Fantasy Basketball

2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Box Score Browsing – Noah Way!

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah’s season never seems to really start until the Bulls really need him.

Amidst a horror 14 game stretch where they’ve won just 5 games, the Bulls are desperate to stick with the suddenly surging Cleveland Cavaliers (winners of 10 straight), and it will be up to the vocal backbone of the Bulls’ defense to right the ship.

Battling ankle and knee injuries, Noah played arguably the worst stretch of his career, or in recent memory at least. Over the seven game stretch he averaged just 23.7 minutes per night, but justified that low number with his awful statistical output. The fiery French National team member produced just 3.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.6 blocks, didn’t record a single steal and he shot just 33% from the field and 50% from the line.

Sure, Pau Gasol was destroying the opposition during this same stretch, but the Bulls went just 2-5. Derrick Rose has been sort of Derrick Rose, but not when you actually watch him play – just two dunks on the season and nearly 33% of his shots coming from beyond the arc (just 14.6% through his first five seasons).

Everyone remembers Noah’s ridiculous run after the All Star break last year, as he led the Bulls in assists (7.0), rebounds (10.8) and blocks (1.7) per game, despite having a lower usage rate than Kirk Hinrich, D.J Augustin and Taj Gibson.

He seems to have turned the corner now, with his last three games being absolute fantasy gems. First a season-high 18 points, along with 15 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals in a win at Golden State, followed by a 9 point-17 rebound-9 assist-0 turnover gem at the Lakers, and finally a solid 9 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 block effort at Phoenix. For those non-Rain Man statisticians out there, that’s 12.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and a steal and a block per game, with 52% and 100% shooting for good measure.

The time to buy low is gone, as I found out after offering up anyone from Robert Covington to Giannis Antetokounmpo to Arron Afflalo for him in my main money league.

 

LaMarcus Aldridge

Sure, Aldridge has been simply dominant since busting his thumb – where he was supposedly out at least 6 weeks – but the only reason he isn’t leading this BSB is because I used my ‘Aldrich/Aldridge’ pun on Cole Aldrich already (dammit)!

You can’t argue with Aldridge’s body of work this season, or any of his previous five seasons – all of which seeing him enter rarefied levels in terms of his all-time peers. This is his fifth straight season averaging at least 21.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 79% at the line and 0.9 blocks per game. Only Larry Bird (6) and Dirk Nowitzki (7) have more of those campaigns, while Kevin Garnett has the same number as LMA (5).

Aldridge has been the number one player in fantasy over the past week. He’s been number two over the last fortnight and number six over the last month. Yet rarely does his name ever get mentioned alongside Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins, in terms of elite fantasy frontcourt players with center eligibility.

He’s currently knocking his freebies down at a career high 87.2% clip, while still getting to the line his usual 5.1 per night. To put that in perspective, you could argue he’s been the second best free throw asset this season – behind only James Harden (8.9 attempts at 88% also). Over the last 10 years there’s only been ten total players to have at least 5.1 attempts at the line while converting 87.2% of them, with Aldridge currently on that list. And they’re all guys who you’d think would be there – Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin, Chauncey Billups, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Redd, Jamal Crawford, Danny Granger, the aforementioned Harden and the underrated-at-the-line David West (career 3.6 attempts per at 82%).

Ok I spent a lot of time on the free throw stuff, but you cannot ignore that category just because a player is a power forward or center. Aldridge’s traditional ‘big man’ stats, i.e. rebounds (10.3), blocks (1.1) and field goal percentage (47%) – particularly the last two, are only ‘good’ rather than elite. But paired with his free throw percentage, elite scoring and 25-52 shooting from deep (seriously – LMA is a 48% three-point shooter this year), you’re looking at a true top 10 option and at 30 years old, a great guy to build a dynasty team around.

 

John Henson

Another guy covered already by Zack, another guy with a history of proving to be a real fantasy asset when given consistent minutes.

Jason Kidd was murder on fantasy rotations to start the season, particularly messing us around with his stupid dumb frustrating minute restrictions on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders – the latter needing no help in messing his own way out of minutes.

He had two massive ‘stretches’ during his rookie campaign two years ago, the first a four game 12.0 point-12.0 rebound-1.0 steal-1.5 block run, the second a truly memorable run. It was one of those patches of play that a fantasy player remembers, as Henson racked up 17 points, 25 rebounds and 7 blocks IN ONE GAME at Orlando, then four games later he ended the season destroying the Thunder with 28 points and 16 rebounds, on 11-19 field goals. His last five rookie games saw him average 15.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.8 blocks. So you can see why I, like many other ‘old timer’ fantasy types always add him to the pre-season watch-list or better yet, burn a late pick on him and stash him til his time comes.

Like it has now.

An injury to Zaza Pachulia (wouldn’t he be much scarier if he stuck with real name of ‘Zaur’? Sounds like a Superman adversary) has opened the door for Henson, and his play has opened Jason Kidd’s eyes to a real defensive menace at the 5 spot.

Over his last three games Henson has averaged 12.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 2.7 blocks and very friendly 63% shooting from the field and 100% at the line. He’s also blocked at least one shot in 13 straight games, the second longest current streak behind Anthony Davis (21), and if he can continue to get 28+ minutes per night he’s a good chance to top 2.0 blocks a night.

As long as Pachulia is injured put Henson in your line-up every night if you own him, and if you don’t own him, go grab him now. I’d have him ahead of some of the other young bigs going through growing pains at the moment like Hassan Whiteside Jusuf Nurkic, Alex Len or Steven Adams.

As always, it never hurts a player’s chances of staying in the starting line-up when your team is winning, as the Bucks have done so over their last six games, going 5-1 in that span.

 

Cody Zeller

I love a good pun as much as the next guy, so hit the acc-Zeller-ator if this guy is available in your league.

Yeah I poorly worked that one in, but needless to say if Zeller is available and you’re tossing up between Cody Z and another waiver-level center such as, oh I don’t know, his brother Tyler, then take a quick look at his recent run of production.

Prior to his last poor outing against the Raptors, the three preceding games he’d shown some ‘bizarre’ big-man stats, with all three games providing glimpses of across-the-board fantasy production. Against the Knicks he had just 8 points in 32 minutes, but he added 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 4-5 shooting from the line. The next night he paired his career-high in assists (7) with the second highest rebound total of his career (13), while adding a three pointer and another block for good measure. His last effort at Denver was a career night, scoring 21 points on 10-11 shooting, with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks – with zero turnovers.

Zeller and his frontcourt partners Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson are a combined 1-2 from deep on the season, so the fact the Hornets are 11-3 over its last 14 games speaks volumes about how well Zeller has integrated himself into this ‘quirky’ Hornets starting line-up.

Of particular note with Zeller is his strong defensive stats, which are likely to stick judging by his solid career at Indiana, where he averaged 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks in 72 games over two seasons.

If he can continue to start he’s a solid bet to keep producing the stats he’s put up when getting at least 28 minutes a night (16 games): 10.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steal and 1.4 blocks, with 53% shooting from the floor and 72% at the line.

 

Layups

Jarrett Jack

Often ridiculed and critiqued to his ‘me first’ make-up, Jack is what he is. A solid back-up point guard who has shown enough to warrant 30 minutes per night – but not quite enough to warrant giving him an unequivocal starting nod.

He’s bounced around a lot (a different team each of the last four years, seven in total), tasting varying levels of fantasy success along the way, often doing a little of everything but a lot of nothing – but juuuust enough to make you monitor wherever he lands. He’s like that old couch in the garage you can’t throw out because your ass-groove is in it from playing video games and slothing out on a lazy Sunday watching NBA, and you know you can wipe your greasy cheeseburger hands on it or open a beer bottle on the base and nobody can say boo about it cos it’s your couch.

Anyway, Jack’s been a fantasy stud lately even with a couple of hiccups along the way. Over his last eight games he’s averaged 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.9 threes and 45/82 splits. Not bad replacement value for Deron Williams owners, though you’ll be wise to shop Jack while the goings good as he’s either going to take a hit with Williams likely starting again, or a potential shift back to the bench, to the shooting guard slot, or even to a contender needing a solid back-up point guard.

 

Jordan Clarkson

As always, I’ve been beaten to the fantasy punch by The Fix’s own Zack Rewis, who wisely suggested treading cautiously and not blindly selling the farm to add the Lakers’ rookie point guard.

Byron Scott likes him, that’s all you really need to know at the moment as the Lakers are firmly trying to line up a top five pick, or risk losing it to the Suns due to the gift that keeps on giving.

I’m kind of tired of putting Lakers’ guards in this column, but Clarkson’s a guy worth adding in deep leagues and keeping an eye on in keeper leagues.

He started slow in his first two starts, but over his last three he’s scored at least 18 points in each, while averaging 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals 1.7 threes and a robust 83% from the line on 4.0 attempts per.

 

As always we welcome your feedback, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@macetasticand I’ll do my best to reply to any comments.

Big ups to the amazing Basketball-Reference, for all the links and for de-railing me so often, all in the name of research.

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