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A look at who’s helping their teammates

What impact assists have on fantasy basketball and an underowned guy who belongs on your team.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Clippers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

I love this stat: The most assists in a game so far in this young NBA season are Kyle Lowry with 15 on October 29th against the Bucks, and DeMar DeChozan with 14 against the Lakers one week prior. These two dudes are best friends, and they sure didn’t seem happy about DeChozan being traded away (even if it was flattering to be traded for an elite player such as Kawhi, I’m sure Lowry and DeMar think that Kawhi should be flattered to be traded for such an elite player in DeRozan). Right now, the besties and former teammates are kicking ass: the Raptors with Kyle are 7-1, and the Spurs with DeMar are 5-2. The Raps are 5th in points per game, and while the Spurs haven’t been able to match that, they’re not awful at 11th overall, even with all the injuries that San Antonio’s had to deal with.

They’re both in the top half of the league in assists, due in no small part to the pals: Lowry is averaging 11.1 assists per game, #1 in the NBA, and DeChozan, who is not a point guard, is at #7 with 7.3 APG. (That’s two assists more than his highest season average.)

Goddamn, I really want to see a Spurs-Raptors 7 game series. But, sigh, we don’t seed the playoffs correctly. Oh, well, maybe they’ll meet in the Finals.

So, who else is assisting their teammates? And, what does it mean in fantasy? Assists are nice because they lead to something else: if you happen to have the passer AND the guy who caught the pass and made the bucket on your fantasy team, then that one play gave you two counting stats for two different players. Nice! (I generally don’t like having too many players from one team on my fantasy squad, though. Regardless, volume is volume.)

Assists can also represent the quality of a team’s offense. The three best teams in the NBA right now, the Warriors, Bucks, and Raptors, all have top 6 assist rates.

Ditto fantasy. SIX of the Top 10 fantasy players on ESPN Basic are also in the top 10 in assists per game (and, 11 of the Top 25).

There are 28 players who average 5.5, or more, APG (a good cut off line, I think; Kemba averaged 5.6 APG last season, and he’s a good point guard) so far in this season. Only TWO of them are owned in less than 70% of ESPN leagues: Herr Dennis Schroder (who doesn’t start), and JJ Barea (who doesn’t start). EVERYONE ELSE is owned in a majority of the leagues. If you really need assists, pick up Barrea or Schroder.

Only 7 players are averaging 7 or more APG: Kyle Lowry (#1, 11.1 APG), James Harden (9 APG, only played in 4 games), Chris Paul (8.3 APG, only played in 4 games), Draymond Green (hell yeah)(8.1 APG), LBJ (8 APG), Ben Simmons (8 APG), and...Jrue Holiday (8 APG).

(Sergeant Westbrook’s averaging 7.8 APG, so he’ll get that number back up towards 10 as the season goes along, I’m sure.)

DeMar DeChozan, the elite shooting guard who’s doing well in Manu Ginobili’s old spot, is averaging more assists than true point guards Dr. John Wall, Ricky Rubio, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley, Kemba Walker, Dame Lillard, and Steph Gosh Darn Curry. If DeChozan keeps the Spurs in the top 5 in the LOADED Western Conference, an MVP is definitely possible.

Nikola Jokic, the Joker, is the only true Center in the top 25 in APG. Other Talls are Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they’re not Centers. Joker is a Top 5 player in ESPN Basic right now. All year maybe?

De’Aaron Fox is averaging as many assists as Eric Bledsoe and Jeff Teague, 6.9 APG. Fox seems to be a real PG, but the Sad Sacs are still running at a very high pace (2nd in the NBA), so this might be a function of volume, rather than quality.

THREE of the Top 30 APGs belong to the Warriors. I love that team.

Void Riders—players on either side of the 0.0 player rating on ESPN Basic—Marco Belinelli (at 0.03 PR) and Sam Dekker (at -0.01) average 1 to 1.5 APG.

Around 80 players average 3 or more assists per game. Ten of those players have a negative player rating right now: Frank Mason III, Trey Burke, Markelle Fultz, Shelvin Mack, Marcus Smart, Larry Nance, Jr., Tony Parker, Patrick Beverley, Dennis Schroder, and J.J. Barea.

If you need assists, and are desperate, these guys might help you out, but let’s talk about PatBev in particular because of his contributions in every other stat cat than points. First, he’s improving as he regains his legs; if he starts averaging 10+ points per game, his ownership will ascend quickly. Let me prove it to you:

Only 14 players in the NBA are averaging 4.5+ APG and 5+ rebounds per game. Here they are with their points per game and their ESPN ownership rates:

  1. Steph Curry, 33 PPG, 99% ownership
  2. James Harden, 28.5 PPG, 99%
  3. DeChozan, 27.9 PPG, 99%
  4. Durant, 27.8 PPG, 99%
  5. LeBron, 27.8 PPG, 99%
  6. Anthony Davis, 25.2 PPG, 5.2 APG, 99%
  7. Giannis, 25 PPG, 99%
  8. Westbrook, 25 PPG, 99%
  9. Joker, 21.6 PPG, 99%
  10. CP3, 19 PPG, 99%
  11. Ben Simmons, 13.7 PPG, 99%
  12. Elfrid Payton, 11.6 PPG, 72%
  13. Draymond Green, 8.3 PPG, 99%
  14. Patrick Beverley, 5.9 PPG, 4.3%

Beverley’s shooting 24% from three, 13 points lower than his career average. AND, he’s shooting 31 FG% overall, which is 10 points lower than his average. He WILL start scoring more. Again, if he ups his averages even slightly and starts to score in the double digits, his ownership should skyrocket from its bargain basement currently. If you have an open roster spot, you could do a lot worse than a flier on a player who’s non-points counting stats are shared with the best players in fantasy. Beverley is also underperforming his steals average, so if those go up, too, you’ll own a player with very helpful contributions, at least in the non-points stat cats.