NBA: 76ers 109, Raptors 102
Back-to-back games against the same opponent.
Numerous games postponed due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Through all of the strangeness this NBA season, are there noticeable anomalies to take away?
Like all sports, the game of basketball continues to evolve as players develop different skillsets, shot charts migrate based on analytics and scoring gets easier due to offence-biased officiating.
As we reach the halfway point of this pandemic-centred NBA season, here are three observations that you can use to prepare your teams for a championship run.
Three-point shooting is up roughly 14 per cent compared to the league average over the last three seasons. NBA teams have averaged 34.9 three-point attempts per game in 2020-21. Five years ago that number was 24.1. Ten years ago? The league average was 18.0.
Across the top-150 players in fantasy, the median three-pointers per game is 1.72 and it’s not just anchored by a few volume shooters like Steph Curry or Damian Lillard.
If you’re watching NBA games, it’s undeniable how coveted three-point shooting is. How do you use that information from a fantasy perspective? Reserve that category for your streamers and back-end roster players.
As it stands, six out of the top 30 three-point shooters rank outside the top-100 in fantasy. Players like Gary Trent Jr. and Eric Gordon have made themselves fantasy relevant giving you nothing beyond threes.
You might find the odd player who is a streaming specialist for blocks or assists, but if you’re looking to flip one additional category per week due to streaming, three-pointers are the way to go.
TL:DR – Of all six counting stats, threes are the easiest to find in free agency.
TOP-HEAVY POINTS PRODUCTION
So far this season, the top-30 in terms of points production have averaged 26.0 PPG. Last season it was 25.0 PPG and five years ago it 22.3 PPG.
What’s the takeaway? If your team hasn’t been winning points this season, that’s unlikely to change. Points are top-heavy this season. Look for players who provide fantasy production in the other eight categories.
Robert Covington and Draymond Green are good examples that fit this contrarian strategy. Myles Turner is the poster boy for punting points if you can pry him away from his smug managers.
In free agency, look to grab players like T.J. McConnell or Nerlens Noel, specialists with neutral impact on shooting percentages.
Even if you didn’t intend to punt points at the start of the season, it’s one of the easiest categories to trade away. Your opponents likely won’t realize what you’re up to.
TL:DR – If you haven’t been consistently winning points by now, punt the category via trade or free agency.
ALL-TIME HIGH FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE
There’s a logical hypothesis amongst NBA analysts that no fans means less missed free throws.
On one hand, league-wide free throw efficiency is at an all-time high, 77.7 per cent, on the other, the difference is only 0.4 per cent more than the old record.
It’s hard to argue there’s a direct correlation to empty arenas, there are too many other factors to incorporate. If you ask me, I think having less Shaquille O’Neals and Dwight Howards shooting free throws has a bigger influence.
When punting free throws, there are some staple names to count on: Andre Drummond, Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo to name a few. This season though, there are a few surprising names at the bottom of the list.
De’Aaron Fox is a rising star point guard. Russell Westbrook shot over 80 per cent in eight of his first nine seasons. Anthony Davis has been an eight-category fantasy monster for the majority of his career. All three are set to shoot career-lows from the line this year.
If you’re stuck with some of these players with intentions on winning FT, don’t be stubborn. Approach the team with Giannis and position the trade with punting value in mind. Help them see past your player’s nine-category ranking and hopefully you’ll get some bonus value versus trading with a non-FT punting manager.
TL:DR – Poor free throw shooting players damage your team more than ever this season.
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