Detroit. In addition, many of those buckets, especially down the stretch, came against Joel Embiid, who is one of the league’s better defensive bigs.


BG has now scored more than 25 points in each game this season and is averaging a league-leading 36.3 points to go along with 11.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 3.7 treys and only 0.7 turnovers. Per Basketball-Reference, he is the first and only player in league history to tally more than 100 points, 30 rebounds and ten 3-pointers over the first three games of any season.


It obviously impossible for BG to keep up this pace going forward, but there is reason to believe he can post career-highs in multiple categories this year. Not only is he finally healthy and in the heart of his prime, but he is also being used in a way that can maximize his talents. New Pistons coach Dwane Casey has Griffin frequently facilitate the offense from the top of the key. On the vast majority of possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime on Tuesday night, it wasn’t Ish Smith or Reggie Jackson bringing the ball up the floor for Detroit, but rather Griffin. Even on trips in which he wasn’t the primary ball-handler, the Pistons would get the rock to Blake at the top of the circle and run either pick-and-rolls or DHO, or some other action allowing him to decide on how to attack the defense.


His usage rate has increased in each game thus far, and on Tuesday night it landed at 38.4%. It is safe to assume Detroit will continue to operate its offense in this manner, as they are 3-0 and one of only five undefeated teams in the NBA. They have no reason to move away from what has been successful thus far. And that’s glorious news for Griffin’s soaring fantasy value.


Elf Comes Home
There were reasons to be skeptical of Elfrid Payton coming into this year. A former top-10 pick of the Magic, Orlando dumped him at the trade deadline last February, receiving only a second-round pick back in a trade with the Suns. Payton then struggled over the second half of the season in Pheonix, averaging 11.8 points and 2.8 turnovers, while shooting just 43.5 percent from the floor.


This summer, teams weren’t knocking down the door to bring in Payton. He ended up inking a one-year deal at near the minimum with the Pelicans. A Louisiana native, who played his college ball the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the Pels were hoping he could turn his career around close to home. New Orleans decided to let Rajon Rondo walk, and hand the point guard reigns to Payton, optimistic he could run with that role.


With a new haircut and a new team, he is exceeding expectations early on. Elf is currently averaging 13.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 treys, while shooting 54.8 percent from the floor.


The Pelicans are an ideal situation for nearly any point guard, especially one with Payton’s skill set. New Orleans led the NBA in Pace in 2017-18, averaging 101.6 possessions per 48 minutes. This season, they are playing even faster (107.3 possessions / 48). The Pels are loaded with talented offensive players all over the court. In addition to Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic are lighting it up. E'Twaun Moore is averaging 15 points per game. Unsurprisingly, the Pels lead the NBA in Offensive Rating and True Shooting Percentage. It’s a point guard’s dream scenario. And Payton is the beneficiary. As are the GM’s that selected Elf late in their drafts earlier this month.




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