Thursday, January 12, 2006

Playing the Percentages

A few weeks ago BV touched upon some players who were double threats in the two defensive categories -- steals and blocks – and who might be overlooked since they contribute in the “forgotten” categories. If you ask me, though, at least with serious fantasy basketball players, steals and blocks aren’t really ignored. I mean, Andrei Kirilenko is a golden god in fantasy circles. No, if you ask me the real ignored categories are the percentages. I am – or at least was – as guilty of this as anyone. I became enamored with guys who would get me big 3s, steals and blocks – the Baron Davises and Josh Smiths of the worlds – and would always end up fighting to stay in the middle of the pack in percentages. But this year I made a concerted effort not to ignore the percentages, specifically by drafting high percentage big men with my first couple of picks and scooped up Rip Hamilton later on. There’s almost a sort of “Moneyball” scenario at work here. For a long time, it was steals and blocks that were often undervalued, making guys who excelled in those categories more valuable than they were perceived. But then people caught on to that value and guys like Eddie Griffin, Josh Smith, etc. went from being sleepers to guys drafted before established veterans. The market shifted. Percentages became the new place to find value. It’s just like how everyone thought that Billy Beane and the Athletics (sorry to get all baseball on you for a moment) only went after players who were high OBP guys. That wasn’t necessarily the case, that was just where the best market value lied. After other teams caught on to the fact that OBP was a valuable commodity, the market evened out and those players didn’t come at bargains, so Beane and the A’s had to look for different ways to find an edge, moving to defensive statistics and other shit that guys with Ivy league educations can figure out. And I feel like that’s the shift we’ve seen from 3s/steals/blocks to percentages, at least in very competitive fantasy basketball leagues. So with that said, lets look at some of the players who are best at getting the ball into the basket the majority of the time. This isn’t a definitive list, by any means, just calling out a few folks.

Chris Bosh
Some people might be a bit disappointed with Bosh this year. Yes, he’s upped his scoring dramatically, but he hasn’t emerged into a shot blocking force, down to 1.2 bpg from last year’s 1.4, and his steals have remained below 1 per game. But Bosh has become arguably the most dominant percentage player in the league this season, making him a borderline first-round value. Bosh shot 47% last year, which is very good, if not exactly dominant for PF/C. But this year he has taken it to a new level. He’s attempting 15.7 shots per game (up 3.3 from last year) and is connecting on nearly 51% of his shots. Percentages are easy to ignore because they are hard to compute value. Everything else is a counting stat – two steals is two steals, 13 rebounds is 13 rebounds – but 51% shooting isn’t always equal. In fact, it rarely is. You’ve got to consider volume, and there’s no easy way to account for it. I like and trust ESPN’s player rater. According to that, Bosh’s 51% shooting on 15.7 shots per game is exactly as valuable as LeBron James’s 1.7 steals per game. Bosh also gets major points for upping his FT% to 81% and for getting to the line just over eight times per game. Having a center who can actually help you in FT% is a major boost. Bosh is clearly a stud, and if he can ever get those blocks around 2 per game, he’ll be a no-brainer first rounder for many years to come.

Yao Ming
Even without taking into account his current injury, Bosh has actually surpassed Yao. But the two players are quite similar. Yao’s lack of blocks this year was surely disappointing, as he got up to 2.0 last year before dropping down to 1.4 before going down with a toe injury. His FG% was down to 51% this year after reaching 55% last year, but on two more shots per game this year, he still has plenty of value there. His 84% free throw shooting on 6.4 attempts per game is also plenty valuable.

Brad Miller
Everyone loves to talk about Miller’s prowess in assists, and he’s certainly a huge contributor there. But when you break down the numbers, he’s almost just as valuable in FG% and FT%. Miller is shooting 51% on the season, and has been around that number for his entire time in Sacramento, so he’s a pretty proven commodity there. Even though he’s attempting just four free throws per game this year – his lowest since the 00-01 season – he’s connecting at a career high rate of 85%. While his 0.5 blocks (compared to 1.2 per game the last two seasons) is pretty unforgivable for a center, at least he’s helping out in other places.

Wally Szczerbiak
Richard Hamilton
I’ll group these two guys together since they are quite similar. Both have long had raps as “points only” guys, and it’s true that neither is averaging above 0.5 in steals or blocks. Wally is hitting on 1.6 3pg this season and Rip is hitting on a career high 0.7 himself, but to call them “points only” guys is just to be completely dismissive of percentages. Szczerbiak is shooting 51% on 14.5 attempts per game, which would be exceptional for a center, let alone a SF. His 87% from the line on 4.5 attempts is pretty great as well. Meanwhile Rip is shooting 50% on a whopping 17 attempts per game, while hitting 87% of his free throws on 5 attempts per game. Points only? What if instead of being great shooters they were completely slightly below league average shooters but averaged around 1.5 steals and blocks each? They’d be the darlings of the fantasy world, right?

Five for FG% Help
Tony Parker – An amazing competitive advantage for shooting that great from a PG; too bad he offsets much of it with his horrible FT%.
Eddy Curry – As long as he’s healthy.
Shawn Marion – This guy’s pretty good.
Richard Jefferson – A proven stud in this category.
David West – Pretty close to a double threat, as his FT% is decidedly above average as well.

Five for FT% Help
Chauncey Billups – The undisputed king.
Jerry Stackhouse – Even coming off the bench he gets to the line around 5 times per game and hits almost all of them.
Caron Butler – His best category, by far.
Corey Maggette – If he can ever get over those injuries…
Steve Nash – Took a hit in FG% this year, but still a pretty great double threat.


Blogger JM said...

Great article. I've been thinking about the same thing. The %'s are one of the reasons that PlayerRaters vary so much (i.e. why Yahoo's is terrible). Yahoo lists Szcerbiak at #55; whereas two PlayerRaters that I trust have him much higher. Basketballmonster has him at #25, Fantasyanalyzer has him at #24 (standard 9 roto categories). As for Rip Hamilton, Yahoo has him at #106, while he's #54 at both basketballmonster and fantasyanalyzer.
On the flipside, Baron Davis (aka "RotoKiller" - 37%FG,66%FT with lots of attempts) is way overvalued in Yahoo at #20, while he's at #65 in basketballmonster and #61 in fantasyanalyzer
Does anyone know of any other good playerrater's out there, especially for factoring in the %'s? I like the best since it allows you to customize it to to the rankings your league counts and also to filter by season,last month,week,etc.
I hate Yahoo. I would like, but since it doesn't count TO, it's of less use to me. I do like that it lets you compare the value of one person's performance in one category to that of one in another, as DM mentioned (Bosh's FG% = Lebron's steals) others of note Dalembert Blks=Nash Asts, E.Griffin's blks are more valuable than Kidd's Asts or Arenas' pts. Mainly since blocks are the scarcest stat.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article as usual. %'s are definitely underrated in fantasy ball. Whenever i draft a scorer, efficiency is a must

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw- JM- what site has the "fantasyanalyzer"?

I also think Yahoo's player rater sucks balls- it's heavily biased towards 3pt shooters

2:55 PM  
Blogger DM said...

You can find a link to Fantasy Analyzer in our sidebar of links. It is indeed another good one, and the overrated/underrated is pretty spot on.

Yahoo's rank is so laughably biased towards 3 point shooters, it's rendered completely useless, except for trying to trick people into trading for your 3 point gunners. Or maybe Kyle Korver really was the 15th best player last year!

3:04 PM  
Blogger JM said...

fantasyanalyzer is at
I just noticed that is also includes an "underrated" and "overrated" list at the bottom of the page. I don't know how they calculate it but I agree with much of it...

Underrated: David West,Leandro Barbosa,Andre Iguodala,Gerald Wallace, Shane Battier, Corey Magette, Ricky Davis, Mo Williams,Rasheed Wallace, Drew Gooden.

Overrated: Steve Francis,Carmelo Anthony,Kobe Bryant,Shaquille O'Neal,Ron Artest,Baron Davis,Jermaine O'Neal,Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson,Al Harrington

3:12 PM  
Blogger Da Schmuzer said...

so does that mean I should trade Josh Smith and Josh Howard for Wally Szczerbiak right now?

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks. lol i feel stupid for asking. it was right there the whole time

What's even more sorry about yahoo's rater is that they don't even explain the method on how they determine the rankings

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Great article. People ignoring percentages is probably the reason I was able to grab Delonte West from the free agent pool last week. He has been shooting the lights out, especially for a guy you can plug in at PG.

Also, another guy who has been money in FT% this year is Vince Carter. He is setting career highs in both attempts and percentage, and over the last month or so he has been nearly as valuable as Chauncey in the FT department. It's one of the main reasons he has been an elite fantasy player this year.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous hha said...

Your best article yet. Percentages are so important in the first 3 or 4 rounds, because those picks will decide your standing, since the later picks don't take enough attempts to move you up or down(except for cat killers like ridnour, or walker). On the yahoo leaderboards, most of the leaders drafted Brand or KG two high scorers with great percentages. I don't see many leaders with Iverson or Kobe selected in the first round. In percentages Jason Terry is another underrrated player that nobody really wants.

4:57 PM  
Blogger JM said...

another good %'s guy (albeit with not a ton of attempts) has been Ike Diogu.
Since he started getting decent minutes (past 9 games) his FG% is 69% (7 attempts/game) with an 84%FT (3 attempts/game). Stellar numbers, especially for a rookie Center.

I know he's not been a favorite at this site in the past, but do you think Diogu may be growing into his starting role? I need to find a #2 center to replace Battie once he stops playing so well. I'm in a 12-team roto league w/standard categories. Currently I have E.Griffin as my backup Center. I was also considering picking up Jeff Foster. Any thoughts about Diogu vs Griffin vs Foster for the rest of the season ?????

11:58 AM  
Blogger PR said...

I definitely agree with you on Diogu. I know DM and BV are not very high on him, but I like Ike. He is slowly but surely establishing himself as an everyday starter for the Warriors. As far as your question regarding Diogu/Griffin/Foster... I'd rank them in that order. Foster is the least exciting of the bunch with virtually no upside, so he's not worth your time. You know what Griffin is capable of with his monster games here and there, but he is too unreliable and his percentages are putrid. Diogu is definitely your best bet because he gives you solid percentages and has good potential the rest of this season. Plus, if Golden State pulls off a trade that ships Troy Murphy out of town, then maybe Ike can shift over to PF which should help boost his overall numbers.

2:16 PM  

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