Here in "Notable Numbers," we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting statistics and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today, I'll discuss Russ Westbrook’s in-season transformation, the underappreciated greatness of Khris Middleton, and Christian Wood’s rising fantasy value.
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* Russell Westbrook: Version 2.0
Mr. Westbrook has been one of the more divisive players in the NBA over the last decade. His aggressive, attacking style has won over many fans who love his attitude and effort. On the other end of the spectrum, you have folks who are turned off by his inefficient offense coupled with an incredibly high usage rate.
Over the first two months of the 2019-20 campaign, we saw much of the OKC version of Westbrook in Houston. From Opening night to Christmas Day, Russ appeared in 28 of Houston’s 31 games (sitting out when the Rockets played back-to-backs). During that 28-game stretch, Westbrook averaged 24.1 points, 7.1 assists and 1.2 made 3-pointers on 5.1 three-point attempts. He shot 42.6% from the floor and 23.8% from downtown. His True Shooting percentage sat at 50.8% and his Effective FG was 45.5%. His average Offensive Rating registered 104.0 with an average GameScore of 16.4.
Interestingly, in a Christmas Day loss to the Warriors, Westbrook launched eight 3-pointers and missed all of them. He finished the game with 30 points, but needed 32 shots to get there (11-of-32 from the floor). He plus/minus that night was -9.
It was as if a light went off following that embarrassing defeat. Russ attempted two or fewer 3-pointers in each of his next three games. Over a five-game stretch in mid-January, he put up a grand total of two treys in 190 minutes of game action.
From New Year’s Eve through last night (when poured in 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting in a victory over the Celtics), Westbrook has appeared in 16 of the 21 games the Rockets have played. During this 16-game sample-size, Russ is averaging 32.8 points, 7.4 assists and 0.6 made 3-pointers on just 2.3 attempts. He is shooting 52.2% from the floor and 25% from downtown, with a 57.1% TS%, 53.3% eFG%, 113 ORtgRG and 24.1 GameScore.
In January, he shot over 50% from the floor for a full month for only the second time in his career.
Unsurprisingly, Westbrook’s improved efficiency has done wonders for fantasy value. From the start of the season through Christmas Day, Russ ranked outside the top-60 in nine-category fantasy formats.
From New Year’s Eve through this morning, Westbrook ranks inside the top-ten in nine-cat leagues.
Can Russ continue to maintain this disciplined approach on the offensive end? We shall see. However, it should be noted that there is a strong correlation between Russ’s play and the Rockets' success. Houston is undefeated this season, a perfect 19-0, in the 19 games Westbrook has registered a plus/minus of +5 or greater. Houston is 3-12 in the 15 games Russ Westbrook has recorded an individual plus/minus of -5 or worse.
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* Middleton, The Other Freak In Milwaukee
Somewhat surprisingly, the Bucks are not garnering much national attention, despite the fact that they are enjoying one of the most impressive seasons in recent NBA history. What little attention they do receive, most of it is directed at Giannis Antetokounmpo, and understandably so, as he is running away with the MVP award and having a season for the ages.
However, there is a second star in Milwaukee that is posting some mind-boggling numbers in 2019-20, especially of late. Not only is Khris Middleton on pace to become just the 11th player in league history to join the mythical 50/40/90 slash shooting club this season, his efficiency recently has jumped to an even higher level. He is on pace to join Stephen Curry (during Steph’s unanimous MVP season in 2015-16) as just the second player in NBA history to maintain a 50/40/90 slash for a full season and average more than five 3-point attempts per game.
Over the last five weeks, the Bucks have played 14 games. During this 14-game stretch, Middleton is averaging 24.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.2 assists (vs. just 1.9 turnovers), 1.0 steals and 3.1 made trifectas in just 31.6 minutes, while shooting a scorching 57.8% from the floor, 55.1% from downtown and 89% from the charity stripe. Yes, he has nailed 45 of his last 79 3-point attempts.
* Good Wood
There have been plenty of “winners” as a result of deals made at the deadline, and Christian Wood is certainly among that group, despite the fact has wasn’t traded. Wood is expected to be the primary beneficiary of Detroit’s dumping of starting center Andre Drummond.
Wood has started each of the three games the Pistons have played since the deadline. In fact, Wood was enjoying an increase in playing time even before Drummond was dealt. Over Detroit’s past five games, Wood is averaging 18.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 made treys in 32.4 minutes, while shooting 52.3% from the floor, 47.6% from downtown and 70% from the FT stripe.
It should be noted that the Pistons have been decimated by a rash of recent injuries. Over the weekend, they were forced to play without Derrick Rose (left hip), Luke Kennard (knee), Markieff Morris (illness), Brandon Knight (left knee) and Svi Mykhailiuk (right hip). Assuming Morris and Rose return after the All-Star break, that will eat into Wood’s minutes and shot attempts, but there should still be plenty of opportunities for him to produce fantasy-friendly lines. Remember, these numbers shouldn’t be shocking considering what he did late last season in New Orleans. Over the Pels final seven regular-season games in 2018-19, Wood averaged 18.3 points, 8.9 boards, 1.0 steals and 1.4 blocks, while shooting 52.9 percent from the floor. Wood has the opportunity to be a real difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs.
* Ja Morant recorded his first career triple-double in Sunday's victory over the Wizards, scoring 27 points, dishing out ten dimes, and grabbing ten boards. According to Basketball-Reference, he's the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to post a 25-point triple-double, behind only Luka Doncic, LeBron James and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
* Over the Mavs last 12 games, Seth Curry has knocked down 53% of his 3-point attempts. During this remarkable hot streak, Seth moved ahead of his brother Steph on the active 3-point percentage leaderboard, as his career percentage has jumped up to 43.6%. Insane to think that the two most accurate, active long-range shooters in the league today are both sons of Dell Curry.
* Buddy Hield nailed nine of his ten 3-point attempts in Friday’s victory over the Spurs. He is now up to 805 total 3-point makes in just 297 career games. No other player in NBA history has reached 800 made treys in fewer than 300 career contests. The previous record-holder was Stephen Curry, who did it in 305 games.
* Zion Williamson scored a career-high 31 points (on 11-of-17 FGs) with nine rebounds, five assists and a steal in the Pelicans' victory over the Blazers on Tuesday. Per Basketball-Reference, only three other teenagers in NBA history have tallied at least 30/9/5 in a single game: Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Luka Doncic