DeMar DeRozan accomplished something on Monday that only one player had ever done while wearing a Toronto Raptors uniform. DeRozan dropped 52 points to celebrate the New Year, joining Vince Carter as the only Raptors to ever hit that mark. DeRozan's entire line from Monday was extremely impressive: 52 points (17-29 FG, 13-13 FT), 8 assists, 5 3-pointers, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 TO.
This game highlighted two of the main reasons why DeRozan seems to be making a bigger impact on offense than in years past: long-range shooting and playmaking.
DeRozan has always been a midrange scoring monster and more of a finisher than a creator, but this season, he's averaging a career-best 0.9 3-pointers per game and a career-best 4.9 assists per game. That's for the season. But during his past seven games, he has picked up his long-range shooting tremendously, knocking down 21 treys in those game for an average of 3.0 3-pointers per game. Those are game-changers, both for his on-court impact and also for his fantasy status.
On the season, DeRozan currently ranks No. 1 among shooting guards and tenth overall in Offensive Real Plus Minus (ORPM), indicating that his presence on the court has correlated with more positive changes in his team's offensive scoring margins than any shooting guard this season. This is a big improvement for DeRozan, who finished last season ranked ninth among shooting guards and 38th overall in this stat.
The improved long-range shot and increased playmaking are likely responsible for that improvement in on-court impact -- and that long-range shot and those assists also make him a much more potent fantasy threat.
DeRozan is already an impact roto producer in scoring and free throw percentage, because he knocks down a lot of free throws on a great percentage. According to the Player Rater, he's also a positive in field goal percentage, as he's shooting 48 percent from the field on high volume as well. But now he's in the top 10 among shooting guards in assists too, and if he continues knocking down 3-pointers at anywhere near this clip, he'll soon measure out even more positive in that category to boot.
Then, we'd be looking at something very interesting. In fact, the mere possibility that DeRozan makes the long-ball a consistent, volume part of his repertoire is enough to get him on the map as a trade target to start the new year with the potential to have a much stronger second half of the season than first.
Biyombo (available in 83.5 percent of leagues) turned in his fourth straight game with double-figure rebounds and his third straight double-double on Monday. All told, he is averaging 9.5 points, 13 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in those four games and has the game to maintain those numbers for as long as Nikola Vucevic is sidelined.
Caris LeVert (available in 65 percent of leagues) scored 15 points with 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and a 3-pointer on Monday. This is right in line with his recent play, as over his last five games, he is averaging 16.6 points (49.2 FG%, 72.2 FT%), 7.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench.
Thon Maker popped for 16 points (4-8 FG, 5-5 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, an assist, a block and a steal in 18 minutes off the bench. The scoring came from nowhere, as he had combined for only 12 points in his four previous games combined, but the peripheral numbers are becoming more of a norm, as the Bucks continue to give him a consistent 15-20 minutes a night of action.
Andrew Wiggins turned in one of his best all-around performances of the season on Monday, posting a season-high nine rebounds to go with his 21 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 1 3-pointer against the Lakers. Butler still had a bigger line, but if Wiggins can find some consistency on the glass, he could start to move back up in my rest-of-season rankings.
Injuries of note
James Harden suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring on Sunday, and will miss at least the next two weeks. Chris Paul is expected to take the reins of the team in his absence, with Eric Gordon as his primary lieutenant. New Rocket Gerald Green (99.4 percent available) could even see the court a bit in a position to produce.
Joel Embiid injured his shooting hand on Sunday during the game against the Phoenix Suns, but he stayed in the game and X-rays afterwards came up negative. There has been no word yet as to whether the injury will cause him to miss any game action, but the Philadelphia 76ers are notoriously careful with Embiid, so it's worth paying attention to.
Kuzma's poor line on Monday was likely influenced by his re-injuring his quad during the game. The re-injury wasn't reported at the time, but it helps explain why he played only 18 minutes and had such a paltry line. If he sits while Lonzo Ball remains out, it opens up more opportunity for players like Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. (available in 79.3 percent of leagues), and even guards like Jordan Clarkson (available in 47.2 percent of leagues), to step up their production.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
The Atlanta Hawks are a very friendly fantasy defense on the perimeter in a lot of ways. They allow the most opponent assists in the NBA at 25.5 assists per game, they've given up the sixth-most steals (8.1 SPG), and they've allowed the fourth-most 3-pointers at 11.6 per game. And they do all of this despite playing a reasonably average pace of 97 possessions per game, 13th in the NBA.
The Suns, on the other hand, play at the third-fastest pace in the league (100.5 possessions/game), which means that they should have even more chances to take advantage of the Hawks' friendliness on the perimeter.
This of course bodes well for primary option Devin Booker, but also suggests that this could be a good day for at least one of their point guard platoon of Tyler Ulis (available in 97.9 percent of leagues), Isaiah Canaan (available in 91.8 percent of leagues) or maybe even Troy Daniels (available in 99 percent of leagues).
Top players to watch tonight
Isaiah Thomas will make his return to the court on Tuesday. He is unlikely to put a big fantasy total on the board, because he'll be on a minutes restriction and hasn't played in a game in seven months. However, his return could be hugely exciting for the league as a whole and could also have a direct bearing on the rest-of-the-season performances of LeBron James and Kevin Love.
Damian Lillard is due back from his own leg injury on Tuesday. His absence was much shorter, but during that stretch, McCollum has been turning in some big outings, and both Evan Turner and Shabazz Napier were fantasy relevant. Lillard's return sends Napier to the bench and likely attenuates the production of both McCollum and Turner moving forward.