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Real or Fake? Fantasy Basketball Players Whose Stats Will Regress In 2023

With the NBA season nearing its halfway point, we have a pretty healthy sample size when it comes to player stats. Rather than relying solely on offseason speculation, gut feelings, and hot takes, we now have hard data to form our opinions on.

Sure, the majority of a player's counting stats will likely remain the same - with little variation. Luka Doncic will continue to drop 30 points on a nightly basis, Tyrese Haliburton will keep dishing out double-digit assists, and Kevin Porter Jr. will remain the league's top turnover maven (Sorry KPJ).

But what if it's too good to be true?

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

What if a player is wildly outperforming their career numbers in a specific stat? Should we expect it to continue and move on?

The truth is, there are statistical outliers every season and each should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Today, I'm going to focus on a handful of specific stats that I believe are too good to be true. Let's dive right in.

 

Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers

Fake stat: Shooting 44% from three-point range

I feel weird typing this, as Grant was the last person I expected to become a sniper this season. Simply put, 44% from three on 6.0 3PA per game is elite. For context, Klay Thomson put up a 7.6 3PA at just over 42% during his All-Star stretch from 2015-2019.

Thompson is widely regarded as one of the deadliest assassins in NBA history. Grant is not.

As a matter of fact, Grant's best three-point shooting year came in the 2018-2019 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shot at a 39% clip from downtown but took less than nearly half of the attempts he's taking this season.

Looking at this season, much of his success from three has to be attributed to playing off the ball more frequently. With Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons running the show, Grant has been able to take (and make) a ton of catch-and-shoot threes. Per Synergy, nearly 70% of his jumpers this year have been catch-and-shoot style, and his 1.257 points per possession (PPP) puts him in the 86th percentile. Applying this same lens to his second-best three-point shooting year in OKC, we see that nearly 91% of his jump shots were of the catch-and-shoot style. So when comparing both seasons, it's clear that he is drastically over-performing this season.

Grant's track record indicates that this is more of an outlier than a formality. While he should continue to get open looks in Portland's offense, expect his efficiency to regress down toward his norm.

 

Royce O'Neale, Brooklyn Nets

Fake stat: Dishing out 4.2 assists per game

I don't know about you, but I've really enjoyed watching O'Neale play in Brooklyn this season. What was once seen as an oddly timed acquisition dead center in the middle of Kevin Durant's offseason saga has now proven to be a great get by the Nets. O'Neale has built out a nice career as a prototypical 3-and-D wing who provides tremendous value to contending teams come playoff time. But you know one thing O'Neale isn't known for? Assists.

After averaging no more than 2.5 assists in each of the last three seasons and boasting a career average of 2.3 assists, O'Neale is now dishing out 4.2 assists across his first 37 games with the Nets. That's more assists than Malcolm Brogdon and Tyrese Maxey!

An increased usage rate (14.8%) could partly explain the uptick in dimes but there is another factor to consider. T.J. Warren just recently entered the Nets' lineup in December. Not only has Warren's emergence coincided with a lack of usage for O'Neale, but his assists per game have decreased to 3.2.

I expect this trend to continue as Warren's minutes continue to ramp up, making O'Neale's 4.2 assists per game nothing but a mirage. He's currently sitting just outside the top 100 in Per Game value and packaging him with another player in a trade just makes sense.

 

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

Fake stat: Swatting 3.3 shots per game

This prediction hurts to make, as Jackson Jr. has been one of my favorite players to watch this season specifically. To perform at this level after missing the offseason and the first 14 games of the year is truly remarkable. To put it into perspective, he's tied with Myles Turner for third in the NBA with 79 total blocks. The kicker? He's played 11 fewer games. As if that's not astounding enough, he's playing a full minute less per game than he did last season when he set a career-high mark of 2.3 blocks per game.

All that to say, he's been on a tear to start his fifth professional season and it makes me wonder if he can keep up the historic pace. After all, only 22 players in NBA history have ever averaged more than 3.0 blocks per game in a season. I'm not saying JJJ isn't talented enough to do it, but with foul trouble still a concern and eight games with at least five blocks already, odds are he'll cool down at some point.

I'm not even going to call JJJ a sell-high in fantasy. If I have him on my roster, I'm keeping him. There are only a handful of other big men who can provide the kind of fantasy value Jackson can. But don't be shocked to see his blocks drop down to the 2.5-2.7 range as the season progresses.



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