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13 stats to believe or not through the first month of fantasy basketball

Determining how much faith I have in early stats and trends from the NBA.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

As we’re through roughly the first month of the season, I figured I’d take a look at some currently true and real NBA stats and see just how much faith you can put in them.

Let’s begin.

The Detroit Pistons are the #1 team in the NBA in 3PT% (40.5 3PT%). THE DETROIT PISTONS. Led by Jedi Knight Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Langston Galloway, and Markieff Morris (all of whom are shooting 4+ 3PA per game at a 40+ 3PT% clip), the Detroit Pistons are destroying teams with their perimeter scoring, and their ferocious defen-

Let me stop you right there. I DO NOT believe this. The Pistons may be hitting their threes so far, but they’re 24th in 3PA per game as a team. The Pistons take the second fewest shots per game and they have a slower pace than the UTAH JAZZ. I love the Pistons, but get real, this long range assassin shooting isn’t going to continue. I have no doubt that the Pistons will do better now that Blake Griffin is playing again, but I don’t think they have the best perimeter shooting in the league (no team has a 40+ 3PT% over the past three years, though the Golden State Warriors have come close). It’s fun to watch Langston Galloway sink 7 threes, though.

The Los Angeles Lakers have the best overall record, 11-2. Will they remain the top seed?

I don’t believe this. I think the Lakers will start to lose some games. Six of their 11 wins have been against the Hornets, Grizzlies, Bulls, Warriors, Kings (sans Fox), and Hawks. They haven’t had a cupcake schedule, but the Lakers have a tough December: the Hawks will be their easiest game, and who knows, maybe Atlanta comes ready to play. I believe the Lakers will be a top 4 seed, but I don’t think that they need the #1 seed like some teams do (the Rockets, the Jazz, the Nuggets) in order to succeed in the playoffs.

Let me put it like this: say the Clippers have a better record than the Lakers, and they meet in the playoffs, with the Clippers as the “home” team. Do you really think the Staples Center will provide a home court advantage to the Clips over the Lakeshow?

LeBron’s gunning for MVP, AD’s aiming for Defensive Player of the Year, and Frank Vogel’s defense might win him Coach of the Year if it maintains. The Lakers are legit, but LeBron doesn’t need home court. EVERY court is his home court.

James Harden is averaging 14.6 3PA per game, first in the NBA. Number 2 is Buddy Hield at 9.7 3PA per game.

Do I believe this? I guess so? Why can’t Harden keep doing it, is my main argument. Harden’s shooting his worst three point rate of his career (33.2 3PT% this season, 36.4 3PT% for his career) on the most 3PA of his career, so that’s a good reason for why he can’t keep doing it. But, if Harden starts sinking more treys, why stop? I believe in velocity and entropy. I believe! Harden could score 3,000 points this season. That would be a very, very big deal (Michael Jordan is the last person to do it).

The Miami Heat have the second best record in the East, 9-3.

Yes, I believe, HARD. Here are the other teams in the Heat’s division: the Magic, the Hornets, the Hawks, and the Wizards. The Southeast Division is the ONLY division in the NBA that has only one team with a winning record. The Heat have the easiest path to the playoffs of any team in the NBA. I guarantee the Heat win their division. This is not belief. This is certainty. The Heat will be a top 4 seed in the East.

The five teams with the lowest 3PT% are the Warriors (which is funny), the Cavaliers, the Timberwolves, the Magic, and the worst 3PT% team, the Atlanta Hawks.

Jabari Parker is averaging 3.9 3PA and has a 27.5 3PT%. Haha! I totally believe this could continue, because the Hawks are nothing but youth. The Magic have an offense that reminds one of an empty space, devoid of any substance whatsoever. The TimberKATs are still not that good, the Cavs are led by young perimeter players with Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson up front, and the Warriors are, well, not really the Dubs this season. These teams are going to be ugly all season. I believe this.

The Washington Wizards have the #1 overall offense in the NBA.

I absolutely do not believe this. Bradley Beal is averaging 30+ PPG, but I’m sorry, I can’t get behind a team who has this on the schedule starting November 29th: Lakers, Clippers, Orlando, Philly, Miami, Clippers again. The Wizzle-Wazzle offense will disappear during that brutal six game stretch. A lot of the Wiz’s offensive rating came from that ridiculous Houston game that ended 159-158 (DC lost, natch).

Jaylen Brown is averaging 20+ PPG.

I believe! There’s nothing in the numbers to suggest that this is fake, so I’m rolling with this being Jaylen’s breakout year. All the stars (and, injuries) have aligned for Brown to do well this year. He’s currently third in shot attempts on Boston (Tatum and Kemba are first and second), he’s in his fourth year, and I don’t think there’s any reason to disbelieve in a talented young player’s improvement.

Is Willie Cauley-Stein a top 50 fantasy player?

He has been over the past two weeks. WCS is averaging 8 and 6 as the starting center for the Warriors, with 1+ SPG and 1+ BPG. I think his FGA per game will begin to climb, as will Cauley-Stein’s boards. If he can keep his steals and blocks up, and average a double-double, then he’ll be another of the volume players that ends the season with a high fantasy rank. I’m not sure I believe top 50, but I definitely think he’s top 75 for the rest of the year as the starting big on a bad team.

Is Julius Randle going to continue to provide empty calorie points?

Blue-and-Orange Julius is averaging 15 and 9, but he’s shooting under his ratios from the past two years (50+ FG% previous two seasons). Until he gets his percentages up (he’s currently shooting 42% from the floor), he’ll remain a highly owned (34th most owned player on ESPN) mediocre fantasy player (currently 145th on the Player Rater). I believe he will.

Ja Morant is the best rookie so far.

No, PJ Washington is (top 50 on ESPN PR). Ja is #90, and he seems to have his playing time capped. I still think RJ Barrett will win Rookie of the Year, but PJ Washington is absolutely making a strong case. Ja is fun and he looks like he’ll be a dynamite player in the near future, but I’m still gonna go with guys who are getting minutes and delivering. So far, that’s PJ Washington. (Though just wait until Zion’s back!)

The Cleveland Cavaliers, aka the Sex-Land Cavs, are fun!

This is true! John Beilein has this weirdo Cavaliers team playing pretty well! I really like the Collin Sexton and Darius Garland tandem so far, and Kevin Porter Jr is interesting, and Kevin Love looks great, and Tristan Thompson cares again! Don’t get me wrong, the Cavs are bad, but they’re also a team that looks like it’s learning, and whose players seem to try hard. The backcourt is young, and Cedi Osman remains their only true small forward, and who knows what will happen to the front court, but I am very intrigued by Beilein’s Cavs.

Oh, by the way! Kevin Love is a top 20 player in fantasy right now, averaging 18 and 12 on the year, with multiple threes swished per game. He’s only 31 years old. A healthy Kevin Love is the kind of player who can get you to the playoffs in the East. (Psst! They’re only two games out! What if, gaaaasp!, the Cavs made a win-now trade! What would it look like??)

The Suns have the 4th best Net Rating.

Phoenix has beaten two good teams (the Clippers and the 76ers), and also the Kings, Warriors, Grizzlies, Nets, and Hawks. Not exactly fighting your way up Omaha Beach. They’re definitely better than they used to be: Ricky Rubio was a great addition, Devin Booker looks great, Kelly Oubre Jr is actually defending, and Aron Baynes is a nice little cheat code that Phoenix will probably ruin somehow. DeAndre Ayton will be back eventually, changing the team for better or for worse (better long term, maybe worse short term), but I’m bigass skeptical of this team’s depth. I like this team as a Kevin Love destination (Love’s passing combined with Rubio’s passing would be special), but I don’t really think they’re this good. They’re in the same division as the Lakers and the Clippers, so there’s almost no chance that the Suns will win the division, which makes the playoffs just that much harder to reach.

They could have had Luka.

The Lakers will continue to be dead last in drives.

The Lakers average 30.5 drives to the hoop per game, 30th in the NBA. The Denver Nuggets are 29th with 36 drives per game. Only one team has averaged under 30 drives per game over the past three seasons: the Golden State Warriors. Hmm.

The Lakers play slow (bottom ten in pace), and they don’t have a good 3PT% as a team (33.3 3PT%, 22nd). They do have the NBA’s second best FG%, though, 47.8 FG%. Dwight Howard (76 FG%) and JaVale McGee (62.7 FG%) are helping their ratios. But, Danny Green is the only player shooting better than 40% from three. This team is still a mystery to me. I don’t know what to believe, other than LBJ and the Brow are absotively posilutely dynamite together.