We find ourselves 19 days away from tip off which seems close enough to start dusting off those old draft manuels and updating some assumptions. My big assumptions going into the draft this year are the effects from all of the moves in the NBA (have you checked your phone in the last hour? You might have missed 2-3 trades).
I’ll start with the glory stat – points per game.
2016-2017 Points per game leaders
Russell Westbrook (31.6)
James Harden (29.1)
Isaiah Thomas (28.9)
Anthony Davis (28.0)
DeMar DeRozan (27.3)
-Nothing too surprising here, Russell took home many honors for his triple double average and his insane ability to pick up the entire team and literally carry it into the playoffs (it’s true, slow down game play from last year and look closely, he had 4 players on his back). The playoff series between James and Russell was, to me, one of the most entertaining in the playoffs last year. Isaiah Thomas now finds himself on a new roster after an unbelievable campaign last year, Anthony Davis was dominant and DeMar DeRozan sits as perhaps a lone surprise in the top 5.
2015-2016 Points per game leaders
Stephen Curry (30.1)
James Harden (29.0)
Kevin Durant (28.2)
DeMarcus Cousins (26.9)
LeBron James (25.3)
-Notice something interesting when we go back one year, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, all who had respectible 2016-2017 stat lines but the more star studed your roster gets, the more the stat lines are spread out. Again, quality players but suddenly year over year they aren’t in the top 5 anymore. Meanwhile James Harden holds strong given the possessions he receives each game. Also note that Russell Westbrook is absent from this list, he wasn’t too far off , but he finished 8th with 23.5 points per game, having KD there to take away a few possessions.
2014-2015 Points per game leaders
Russell Westbrook (28.1)
James Harden (27.4)
LeBron James (25.3)
Anthony Davis (24.4)
DeMarcus Cousins (24.1)
-There is Russell again at the top largely because Durant started the season on the DL due to a Jones fracture and then injured his ankle and then his toe and then foot surgery playing just 27 games over the course of the year (I’ll get back to this point later). James Harden the pillar of consistency is the only player who is in the top 5 all three years. LeBron found himself carrying a lot of the work over the work for the Cavaliers as he built up the team he wanted around him. Finally Anthony Davis and DeMarcus, who are united in New Orleans were both power houses who have since cannibalized a bit into the share of scoring that they seperately held.
Points per game recap: First I would like to point this out, when you look at the top five players, their average points per game amongst the five of them goes from 27.86 in 2014-2015 to 27.9 in 2015-2016 to 28.98 in 2016-2017, the trend of the NBA over the last few years is going up since 2011-2012 season where the average game had 96.3 points per game and has progressively worked up to the 105.6 points per game we saw last year. Second are the effects of the two ‘super teams’ from last year, LeBron James built a team that took the Cavaliers to a record third consecutive finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors (his points per game went up but he was outpaced by other starts whoser average points per game increased at a faster pace) and Kevan Durant who moved from OKC to Golden State (Russell Westbrook’s points go up, Stephen Curry’s points go down). This is important for 3 other players who repeatedly appear on the top 5 in points per game. First for Anthony Davis who had DeMarcus Cousins join the New Orleans Pelicans in February of last year, through the final quarter of the Pelicans season. DeMarcus saw his points per game drop from 27.8 to 24.8 through the transition while Anthony Davis saw an increase in point production going from 26.2PPG before to 28.6 PPG after. I don’t think this sustains going into next year, I think we see a decrase in Anthony Davis over an entire season of this pairing. Finally Russell Westbrook, the star of a Oklahoma City Thunder who now has Paul George and Carmelo Anthony at his side which will surely create a decrease in his stat line this year. This concept isn’t earth shattering, surely its on many fantasy minds, I’m just trying to put a seed out there that we might see some new names emerge in the top five in points per game this year such as Damien Lillard, John Wall or maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo. Additionally, I’m wondering if James Harden could be a smarter #1 overall pick option
Up next: Rebounds!