Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Double-Dippin’ Defense

In the wake of Andrei Kirilenko’s monster 5x5 game last night, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about one of the most under-appreciated breeds in fantasy basketball: the double-defensive threat. There are only twelve players in the league who are averaging both one steal and one block per game, and only six who top 1.5 of each. Those six read out like a murderer’s row of fantasy value: Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, Andrei Kirilenko, Marcus Camby, Ben Wallace and Gerald Wallace. All have totally different skill sets outside of the defensive numbers, but they all are major contributors to fantasy teams (as long as they’re healthy).

Still, I’m not going to write a column telling you that you should have the six guys listed above on your fantasy team. I will, however, talk a little bit about some of the guys who are hanging out under the radar who are helping on defense and could help your fantasy team. When looking at stats, the first thing that most people notice is the big three: points, boards, and assists. However, finishing first in points is no more valuable than finishing first in steals, and a guy who averages over half a steal and half a block can be just as valuable as a guy who averages 12 points and 6 boards. Here are a few guys who are lacking in the “big” stats but have sneaky fantasy value due to their defense:

Shane Battier (1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks)
Battier has been a tough fantasy call for most of his career. He’s been stuck in single-digit points for most of his career, and unless you’re Ben Wallace, you’re going to have trouble having fantasy value without scoring 10 ppg. This year, however, Battier has finally crossed the 10 point mark, is shooting over fifty percent, and is also contributing with a three pointer every night. He’s a top-50 fantasy player on just about any rater you look at. However, his big stats are still not much to talk about: 12.8/5.0/1.9 can be found on the waiver wire on a daily basis. He’ll almost certainly be on a roster, but he’s probably undervalued. He’s a good trade target.

Josh Childress (1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks)
I’ve been watching Childress on my waiver wire for about a month now, but I haven’t been able to pull the trigger. He’s around a top-100 fantasy player, and in my league, with 120 starting players, that means he shouldn’t just be on a roster, he should be starting. He was much better in December than he was in November, showing a marked improvement in FT%, FG%, and blocks, and in the last month his value has been closer to 70th than 100th. He was drafted and dropped in most leagues, but astute (and brave) fantasy players will find a spot on their roster for him.

James Jones (0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks)
We got our first glimpse of Jones last year, as the depleted Pacers were forced to play him after the brawl. Jones made a nice name for himself as a marginal points/boards/threes threat, and he was a hot name around draft day this year. However, after losing out to Boris Diaw and Raja Bell for playing time, he has become an afterthought in many leagues. Not so fast! Jones’s contributions in steals and blocks, not to mention his 2.0 threes per game, still give him plenty of fantasy value. His 10.4/3.8/0.6 looks pretty ugly, but the raters don’t lie – he’s got fantasy value.

On a side note, one of the dangerous parts of this idea is that these defensive stats can vary so much from one week to the next, and it’s very easy for a guy to fall into a couple of steals in a game by accident, which will inflate his value. Be careful to make sure that the guys you’re targeting have a history of putting up strong numbers before you consider picking them up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article. The defensive categories are definitely overlooked by some fantasy owners. I picked up G. Wallace after he was dropped due to injury earlier this year. He's a little inconsistent and he's been nicked up several times already, but he is an elite steal artist and the FG% and blocks he provides as a G-eligible player (in Yahoo leagues) are tremendous. He's easily among the most underrated fantasy commodities out there. Defense is also the reason I keep (foolishly?) hanging on to Donyell Marshall, because if he ever gets his act together, he is one of only a few players who can give you a couple of threes and a steal and a block per game.

On a completely unrelated topic, does anyone think it would be a good idea to drop Channing Frye for Mark Blount? Despite Larry Brown saying he was going to start playing his younger players more, Frye has been getting way too few minutes to be effective. Frye looks good when he's in and he has way more upside, but he can't do much while riding the pine.
Blount has been playing surprisingly well and seems to have secured a starting job, but in my 9-cat H2H league his turnovers could be a killer. My first thought is to hold onto Frye, but it's frustrating to look at his crappy lines lately.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Rook said...

On Kirilenko, would you guys advise targeting or avoiding him? Were his injuries this and last year the chronic kind?

5:10 PM  
Blogger Big Easy said...

Another off topic question. In a 9 category rotisserie format league how would you rate Delonte West, Ridnour and Skip to my Lou for the rest of the season?

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Nhutty said...

always love reading your thoughts

but i think you missed another Wallace in your article. Rasheed Wallace.

he's averaging 1.5stls, 1.5blks and 2 three's a game

6:31 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

True, Rasheed has had a good year.

I would buy AK47 if you can get him for good value. He has obviously had a drop off since two years ago; HOWEVER, if you look at the stats from all his games returning from injury, he is putting up great numbers that could very easily stay at their current levels.

As far as Blount...I'm fed up with the Boston frontcourt situation. I drafted Raef and Jefferson, and have since dropped them both as no one gets 35 minutes and all just don't seem to get enough stats. Most of the touches go to Pierce/Davis/West/Banks.

Blount won't help you with rebounds, although his defense and scoring certainly aren't bad. I might wait it out a little; his TO's are really bad.

And as far as Rotisserre, it depends on what you are needing the most West will help in FG the most, with Luke being the best in FT. It also depends on who can stay healthy and get the most PT. Boston has Banks and Houston has Head, but Seattle doesn't have a contentional backup PG (unless you count Wilkins now).

That's a tough call...West if you need an all-around contributor. Alston had a horrible start to the year, but could potentially be the best option due to a injury plagued Houston team

8:04 PM  
Blogger Biggs said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Biggs said...

DV and BM - looks like you should post another mailbag column. A lot of interesting questions out there for you guys.

Overall, I liked the premise for the article a lot. I find that steals are especially ignored in most leagues, probably because there are so few of them when compared to something like points or rebounds. The difference between an above average and below average player in steals can be less than 1 per game.

Blocks are unique because in a few cases they can be overvalued (I'm looking in your direction Theo Ratliff), but for the non-elite shot blockers (especially for non-centers), they seem to be undervalued.

How about percentages? Do you find they are ignored as much as the defensive stats?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I do think that Blocks and steals are the most undervalued stats when it comes to regular leagues. In my league, ORebs in a stat which I think is also undervalued (as Zaza was dropped on Waivers a while ago but I couldn't get him).

Turnovers can be undervalued as well...and technicals. Overall...people look at the "line"...points/rebounds/assists but not the little things.

As for percentages, I think they are taken more seriously in Roto leagues than in H2H; percentages can vary greatly on a given week if, for example, Kobe Bryant is hot or not. But in Roto, the poor shooting will hurt you much more in the long run.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous chars said...

great idea for an entry..

question: who are the other five averaging a steal and a block a game?

9:24 AM  
Blogger bv said...

lots of great questions here. maybe it is time for another mailbag!

anonymous: you know, it's going to be tough to have any Knick in your starting lineup right now. They're all going to be inconsistent. If Blount's available, i'd say make the move, but remember, he can be inconsistent, too. also, with hughes out, i'm a huge fan of donyell marshall right now.

rook: i'd say that right now kirilenko's got a late-second/early-third round value. from what i can tell, the injuries were not chronic, but neither are any of Camby's. AK might just be fragile.

big easy: i'd go ridnour, west, then skip - for now. but all of them have pretty volatile value.

nhutty: good call. thanks!

biggs: percentages are just as undervalued - if not more. there are plenty of issues with percentages, i'll try to tackle them next week.

chars: those guys include Dwight Howard, Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, and T-Mac, but there are plenty of guys who are teetering around 0.9 block and steals.

10:45 AM  

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