Sometimes, breakouts are easy to spot. The Pelicans' Brandon Ingram, for instance, now has consecutive games with at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for the second time this season after delivering another awesome line in a win over Phoenix last night. The performance marked Ingram's eighth game this season with at least 25 points, a feat he accomplished just seven times all last season.
Several advanced metrics confirm Ingram's ascent. Player efficiency rating is crafted to measure the effectiveness of a player by weighting production by minutes played per game and pace. Ingram's PER through his first three NBA campaigns was just 11.7, a rate that would sit at 220th in the league this season. This season, Ingram is all the way up to 23.9 in PER, good for 15th overall in the league.
The king of wing wingspan sports a 61.6% true shooting clip thus far, which is a measure of shooting efficiency from all three levels. The Duke product posted a true shooing rate of just 52.3% entering this season. Even when some eventual regression hits Ingram's likely unsustainable 3-point efficiency, we find he is enjoying massive leaps in assist percentage, rebounding efficiency and usage rating to help support an impressively high floor.
Sans Zion Williamson, the Pelicans are funneling their offense through Ingram, something that has resulted in a leap to fantasy stardom in New Orleans.
Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans: 28 (9-19 FG), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 4 TO
Kent Bazemore, Portland Trail Blazers: 2 points (1-8 FG), 5 rebounds, 6 assists
A light two-game Thursday slate still saw some fantasy free agents shine, with the Bucks' Donte DiVincenzo as a key example. The Villanova product needed 15 shots to tally 16 points, but he was solid on the glass and busy on perimeter defense in a start for Milwaukee. If he continues to start, DiVincenzo merits some attention from managers in deeper formats.
Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player in franchise history to post at least 15 points, rebounds and assists in a single game. The reigning MVP created 37 points off his assists last night, the most in any game in his career. Eric Bledsoe was on the receiving end of several Giannis dimes in producing 30 points and now has consecutive 25-point games for the second time this season.
Kelly Oubre Jr. delivered his eighth 25-point game with Phoenix since coming over from the Wizards last season. While in Washington for 252 games, he enjoyed one such performance.
Carmelo Anthony bounced back with a respectable second game with the Blazers. posting 18 points and 11 combined assists and rebounds, good for his most points scored in a game since Nov. 2, 2018. The counter would be Melo took 15 shots while making just six to get there, but it was encouraging to see Anthony rebound from a weak debut. How Anthony eventually performs in lineups with Damian Lillard, who missed another game with a back ailment, will tell the fuller story. Portland's McCollum netted his first career game with 35 points and 10 assists.
The big fantasy story for the Blazers, though, was the big line from Skal Labissiere, who netted 22 points on 16 shots off the pine in addition 12 rebounds and, most impressively, five blocks and one steal in 28 minutes of action on Thursday. Labissiere became the first Trail Blazers player with at least 20 pints, 10 rebounds and five blocks off the bench since Darius Miles in April of 2015 against the Nuggets. Miles memorably had 47 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks in that game against Anthony's Nuggets (Melo had 36 points for Denver). If Labissiere can earn more than 20 MPG in the coming weeks, his defensive rates could drive real value.
Injuries of note
Indiana's Malcolm Brogdon didn't practice on Thursday due to a back issue that has kept him from playing the team's past two games. The Pacers play next on Saturday, and if Brogdon can't go, streaming shares of Aaron Holiday could pay off. Teammate Jeremy Lamb told reporters he expects to return from injury on Saturday.
The Magic have already ruled Aaron Gordon out ahead of Saturday's game with a bruised ankle. There isn't a defined timeline for Gordon, but teammate Nikola Vucevic reportedly will miss at least the next month with a significant ankle injury. This spells increased offensive equity for rising fantasy star Jonathan Isaac and a more stable role for Mo Bamba as well.
The Warriors' Draymond Green is listed as questionable with right heel soreness for tonight's meeting with the Jazz.
Analytics advantage for Friday
It's possibly a good night to stack the Sixers' rotation in DFS play, given they meet with a reeling Spurs team tonight in a game aired on ESPN.
The Spurs ranked in the top 11 of defensive efficiency in all 21 seasons between 1997-98 and 2017-18, so this year's porous defense is quite unprecedented for the Popovich era; they are giving up 113.6 points per 100 possessions, giving them the third-worst defense in the NBA ahead of only the Warriors (116.1) and the Wizards (115.1). They're allowing opponents to shoot 47.9 percent from the field (fifth-worst) and 38.1 percent on 3-pointers (fourth-worst), aiding Philly's case a strong stack.
Top players to watch tonight
The Rockets will visit the Clippers tonight in a matchup between two of the top teams out west. For the fifth time in seven seasons under Doc Rivers, the Clippers are 10-5 or better through 15 games. In the team's first 43 seasons, they combined for two such starts. The Rockets enter this game averaging 118.1 PPG at home, most among Western Conference teams.
In 27 minutes with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the court together in their debut together Wednesday, the Clippers outscored the Celtics 56-45. They held Boston to 34% shooting from the floor and 23% from 3.
The Beard enters this game trailing only Wilt Chamberlain for the most points through 15 team games in a single season. James Harden's 38.4 PPG are currently on pace to tie Chamberlain for the third-highest scoring average in NBA history. Should Harden average "only" 35 PPG for the 2019-20 season, he would join Chamberlain as the only players to average 35 PPG on multiple occasions, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Clint Capela, meanwhile, is going for a franchise record sixth straight game with at least 20 rebounds. If you wanted to get some popcorn ready, there's also the riveting matchup of Patrick Beverley versus Russell Westbrook to consider in this truly marquee matchup of contenders.