Here in «Notable Numbers,» we attempt to unearth a plethora of interesting stats and fantasy-relevant facts each week. Today, I’ll discuss Ben Simmons‘ superb play in 2020, Kendrick Nunn remaining relevant, and Matisse Thybulle‘s unique skill set.
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* Simmons A Stud In 2020
Ben Simmons was playing well over the first couple of months of the 2019-20 season, but has taken his game to another level since the calendar flipped to 2020.
In Monday’s victory over the Nets in Brooklyn, Simmons converted 12 of his 14 FG attempts en route to a career-high 34 points to go along with 12 rebounds, 12 assists, five steals, two blocks and three turnovers. Not only was it the first 30-point triple-double of his career, but according to Basketball-Reference, Simmons became the first player in NBA history to tally at least 34 points, 12 boards, 12 dimes and five steals in the same game.
It was the Sixers‘ fourth straight win despite playing without all-world center Joel Embiid (left hand ligament) in all four of those contests. Prior to the Embiid injury, Simmons averaged under 15 points and 7.5 boards over the first 36 games of the season.
Big Ben started off January hot, and with Embiid sidelined, Simmons has stepped up for Philly. In the nine games the Sixers have played this month, Simmons (who was named Player of the Week on Monday) is averaging 21.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.8 blocks while shooting a scorching 61.9% from the field.
In 2020, Simmons averaging more rebounds than Bam Adebayo or Nikola Jokic, more assists than Damian Lillard or James Harden, more points than Kemba Walker or Nikola Vucevic, and more steals than Anthony Davis or Russell Westbrook. Despite shooting 56.9% from the free-throw stripe, Simmons’ monster all-around numbers have boosted him inside the top-ten overall in nine-category formats in 2020. In points leagues, he ranks No. 3.
Big Ben’s numbers will come back down to earth a bit once Embiid returns to the lineup, but Simmons is still on pace to post the best all-around stats of his young career, especially considering his a career-low in turnovers (3.3) despite logging a career-high in minutes (36.0 mpg).
* Thybulle The Thief
Matisse Thybulle is another player that has benefited from the absence of Joel Embiid in Philly. Thybulle has started each of the Sixers past four games and is averaging 2.3 blocks and 2.3 steals in 31.3 minutes during this stretch.
These numbers shouldn’t be shocking, considering Thybulle entered the league with a reputation as an elite defensive specialist. Last year as a senior at the University of Washington, he averaged 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. In the process, he passed Gary Payton to become the Pac-12’s all-time steals leader. According to Basketball-Reference, he was the first player in NCAA Division 1 history with at least 100 steals and 70 blocks in the same season.
He’s continued to provide valuable STOCKS in abundance since debuting in the association. In fact, over the first 37 games of his career, Thybulle has posted a steal rate of 3.7% and a swat rate of 3.8%. Thus, per Basketball-Reference, he is on pace to become the first player in NBA history to record a steal rate AND block rate north of 3.5%. The only other player to finish the season at least 3.3% and 3.5% respecively was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1988-89.
Thybulle’s poor shooting percentages significantly hamper his overall value in nine-cat formats, but if you are in a points league and, especially if you are looking for a steals or blocks specialist, keep an eye on this dude.
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* Bar Nunn
Kendrick Nunn came out of nowhere. An undrafted free agent who spent the 2018-19 campaign in the G-League, Nunn certainly wasn’t on the fantasy radar during drafts held in early October. However, after impressive and promising production during the preseason, he earned a spot in the starting lineup on Opening Night.
After busting out of the gates in the regular season and scoring 20+ points in three of Miami’s first six games, Nunn was a bit up-and-down over the next two months. This certainly wasn’t surprising, as most rookies ride a bit of a roller coaster as they try and familiarize themselves with the daily grind of the league.
Yet, after a dip in production in late December and early January, Nunn has seemingly regained his footing and is firing on all cylinders. In Monday’s victory over the Kings, he poured in 25 points to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, and three treys. Over the Heat’s last five games, Nunn is averaging 23.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.0 trifectas and 1.2 steals, all while shooting 56.8% from the floor, 46.9% from downtown and a perfect 11-of-11 from the FT stripe.
To his credit, and the surprise of many, Nunn has not relinquished his spot in the first five. He’s started all 43 games the Heat have played this season. Miami was dealing with a slew of injuries early on, and Dion Waiters was in the dog house. But once everyone got healthy, Nunn would be bumped to the bench, right? Wrong, Nunn outlasted the competition while greatly exceeding expectations.
Coming into this season, only Kyrie Irving, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid and Deandre Ayton averaged more than 16 points with a True Shooting percentage above 55% as rookies. Well, not only is Nunn set to join that club, but he’s also on pace to join Stephen Curry (2009-10) as just the second rookie in NBA history to average at least 16 points, and two made 3-pointers while posting a True Shooting Percentage north of 55%.
The limited defensive stats have limited Nunn’s overall fantasy value, but he still will likely finish the season near the top-100, and as a player that drastically outperformed his ADP.
* Damian Lillard exploded for 61 points (17-of-37 FGs, 16-of-16 FTs), ten rebounds, seven assists, and 11 3-pointers in Monday’s victory over the Warriors. Dame became just the fifth player in the last 40 years to register at least 60 points, ten boards and five dimes in a single game (Harden, T-Mac, MJ and David Robinson are the other four). Lillard is also just the sixth player ever with multiple 60-point games on his resume.
* In that same game, Portland’s Hassan Whiteside racked up 17 points, 21 rebounds, two assists and six blocks. Remarkably, that was his third 15+/20+/5+ game in 2019-20. That’s a Blazers’ franchise record and the most such games in one season by any player this century (oh, and the Blazers still have 37 contests remaining on their schedule).
* Michael Porter Jr. has two games this season in which he’s tallied at least 18 points, ten boards, four dimes and three made 3PT’s. That’s more such games than all other rookies combined in 2019-20, and a Nuggets franchise record. Oh, and MPJ has yet to start or play more than 30 minutes in a single contest. With the news that Mason Plumlee (right foot) will miss the next 2-4 weeks of action, Porter Jr. should soak up extra minutes as a stretch-5.
* Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 35.2 points, 15.1 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per-36 minutes so far this season. Per StatMuse, no player in NBA history has averaged at least 35/15/5 per-36 minutes for a full season.