• I love player comparisons. Mainly comparisons for NBA Draft prospects that represent, almost exclusively, the incoming players’ absolute ceiling. They make it more fun when your favorite team drafts a lottery pick or when your dynasty team lands a top rookie. Most comps shouldn’t be taken too seriously, of course, because very few players become anything like the all-stars they get compared to as 19-year-olds. Some memorable comparisons that stood out as outlandish after the fact (and also before the fact) were Adam Morrison as the next Larry Bird (I still love Adam Morrison, however) and “Baby Shaq”, Eddy Curry, not quite becoming a HOFer.

    But many comps help us by providing clues about body type, athleticism, feel for the game, shooting ability, etc. I really like the way The Ringer Draft Guide provides three player comparisons for draft prospects. Sort of like a floor, middle-of-the-road, and ceiling prediction. But since I’m not a scout but a numbers nerd, I stay in my lane and stick to statistical comparisons. I love finding “worse” players (guys I dub “off-brand”) that put up similar numbers to big-name players. The fantasy standings don’t care who produced the numbers, after all. Of course, there’s a lot of context to consider when trying to predict what’s sustainable and what’s a fluke. That’s what I’ll do here today as usual.

    This week, I examined the stats over the past month to see who’s ranked significantly higher than expected over that period. I thought it would be helpful to see if we can make some educated guesses about these players for the rest of the season. Can these six players drafted outside the top-50 (some well outside) stick in this neighborhood where they’ve been renting for a month?

    For the players I grabbed, I tried to find a similar statistical comp in the same range based on the name brand player’s season-long numbers. For example, it’s only based on seven games, but John Collins is posing as a late first-rounder over the last 30 days (and for the season, since that only adds five more games for him). I think it would be helpful to see what sort of players with a similar stat set are in that area for the entire season (LaMarcus Aldridge? Nikola Vucevic?) and consider whether Collins can hang around there through April.

    As always, these stats and rankings are of the per-game variety from Basketball Monster, and today they’re through January 6th.

    We start off with bit of an odd one, because as great as the name brand player (Andre Drummond) has been, the guy I’m identifying as the off-brand Andre Drummond is actually ahead of him for the season as well. It’s Hassan Whiteside, and he’s nearly doubled his free throw percentage from last season while putting up similar numbers to the ones he produced four seasons back when he played like a first-round pick the first time.

    A month ago, you definitely could’ve gotten Whiteside and more for Drummond. And I think it’s likely that you still could, since Jusuf Nurkic is looming in Portland. However, Nurkic could easily be a non-factor, at least as it relates to Whiteside’s stats, as he returns from a major injury. You’d be sacrificing steals and some assists, but at this point, I’d take Whiteside and the blocks and crazy free throw percentage. It wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Whiteside finish up next season closer to no. 100 than to no. 3, but I think Whiteside sticks in the late first-round range for the rest of this season.

    These two aren’t far apart in the season ranks either, but the name brand Jayson Tatum does have a slight lead. However, this off-brand player, Kelly Oubre Jr., is hot right now and looks to be ready to surpass Tatum. There’s a chance that Deandre Ayton siphons a few stats from Oubre as he continues to round into form, but Oubre played very well with him last season, so there may not be much to worry about. Oubre appears ready to set up shop in the top-30.

    These two are very similar. If you trade the big-name guy for the cheap knock-off (plus additional pieces), you sacrifice steals, but gain in threes. I never thought I’d be saying that Chris Paul and Joe Ingles are in the same league, especially when CP3 has exceeded most people’s expectations this season (including playing in all 37 games), but here we are. Ingles is on fire right now and will cool off at least a little, regardless of how his role is impacted by a probably returning soon-ish Mike Conley. Once Conley returns, Ingles will most likely settle part-way between the slow-starting bench player we saw to begin the season and the star point-forward we’re seeing right now, as he should stick in the starting lineup.

    Alright, this pair has the least similar stat sets, but I wanted to find another player with crazy steal numbers. The trade-off is clearly points, boards and dimes for better free throw percentage, some threes and fewer turnovers. That name brand line is pretty unique, so you may have figured out that we’re looking at Ben Simmons. The younger (by two months) off-brand version is the streaking Dejounte Murray. Murray is definitely having a hot stretch, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he continues to reside in the top-50 from here forward as he slowly improves his game.

    If you haven’t been following the Warriors’ B-team lineup closely this season, and I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t been, you may be shocked by this one. Not by the first name. That’s just a typical Khris Middleton season. However, you can probably trade for his generic replacement, Alec Burks, relatively cheaply.  He comes off the bench, which might add to the chance that the team that picked him up underrates him. Burks is sort of the team leader by default right now.

    Even though D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green could conceivably play in a handful of games here and there, it seems pretty clear that Burks’ role is safe and that he’ll be the most reliable option on the Warriors, rest of season. Unless/until he gets traded.

    This 14-game off-brand sample doesn’t quite do the player justice as he’s only played in his current starting role for the last 11 contests, but Gorgui Dieng has really come out of nowhere to remind us what he can do when given over 30 minutes per game. There’s a decent chance that his run of starts and big minutes is over right now. However, former ironman Karl-Anthony Towns has missed those 11 games and could continue to sit for a while. For as long as Towns sits, Dieng shall continue to reside in Al Horford’s neighborhood.

    I hope this helps you to feel more confident when making the call on which of these hot players are worth holding and which are worth selling or dropping in the short and long term. And please continue to ride hot streaks like these. If you’re going to win a league, your final roster will almost surely include a handful of players you only intended to pick up for a short stretch but then became a must-roster player in the meantime.

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