Fantasy Basketball Edge: The surprise player putting up Shaq-like numbers

The last week of NBA basketball has been full of fun games and standout performances. I take a look at some interesting statistical trends across the league to give you The Edge in your fantasy basketball league.

DeMar DeRozan is scoring like prime Shaq

Prime Shaq is a bit of an exaggeration, but DeRozan is on a run that’s tough to fathom. Over the last month, he has been hitting a ridiculous 61% of his shots, including 63% of his two-point attempts.

For players who play 20 minutes a game and take at least six shots per game from inside the arc, DeRozan ranks seventh in the NBA, behind Mitchell Robinson, Dwight Powell, Jonas Valančiūnas, Rudy Gobert, Brandon Clarke, and Richaun Holmes.

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You’ll notice a pattern with those names. They are all centres, getting their shots right at the rim for dunks, oops, and put backs.

The next highest perimeter player is 17th overall, Gordon Hayward and he is hitting 58% from two-point range.

San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan has been on astonishingly efficient scoring tear of late, giving fantasy owners plenty to be happy about. (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

From every distance range on NBA.com, DeRozan is shooting above 52%, until he gets out to 20ft and further. Shooting 56% on shots between 15-19ft is a ridiculous level, as well as finishing 78% of his shots at the rim.

For reference, DeRozan is finishing at the rim better than Jakob Poeltl and LaMarcus Aldridge within 5ft.

Ben Simmons is a Beast (Without Joel Embiid)

If you look to the top of your fantasy rankings, you’ll see Simmons. Over the season, he ranks 18th in standard points leagues, but in the last two weeks, Simmons has vaulted all the way up to 8th.

I wonder why. Well, for the last four of those six games, Simmons has been playing without Joel Embiid.

Embiid is sidelined with a ligament injury in his finger and has been cleared for non-contact work in practice.

In theory, the increased production is coming due to Embiid’s absence - but Simmons actually has a lower true shooting percentage, usage, and rebound rate when he is on the court without Embiid.

The one thing that does stand out is his assist rate, which jumps from 10.1 per 100 possessions to 12.4. So, while we are enjoying this run from Simmo, it may not be entirely unsustainable.

This is the Lonzo Ball we were promised

It was a shaky start for Lonzo in New Orleans. He got hurt, he lost his starting spot, but that seems to have been the jolt he needed because of late, this Lonzo Ball looks closer to the number two pick from a few years ago.

In standard points leagues, Lonzo is 77th overall, averaging 29.62 fantasy points per game. In the last two weeks though, Lonzo has jumped the 26th best player with 41.06 points per game.

Why the jump? Well, his minutes are way up, seeing 37 a night in the last seven games, but his per-minute production has also risen.

Lonzo has upped not only his usage, but his rebounding, and most importantly for a point guard, his assist rate has reached career-high levels.

As a rookie, Lonzo averaged 7.6 assists per 36 minutes. This season he is at 7.0 per 36, but that has spiked to 8.1 per 36 in the last seven games.

Whether Lonzo is putting it all together or this is just because Jrue Holiday has been out, only time will tell.

Julius Randle likes New York’s new coach

In the 22 games Randle played under David Fizdale, he averaged 31.37 fantasy points per game, he turned the ball over 3.3 times per game and averaged 16.8 points per game in 32 minutes.

Now that Fizdale has been fired, Randle is all the way up to 39.18 fantasy points, cutting his turnovers to 2.4 per game and scoring 21.5 points per game.

It’s not a fluke.

Mike Miller’s system is using Randle in a way that suits his ability, rather than Fizdale’s nonsense of having Randle initiate the offence.

This is more like the Randle that we thought we would get at the start of the season.

Deandre Ayton off the bench

Strangely, the Phoenix Suns continue to play their second-year number one overall draft pick, Deandre Ayton, off the bench.

He has missed time with a drug suspension and an ankle injury, but now, fully healthy, Ayton is still riding the pine behind Aron Baynes.

He’s only played ten games this season, five games as a starter, five off the bench, but there is a big difference in his fantasy scoring in those games.

In his five starts, Ayton has averaged 40.28 points in 33 minutes, while averaging 32.76 points in his five bench appearances in 28 minutes.

Obviously there is a playing time discrepancy, so if we look at the numbers per 36 minutes, we still see Ayton being more productive as a starter, averaging 44.16 as a starter versus 41.87 as a reserve.

Interestingly, he has a huge usage off the bench (28.4%) compared to a below-average 19.5% as a starter.

What is the difference then? Well, on the bench, Ayton is more of a black hole than usual, averaging just 1.0 assist per 36, which makes sense when he is spending a lot more time as the clear number one offensive option.

That, plus his increased turnover numbers, is contributing to his lower output. I doubt it’s a long time before he is starting again, but for now, this gives us a buy-low opportunity.

Every week, I’ll be looking at some weird trends across the NBA and seeing what they mean, so make sure you’re checking out The Edge, here every Friday.