Duncan Robinson, Three-Point Overlord:
Duncan Robinson is one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters in only his second season in the Association. After playing in only 15 games and starting just one last season, Duncan Robinson has had an outsized impact on the Heat’s success this year. Robinson is fourth in the league in three-pointers made, behind only James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Buddy Hield. Among players with at least 200 attempts, Robinson is tied with Khris Middleton for fourth in the league in percentage at 43.8. The effectiveness of Robinson’s two-man game with Bam Adebayo helps unlock Bam’s playmaking and driving game.
Robinson is a member of all of the Heat’s highest rated offensive lineups. The Heat are one of the best teams at home with a 22-3 record. They have a home offensive rating of 116, compared to an overall offensive rating of 11.7. Duncan Robinson has a 118 home offensive rating and an overall offensive rating of 113.2. He’s been instrumental in the Heat’s offensive improvements this season. Robinson is arguably the third-most important player behind Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. He’s been a revelation and is now the odds-on favorite to win the three-point contest during All-Star weekend.
Fantasy Impact: Yahoo ranks Robinson 67th in terms of total value and 114th in per-game value. Basketball Monster also ranks Robinson 67th in total value, but currently ranks him 105th in per-game value. Robinson may not be versatile enough to retain in a keeper league, since he’s mostly a threes specialist, but given how elite that one skill is, your specific team-build should factor into that decision. If you’re playing in a categories league and are hell-bent on winning threes, free-throw percentage, and turnovers, Robinson is someone to look at it. This season, Robinson is averaging 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.8 turnovers, while shooting 45.7 percent from the field, 43.8 percent from three, and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Devin Booker Taking Another Leap:
Last season, the Suns’ inept roster construction necessitated Devin Booker operating as the primary playmaker. Now that Ricky Rubio has been added to the fold, Booker has been able to show off his improved off-ball game. More time off the ball has led to increased efficiency for Booker, putting him in some rarified air over the course of the first half of the season. Booker was in the 50-40-90 club for much of the first-half. Booker has managed to reproduce his numbers from last season, with a slightly lower usage rate (29.7 compared to 32.9 last season), and even greater efficiency (62.6 true shooting percentage compared to 58.4 last season). Here are Booker’s number as the league heads into the All-Star break: 26.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists, while shooting a ridiculous 49.6 percent from the field, 35.8 percent from three, and 92 percent from the free-throw line. Booker is shooting 55.6 percent on twos and 74.1 percent within three-feet of the basket this season, both career highs.
Booker would have been a deserving All-Star. He’s now a deserving All-Star injury replacement. Booker’s efficiency is being wildly underrated this season. If he can manage to improve his three-point percentage in the second half, while dragging the Suns to a few more wins, he may even be able to snatch one of the league’s ultra-coveted All-NBA spots. Booker is a good catch-and-shoot three-point shooter. For his career, he’s shot 39.1 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. Booker’s problem is that his pull-up threes drag down his overall three-point percentage. This season Booker is shooting 39.8 percent on catch-and-shoot threes and 34 percent on pull-up threes, both respectable numbers, but not good enough if he wants to get into that exclusive 50-40-90 club. Confusingly, Booker has taken more pull-up threes (3.1 a game, 159 total) than catch-and-shoot threes (2.3 a game, 118 total) this season. We’ve seen Booker’s off-ball movement get him more open layup opportunities this year, but it hasn’t led to more catch-and-shoot three-point opportunities. It’s possible that Booker just isn’t the kind or quality of shooter to convert 38 percent or higher on high volume from three—he is after all, a 35.5 percent three-point shooter for his career. What this year has shown us so far, is that Booker may not need to be that kind of shooter to be a hyper-efficient offensive player—that’s a scary reality for opposing teams.
Fantasy Impact: Devin Booker is young, improving, and as long as Ricky Rubio is on his team, he should get better looks than he has in every prior season. He’s one of the most efficient high-volume guards in the league. Booker is 13th in total value and 29th in per-game value according to Yahoo. He’s 9th in total value and 29th in per-game value according to Basketball Monster. Small improvements in turnovers, three-point shooting, assists, and steals or even just two out of those four would likely push him into the top 10 in fantasy rankings.
Daryl Morey Trading Into Russell Westbrook’s Nirvana:
Newton’s Third Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The Rockets traded for Chris Paul, only for Paul and James Harden’s work relationship to grow untenable. Because Paul and Harden could no longer tolerate each other, the Rockets were forced to trade Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. Since the Rockets traded for Russell Westbrook, they were eventually forced to trade away their capable, fairly cost-controlled center in Clint Capela. Westbrook’s three-point shooting woes meant that the Rockets were playing two non-shooters far too much of the time, effectively diminishing the impact of all three of their best players—Harden, Westbrook, and Capela.
As a result of Daryl Morey trading Clint Capela and Mike D’Antoni leaning into his five-out, seven seconds or less roots, Russell Westbrook is now operating in the best offensive ecosystem he’s ever played in. It’s hard to wrap your head around that fact considering Westbrook played alongside Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka for much of his career, but it’s true. Houston’s commitment to their offensive identity or James Harden’s statists, depending on how you want to look at it, means that they don’t give many minutes to non-shooters. Westbrook is isolating defenders with more space than he could have ever imagined. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. Russell Westbrook, the metaphorical horse in this case, is chugging and bathing in the Rockets’ analytic waters over the past month. Over the last month, Westbrook is averaging 34.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, and 4.3 turnovers, while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and 77.3 percent from the line. Compare those numbers to Westbrook’s season averages of 27.2 points, 8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 4.4 turnovers, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 78.5 percent from the line. In Westbrook’s last 15 games, he’s averaging only 2.3 three-point attempts a game compared to his season long average of 4 three-point attempts a game. With Capela gone and the floor spread to an extreme degree, Westbrook is thriving. The problem with letting Westbrook be Westbrook for much of his career, was that Westbrook was often his own worst enemy, jacking up too many threes when he was clearly so bad at them. Things look like they have changed in Houston and his commitment to scoring inside is paying off. Westbrook is shooting twos at the highest volume and efficiency of his career—18.7 attempts a game on 51.2 percent. He’s having the second-best effective field goal season of his career (48.4) and shooting the second-best percentage from within 3 feet of the rim for his career—63.6 percent.
Fantasy Impact: Westbrook’s turnovers are always going to hurt you and he’s still below 80 percent from the line on the season, but the sheer volume of points, assists, rebounds, and steals in any given game or week of games can be staggering. If you have a well-balanced team, Westbrook is a clear asset. Westbrook is ranked 44th in total value and 38th in per-game value according to Yahoo. Basketball Monster ranks him 43rd in total value and 40th in per-game value.