Stew: Booker Bonanza

Matt Stroup
Matt Stroup weighs a big finish from Devin Booker and the potential next year for Andrew Wiggins in the latest edition of Roundball Stew

Stew: Booker Bonanza

Matt Stroup weighs a big finish from Devin Booker and the potential next year for Andrew Wiggins in the latest edition of Roundball Stew

As you know if you frequently read this column, I usually conclude it by hurling a bunch of random thoughts into a paragraph or two. Today, with six days left in the regular season — an obscenely random stretch of the NBA calendar — the Stew will be composed entirely of such randomness. Let’s begin…

Random Thoughts, Part I: Timothe Luwawu (yes, we’re starting with him) averaged 4.9 ppg through his first 60 games. He has posted 16.8 ppg (with 5.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.3 spg and 2.2 3s) in his last six. His playing time situation (last six games: 36 minutes per game) likely won’t be anywhere close to this rosy at the start of next season, but he’s at least proving he can produce in the right circumstances. … Nikola Mirotic has drilled exactly six treys in three of his last six games. And over his last eight, one of this season’s most maddening players is at 19.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.6 spg, 0.8 bpg and 4.0 3s, shooting 58.8 percent from the floor. … Andrew Wiggins unleashed a monster game on Thursday (36 points, eight boards, three assists, two steals, one trey), but aside from points and 3s, he’s been on a relatively unexciting run lately. Last 15 games: 24.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg and 1.5 3s (44.3 FG / 71.6 FT), and a No. 150 ranking in 9-category leagues. I imagine he’s gonna be a pretty polarizing player in next year’s drafts, and ideally I’ll let someone else draft him. But given that Wiggins just turned 22, at some point I’m gonna have a hard time passing on the potential upside.

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Part II: Is Kemba Walker a really good fantasy player or a great one? Kemba has done a number of things gloriously well this season — most notably career-highs in points (23.2), 3s made (3.1) and FG percentage (44.5), all while missing just one game. But if I’m nitpicking, he has been a notable disappointment in steals, with his lowest average (1.1) since his rookie year, including just 0.7 spg in his last 15 games. Bottom line: If he can get his steals back up, and maintain his somewhat silly 3-point shooting, there’s actually a chance for him to improve on his ranking (No. 28 overall in 9-category leagues) next year. Either way, he’s so reliable, I’ll gladly take him anywhere around No. 20. … It has been an odd season for Al Horford, who has posted career-highs in assists (5.0), 3s (1.3) and FT percentage (80.6), while posting career-lows in rebounds (6.9) and FG percentage (47.2), with his lowest scoring average (13.9) since 2011-12. And in three games against the Hawks, he has averaged 6.7 ppg on 32.0 percent shooting.

Part III: How high will you be willing to draft Nikola Jokic next year? For the season, he’s now the No. 21 player in 9-category leagues, and over his last 45 games, his averages of 19.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 5.9 rpg, 0.9 spg, 0.8 bpg and 0.8 3s (58.2 FG / 82.6 FT) place him 10th overall. I personally won’t draft him 10th, but top-15 range is becoming tough to argue with. … As of early January (36 games), Russell Westbrook was hitting 1.8 treys per game. In 42 games since then, he has averaged 3.0 3s, including 5.0 in his last five games. … As monstrous as Devin Booker’s scoring has been lately (34.2 ppg in his last six, including that 70-point bonanza), his peripheral numbers are every bit as encouraging. Booker has posted 4.2 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.8 spg and 2.2 3s during that same six-game stretch. Even after all of it, he’s still just the No. 136 player in 9-category leagues for the season, but there’s certainly hope for a significant leap next year.

Part IV: Willie Cauley-Stein has averaged 12.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg and 0.8 bpg since the DeMarcus Cousins trade. One lingering question: How good will he be as a shot-blocker? Though he posted a couple of four-block games in March, Cauley-Stein has just one block total in his last seven games. … Much like his Philly teammate Timothe Luwawu (remember him from Part I?), it may be quite a while before things get this good again for Richaun Holmes. But may we always remember just how fun this stretch has been. Holmes, over his last 15 games: 14.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg and 0.8 3s. … If you’ve had the passing thought that each of these paragraphs has been shorter than the one before it, you’re correct.

Part V: Loyal reader Dave G. (a big Michigan fan) recently asked me about the fantasy outlook for one Tim Hardaway Jr. next season. For starters, when considering Hardaway, I’d make sure not to evaluate him only on his season stats (specifically, his 14.4 ppg). After all, as of the close of business for 2016 (his first 31 games), THJ was only averaging 10.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.5 spg and 1.4 3s on 42.4 percent shooting. But beginning with a 29-point outburst on New Year’s Day, Hardaway has taken off. In 45 games since Jan. 1, he’s at 16.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.9 spg and 2.2 3s. And over his last 18, he has put up 18.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.9 spg and 2.2 3s (47.6 FG / 84.9 FT). His fantasy upside may not ever fly through the roof due to relatively low rebounds, assists and steals, but depending on what the Hawks do in free agency with Hardaway (a restricted free agent) and Paul Millsap, 20+ ppg is potentially within reach. … The recent fantasy relevance of Tyler Ennis (12.2 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.8 3s in his last six games) is the latest reminder that it’s time for the regular season (and this particular edition of the column) to come to an end.

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