5 NBA Stats to Know Through Week 8
Two impressive streaks have come to an end over this past week: Russell Westbrook insane stretch of consecutive triple-doubles, along with a surprising six-game win streak from a depleted Memphis Grizzlies squad.
The top of the NBA's Western Conference has separated themselves from the pack, but the middle of the Eastern Conference figures to remain a hard-fought battle for the remainder of the season. Before we embark in yet another week of action on the hardwood, keep these five stats in mind.
Zach LaVine is averaging 40.1 minutes per game over the last two weeks
When Tom Thibodeau got the Minnesota Timberwolves coaching job, most assumed one of their former top overall picks, Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns, would lead the team in minutes. That's not quite the case -- after 24 games, it's third-year pro Zach LaVine who leads the group with 37.2 minutes per game.
That number has even seen a jump recently, as the former UCLA guard has played over 40 minutes in five of his last eight games. The biggest reason for this increase certainly has to be LaVine’s boost in production from last season. He has seen his field-goal rate jump nearly two percentage points to 47.1%, while connecting on 2.5 three pointers per contest.
The Wolves also haven't found any bench consistency, as Shabazz Muhammad has taken a step back and newly signed Brandon Rush has yet to find a rhythm on his new team. At a miserable 6-18, Minnesota seemingly has no choice but to continue to run their young studs out there and hope they can turn the season around in a hurry.
The Cavaliers are 28th in fourth quarter points allowed at 27.2 per game
At 17-5, the Cleveland Cavaliers are likely not worried about giving up big fourth quarters regularly. The stat many Cavs fans would point to is the one showing Cleveland third overall in average margin ahead after three quarters as a big reason they can rest starters in the fourth.
While there is certainly some merit to the notion that a team may lose a quarter when entering with a big lead, it is still concerning for when the competition gets tougher, like against the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
Despite late game struggles, LeBron James and company still sit fourth in the numberFire team rankings and are given a 14% chance to win another title. The defensive issues will also be something coach Ty Lue looks at, but outside of the Toronto Raptors, the Eastern Conference again looks like it's the Cavs' to lose.
Dwight Howard leads the NBA with a 16.3% offensive rebound rate
After a tumultuous season with the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard needed a change. That came in the way of a return to his hometown and the Atlanta Hawks. Despite some early-season struggles for the team as a whole, Howard has brought exactly what's been a staple of his game throughout his career.
With the loss of Al Horford to the Boston Celtics, Atlanta was in a need of a rim protector to lock down the interior. That's exactly what he's done with 1.6 blocks per game to go along with his league-leading offensive rebounding rate.
That has been especially important with the injury issues star forward Paul Millsap has dealt this season.
Howard is the only player on the Hawks averaging over 1.6 offensive rebounds per game, as he is currently pulling down 4.3. His rebounding prowess is much needed for a team that ranks 27th in offensive rating and shooting a pedestrian 50.3% effective field-goal rate.
Although he is only averaging 13.6 points per game, lowest since his rookie year, Howard continues to be valuable in the paint.
Enes Kanter is averaging 1.14 FanDuel points per minute this season
The first, and usually last, thing daily fantasy players think about when talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder is Russell Westbrook. That's understandable considering he currently leads the NBA in fantasy points per minute and is coming off a seven-game triple-double streak.
Kanter derives nearly all his fantasy value from two categories (points and rebounds), but has always been known as a high usage player. Even at a career average of just 21.1 minutes per game, Kanter has a usage rate of 23.1%, per basketball-reference.
The biggest concern for daily fantasy owners is his lack of overall production in other areas, which would help on nights the ball is not going through the hoop.
That is unlikely to change, though, as Kanter has never had a season over 1.0 assists, steals or blocks per game. The lack of peripheral stats certainly does not help, but he is usually on the low-end of the pricing scale and his big-time scoring ability can still get him to value on any given night.
Rudy Gobert is shooting 62.1% with Derrick Favors on the floor and 68.3% with him off the floor
The Utah Jazz are a stellar defensive team that has been looking for a boost on offense for a few years. That's tougher to accomplish when star forward Derrick Favors is off the floor, as he has been for much of this season.
It has been defensive ace Rudy Gobert who has tried filling that role up front. He's shooting a remarkable 68.3% on the floor without Favors, over six percentage points better than his total with Favors on the floor per NBA Wowy.
Part of his boost could come from a bigger role in the offense with Favors not around. Gobert is averaging 6.0 field goal attempts per game this season, which is not a huge total, but is actually a career high.
Another boost that has helped Gobert is the emergence of new point guard George Hill. The team was dreadful at that position last season, with Raul Neto, Trey Burke and Shelvin Mack being forced into huge minutes. Hill is posting a respectable 4.2 assists per game on the season and has opened the floor up for a slow-paced Jazz team.
Gobert will almost always be known for his defensive prowess, but his efficiency on offense has helped put his team into playoff contention and bumped him to seventh on the numberFire player rater.
If he can maintain his league-leading field-goal rate, it seems like a foregone conclusion the Jazz return to the playoffs and cause teams to think twice about having an easy first round matchup.