Fantasy Basketball Edge: Zion debut throws up intriguing proposition

Zion Williamson has made his NBA debut, and it was glorious. But, that’s not all that is going on around the league, so I’ll look at a few things that stand out to me in this week’s Edge.

Rudy Gobert Is Going To Be An All-Star

Gobert is going to make the NBA All-Star game this season. Lock it in. But, he’s also been a fantasy All-Star of late. Over the last two weeks, Gobert is your fourth-best player in standard fantasy leagues, averaging 51.37 points per game.

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That is almost ten points higher than his season average. So, what has changed? The obvious thing to look at is his blocks which have gone from 2.0 per game to 2.7 over the last seven games.

With blocks being worth three points, that is an additional two fantasy points per game going onto Gobert’s totals.

But, that’s obviously not all that is happening. It’s his scoring. Gobert is averaging over 20 points per game in those last seven games, seeing his usage spike to 20%.

Is it possible to sustain? I think it is, given that Jazz’s are one of the NBA’s hottest teams and Gobert has proven to be unstoppable in this run.

It looks like Quin Snyder’s offence has a changed a lot more to use Gobert on offence more and it is providing results.

How Many Years Until Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Is Better Than Paul George?

We all know the Clippers dealt Gilgeous-Alexander to the Thunder in order to get Paul George and to entice Kawhi Leonard to sign, but did anyone see Shai being this good already?

He is a top 20 fantasy player over the last two weeks and is just outside the top 40 on the season. He has been scoring well all season, but something has changed of late to see his overall fantasy value spike.

His minutes are the same, but his recent numbers have seen a greater than 50% increase in his assist numbers and a greater than 33% increase in his rebound numbers. Why have his assists spiked?

The Thunder have been running Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder as point guard most of the season, but this spike in assists for Shai is intriguing.

Is it just luck of shots going in or something more. For the season, Shai is averaging 39.3 passes per game. The last seven games, though, that number is all the way up to 48.4. And it’s not due to Schröder or Paul passing less, as Schröder has actually increased as well, while Paul is at the same number.

The Thunder have just seemed to move the ball around more, creating more assist opportunities and that is working in Shai’s favour for fantasy.

Zion Williamson Is Here, And He’s Bombing Threes

The hot takes were flying when Zion first took the court, on Twitter, and from the painful announcing of Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. He’s too fat, he can’t move. He’s a bust. I’d rather Ja Morant and pick one. And then for a two minutes stretch in the fourth quarter, Zion showed us how electric he is, knocking in four straight triples to bring his game total to 22 points in 20 minutes.

Zion Williamson's three-point shooting was a big feature of his NBA debut. Pic: Getty

Let’s look at that shooting from Zion. Of course, no-one thinks he will continue to be a 100% three-point shooter in his career, but the shot did look a lot better than we’ve seen in the past and if that develops into a weapon, the league is in trouble.

In 109 preseason minutes, Zion attempted only four triples, hitting one. For reference, he attempted four in 18 minutes yesterday. A 25% conversion isn’t a great number. In his 33 games at Duke, Zion attempted just 71 threes, a little over two per game and knocked them in, with the shorter line, at 34%.

If Zion can hit 34% of his triples in the NBA and attempt 4-5 per game, it opens up everything for his game and will spike his fantasy value as well, so how the shot looks over the next 20 games is going to be very interesting.

Remember Reggie Jackson?

While Thursday was Zion Day, Reggie Jackson made his long-awaited return after suffering a back injury after the first two games. He was ridiculous in the game against the Kings, and bear

in mind, it was against the Kings, scoring 36.6 fantasy points, with 22 points, four rebounds, and two steals in only 19 minutes.

Getting 36.6 points is awesome and would make him a 12 team guy, but this is Reggie Jackson. This doesn’t happen. The highest steals average Jackson has had since 2013-14 is 0.8 per game, so the two steals he got is like three games worth for him.

He also had a usage of 36.4% with a true shooting of 72%. Jackson has never had an above-average true shooting percentage (league average 56%), nor has he ever had a usage of over

30%.

The Pistons were also without Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard, who could cut into the playing time upside of Jackson. There is no way Jackson can continue that true shooting percentage and usage combination, so add him with extreme caution.

Kawhi Leonard Is Dominating Without Paul George

Kawhi started off the season great, but the efficiency was a little off. Then Paul George returned, and his numbers petered out a little, but with George sidelined with a hamstring injury, Kawhi has gone bananas, averaging 58.97 fantasy points, to be the number on fantasy player in the last two weeks.

If we bring it down to a per-minute basis, Kawhi is averaging 1.51 fantasy points per minute this season. In the 460 minutes he has played with George, that number goes down to 1.33 points per minutes, with his true shooting percentage as 54.3 and usage at 32.2%.

When Kawhi is solo, his usage spikes to 38.6%, his true shooting actually goes up to 59.5% and he scores 1.64 fantasy points per minutes.

So, at the moment, Kawhi is flying, but it could be a bit of a sell-high moment before PG13 returns and cuts into his production.

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.