We're making a list. Feel free to check it twice. Gonna find out...exactly how nice Rakeem Christmas is playing with the Mad Ants.
Alright, so the lyrics may not fit, but the concept still does.
Here are the numbers that made this edition of the The Christmas List:
102.7: The Mad Ants' number of possessions per 48 minutes, the eighth-fastest pace in the NBA D-League. With the Pacers looking to play uptempo, Fort Wayne is following suit. And so is Rakeem Christmas, reports The Journal Gazette's Justin A. Cohn:
"The coaches told us to run a lot and get up and down the court," Christmas told Cohn. "And that's what I'm trying to do here."
Fort Wayne's pace improves to 103.82 with No. 25 in the game. Averaging 20.3 points per game, Christmas can space the floor for his teammates simply by making a concerted effort to run the floor, thus pulling defenders toward the rim and away from the 3-point line in transition.
24.7%: Christmas' D-League usage percentage, the highest of any Mad Ant. This is an important takeaway because it is reflective of the new 1-to-1 relationship between the Pacers and Mad Ants. No longer shared by 13 NBA franchises, Fort Wayne, Indiana's exclusive training ground, is free to prioritize the players there on assignment. Consider this: In the 15 games Miles Plumlee played with the Mad Ants back in 2012-13, he used just 18.6% of the team's offensive possessions while on the court, fifteenth-best among the 25 players that saw action in Fort Wayne that season.
27.7%: The rookie's field goal percentage against the Iowa Energy. Christmas had connected on 56.7 percent of his shots headed into Sunday's matinee game, but he only made five of his next 18.
So, what gives?
First of all, there was a quick turnaround. The Mad Ants played the Delware 87ers at home before hitting the road to face off against the Memphis Grizzlies' affiliate the next afternoon. As a unit, Fort Wayne only managed to muster 77 points on 32.9 percent shooting.
Fatigue may have played a small part, but the Mad Ants' opponent had a lot to do with their lack of offensive production. The Iowa Energy are 4-0 on the season and allow just 79.3 points per 100 possessions at home with Alex Stepheson manning the middle. Going up against the minor league's fourth-best defense, scoring was much more of a struggle for Christmas, who at times looked more like he was hunting for whistles than trying to make a gathered post move. Stepheson finished with 17 points and 19 rebounds.
1: Despite struggling from the field, Christmas recorded his first double-double of the season in Iowa. Recording 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals to go along with 11 points, Indiana's rookie did not let his poor shooting night prevent him from being effective in other ways.
- Shayne Whittington is averaging 7.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks with the Mad Ants.
- Leading the team in three-point field goal attempts, the Mad Ants (prioritizing spacing) certainly do not shy away from feeding Whittington the ball beyond the arc. The problem with that is that the second-year Pacer is only shooting 25 percent from distance. In fact, he failed to even draw iron on two catch-and-shoot 3-pointers against the Energy. Until he can find his shooting rhythm, it might be in Whittington's best interest for the team to find other ways to get him involved on offense.
The Mad Ants next game is against the Canton Charge on Wednesday, November 25. All Mad Ants games can be followed live on the NBA D-League's YouTube channel.