Notable Numbers: Lonzo Is Balling

Tommy Beer

Here in "Notable Numbers," we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today, I'll discuss some young, rising stars that have stepped up of late, and made fantasy GM's quite happy in the process. 

Follow Tommy Beer on Twitter: @TommyBeer

* Lonzo Is Balling 
The 2019-20 campaign did not start out the way Ball envisioned. Despite improving the mechanics on his jumper over the summer, he struggled with his shot early on. Then, Ball missed six consecutive contests in mid-November due to a right adductor strain. When he returned to action, he was relegated to a reserve role. He then missed two more games due to an illness after Thanksgiving. Lonzo returned to the starting lineup in early December but was bumped back to the bench after a pair of poor performances, including a 2-for-12 game and 1-for-9 dud. 

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Over a five-game stretch in mid-December, he averaged just 5.8 points while shooting 30.6% from the floor, 21% from downtown and 37.5% from the charity stripe. However, Ball eventually worked his way back into the starting five by late December. 

In January, thanks in part to a rash of Pelican injuries that opened up excessive playing time, Ball has been a beast. Over New Orleans' past eight games, Zo is averaging a whopping 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 3.1 triples and 1.4 steals in 37.5 minutes, while shooting 45% from the field and 38.5% from 3-point territory.  

During this eight-game stretch, Ball ranks 32nd overall in nine-category formats. He is one of only three players with at least 50 assists and 50 rebounds in January. The other two are LeBron James and Luka Doncic. With his fantasy stock soaring, it's pretty safe to assume that Lonzo has locked down a spot in the starting lineup going forward. 

* Graham Cracking?
Unlike Lonzo, Charlotte's Devonte' Graham's numbers have been heading in the wrong direction as of late. 

Although the Hornets sophomore sensation is still putting up plenty of points, his efficiency has dropped with the temperature. Heading into Monday's game at Portland, Graham had shot below 50% from the field in 15 straight games. He was able to convert nine of his 17 field goal attempts vs. the Blazers; however, Graham's cumulative FG% over the Hornets last 16 games sits at 31.7%. He's also averaging over three turnovers per contest. 

Graham is scoring nearly 19 points and dishing out over eight assists a night, but the FG% and TO issues are dragging down his value in nine-cat leagues, where he ranks 94th overall during this 15-game stretch. In points leagues (which don't factor in percentages or turnovers), he ranks inside the top-25.

* Lord Covington, Prince of Thieves
Glancing quickly at Robert Covington's 2019-20 stats, one is not immediately impressed. He's averaging 12.7 points (on 44.2% shooting), 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 28.7 minutes. However, it's the periphery stats that have boosted RoCo inside the top-40 overall in nine-cat formats this season.

Covington is averaging 2.2 triples, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and just 1.5 turnovers while shooting over 80% from the free-throw stripe. Per Basketball-Reference, this means he is currently on pace to join Paul Pierce (2001-2002) as just the second player in NBA history to average more than two treys, more than 1.5 steals and at least one block per game over an entire NBA season.

And since the calendar flipped to January, Covington has gone a stealing spree, averaging three thefts per game in the seven contests Minnesota has played this month. He has a total of 21 steals; no other player in the league has more than 15. He ranks fifth overall in nine-cats over the first two weeks of 2019.

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* SGA All Day
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded his first career triple-double in grand style in Monday's victory over the Wolves, scoring 20 points, ripping down a career-high 20 rebounds and dishing out ten assists in 36 minutes. In the process, he became the youngest player in league history to post a triple-double including 20 rebounds (Shaquille O'Neal, at 21 years and 259 days, was the previous record-holder). 

While a 20-rebound performance certainly was unexpected, SGA has been cleaning the glass with alarming regularity. Dating back to New Year's Eve, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 8.5 rebounds per contest. He has more rebounds than Nikola Jokic and Deandre Ayton over the last two weeks. 

But SGA obviously isn't just an above-average rebounder. Dating back to December 18th, he is averaging 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 dimes, 1.1 treys, 1.6 steals and only 1.3 turnovers in 36 minutes. Those phenomenal all-around numbers are good enough to rank 15th overall in nine-category formats over the last month. Incredibly, it appears that SGA will somehow exceed even the highest of expectations this season. 
* Barrett Bouncing Back 
R.J. Barrett busted out of the gates for New York in October, becoming the first Knick since Patrick Ewing to scoring more than 15 points in each of the first four games of his NBA career. 

RJ continued to put up plenty of points, but his putrid percentages and turnover totals decimated his fantasy value. Over his first ten games, Barrett shot 40% from the floor and just 44.3% from the charity stripe, while committing 2.7 turnovers per contest.

However, slowly but surely, he's managed to increase his FT percentage steadily. It's also important to note that, to his credit, he never lost confidence and continually attacked the hoop. On the season, RJ is averaging 4.5 free-throw attempts per game, which leads all rookies. 

Here's Barrett's free-throw percentage by month:
October: 40.7%
November: 55.6%
December: 63.6%
January: 76.1%

He's still a long way from becoming an elite fantasy contributor in multi-cat leagues, but he's heading in the right direction.

Last Second Shots:
* Last Wednesday in Atlanta, both James Harden and Trae Young recorded 40-point triple-doubles. It was Young's first such game, and the 15th for Harden (second-most ever). It was the first game in NBA history to feature two 40-point trip-dubs. 

* I highlighted Derrick Rose's strong play last week, and he has refused to slow down. D Rose has now scored 20+ in six consecutive contests, which is his longest such streak since his MVP season in 2011.

* Shoutout to Bojan Bogdanovic, who last week against New Orleans, scored 35 points without tallying a single, rebound, assist, steal or blocked shot.

* Tuesday night, per Grizz PR, Ja Morant became the first rookie in ⁦‪NBA‬⁩ history to record 25+ points and 8+ assists while shooting 90%+ from the field. Through seven games this month, Morant is averaging 20.3 points while shooting an absurd 60.9% from the floor, 44.4% from downtown and 88% from the FT stripe. Oh, and he leads the NBA in assists in January.

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