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The Most Damaging Stats of the NBA Season


FanDuel DraftKings daily fantasy basketball

Drafting is an art in itself. It's a dance of sorts trying to fill in blanks pick to pick with the aim of crafting a coherent team that has a strategy to play towards. Projections and expectations are what we base our research and decisions on, and it's almost a necessity to plan around laying off a certain stat if you feel like you have enough of it after penciling in your early rounders for a certain skill-set you're accustomed to them producing.

Sometimes, those expectations get thrown out the window and a guy just simply doesn't produce what you thought they would produce, and while that might not mean they were busts or their value disintegrates, even a realignment of stats can lead to someone you thought was perfect for your team is now an awkward fit you are desperate to get rid of.

A great example of this is Marc Gasol's evolution as a stretch 5 the last few years. You couldn't fault owners for drafting and expecting a big who could anchor both percentage categories and provide traditional big man stats, only for him to become almost the quintessential punt FG% big by the 2017 season. If you didn't build your team expecting this, you could be left with a mismatch of players and find yourself lower in the standings than you'd expect.  Let's take a look at this season's version of that, unexpected under-performances in stats you wouldn't expect.

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Russell Westbrook's FT%

You'd easily be forgiven for writing off Westbrook's drop in FT% last season as an aberration - we had 9 years of prior evidence pointing to him being a good free throw shooter, and while the anecdotes with the new rules disrupting his ritual were cute, most people dismissed it and expected him to go back to being an 80%+ free throw shooter.

Well, so much for that. The free throw percentage not only didn't rebound, but got significantly worse, pushing Westbrook into must punt territory when combining his 62.3% free throw rate with his now damaging 5.6 attempts per game. Many drafted Russ for punt FG% teams, the natural landing spot for his triple double goodness and elevated steal rate to shine, and ended up with a punt free throw player - a low FG% Ben Simmons with some 3s.

Can this be fixed:

It sure feels like whatever is ailing Russ is mental, and you'd figure at some point one of the most competitive players to ever step on the court would figure things out, but it's kind of hard seeing a reason to count on that by the time fantasy playoffs roll around. If I were not punting FT% I'd be looking to move off Russ for a top 20 guy that fits better. Russ should be pretty easy to move off name value alone so that works in your favor.

 

Jonathan Isaac's Defense

Isaac was one of the most hyped players this preseason, and it was understandable to see why. He posted insane per 36 steal and block numbers in under 20 minutes a game, and while it's hard to hope for close to 2 steals and blocks a game if he were given more playing time, it's not a stretch to at least expect something like 1.3 in a role closer to 30 minutes than 20.

The low points and popcorn stat totals were expected, and it's your fault if you expected otherwise, but grabbing him as a late round source of defense with some 3s was definitely something that looked correct on draft day. Unfortunately, things haven't worked out that way at all. The playing time has been there, with Isaac averaging 25 minutes a game despite losing minutes earlier in the season due to injury, but he's shockingly produced lower raw steal and block numbers this year in 5 more minutes per game than last year, posting just 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks a game so far.

Can this be fixed:

I may be one of the last believers out there, but I think that there is some room for Isaac to recover. Isaac's injury was an ankle injury, and one that would have a fairly negative impact on a defensive specialist tasked with chasing down some of the most explosive players in the game. For someone's fantasy value being so predicated on defense, even a little impact can cause a big issue. The difference between 0.8 and 1.3 steals per game is literally 1 steal every 2 games, something that I see someone who flashed that kind of potential as a rookie should be able to add to his game the further away from his injury we get. I think as long as Isaac's minutes push up closer to 30, he should provide more value for owners than he has so far in the season, especially if your team is in need of the stats he provides.

 

Eric Bledsoe's Steals

Insane steal numbers are part of Bledsoe's claim to a spot in the top 30 and most Bledsoe owners were counting on something close to the 2.0 he put up last season. The drop in scoring was expected after his trade to the Bucks, and that did depress his ADP down a little into the top-40 range as opposed to top 30, but with the relatively paltry 1.3 steals he's posted so far this season, he's ranked even lower than expected, barely cracking the top 50.

Bledsoe has been slightly worse across the board this year when compared to previous marks, with Giannis rightfully eating up more possessions and a new system in place. However, it is the significant drop in steal rate that has been depressing his value more than any other drop-off point, especially with it being the stat those who drafted him thought they could count on the most.

Can this be fixed:

Just like I mentioned with Isaac above, 1 steal every 2 games is the difference between 1.3 and 1.8 for Bledsoe, and his overall steal rate is a bit depressed by the opening 10 games of the season where he was barely generating anything in his best category. Over the last 2 months, his steal rate has been 1.5, and it's safe to expect at least that for the rest of this season. Bledsoe will be fine. If anyone is selling low, I'd be looking to buy.

 

John Collins' Defense

We all patiently waited for the return of the Baptist when we found out he was to miss the first few weeks of the season, and while it's great to have him back and healthy something definitely looks off when you look at his season numbers. While Collins' increased usage and scoring numbers have been a pleasant surprise, his defensive numbers have been the opposite of pleasant with the Hawks big man averaging an anemic 0.1 steals and 0.5 blocks so far this season.

Collins was drafted as a top-40 type big man with upside - someone who looked to add on minutes and produce good scoring and rebounds with reasonable defense and strong percentages for a big. Some of that did come true but it's safe to say owners did not expect a glorified Enes Kanter when they took the Baptist on draft day.

Can this be fixed:

This one I'm not too confident about - I am certain that his steal and block rate will regress up as it certainly can't stay THIS putrid, but I'm not sure what to project going forward realistically. This could be a case of some poor negative variance combined with some factor of a young player focusing more on the offensive side of the ball rather than defense as he picks up a bigger scoring load for his team. I still like Collins but I feel like you may be in a position where you have to adjust the team around him. If you're lacking in the defensive stats you may have expected him to produce, it may be worth dealing him to someone who overvalues points and rebounds.

 

Draymond Green's Points

Draymond is definitely one of the most unique players we've ever had in our game. Prior to this season, his variable Swiss army knife of skills papered over holes for a variety of different strategies. While his 11-ish points per game while poor, were not enough to relegate him into must punt territory.

Well, 7.5 PPG now does, as it's pretty hard to recover in a category that gets exponentially scarcer the deeper you get into a draft, especially for a guy who would have required at minimum a top-30 price tag this year.

Can this be fixed:

The "too many mouths to feed" issue has existed for a while and will always be there for a team as stacked as the Warriors, but it has never impacted Draymond as much as it has this season. Green has just not been as good as he has in past years, missing a significant chunk of time this year due to injury and looking off when he has been on the court. It's also important to keep in mind that this has been without DeMarcus Cousins making his debut yet, and it looks to get even worse once Boogie makes it back from his Achilles injury. I think it's safe to say Draymond is a punt points specialist now, and I'd look to get top 30 value for him on name value if you are not built for that strategy.

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