Fantasy Basketball: Mind The Gap
When I went on a family trip to London when I was in high school, we ended up taking the subway (or the “Tubes” as they call them there). I kept seeing all these signs that said “Mind the Gap” and had no idea what they meant. One of our family friends explained to me that it was a British way of telling you to watch out for the space between the platform and the train. It took me about 15 years, but I finally figured out that he was lying to me. It finally dawned on me that everyone in London is a huge fantasy basketball fan and “Mind the Gap” is actually a constant reminder to make sure you’re not ignoring the gaps your fantasy basketball team has in certain categories. The Beatles, Kate Beckinsale, and now constant (subtle) fantasy basketball reminders every time I use the subway (sorry, Tube)? Thank you, Great Britain!
One of the best ways to lose a fantasy basketball league is to ignore which categories you’re doing well and/or poorly in. You only have to win a category by one point in order to get the most points for it, so whether you lead in assists by two or by two-hundred and two, you’re still getting 10 points (in a 10-team league). The wise fantasy owner will look at that example and say, “I can afford to trade a heavy assists player like Ricky Rubio and get some help in another category where I need to make up some ground.” Basically…Mind the Gap.
I could write no less than eight and a half pages about how much better rotisserie leagues are than head-to-head leagues, but a lot of what I’m going to say in this article applies to both types of leagues so I’ll save that discussion for another time and get to what we’re here for (and I won’t even get into points leagues since I think those are for lunatics. No offense).
Each and every week, I’ll be taking a look at a few players that can help you make up ground in each category (I’m not including turnovers. If you play in a league that uses turnovers, you might as well be a Wildling) either by trade or by waiver-wire pickup. Let’s take a swing through each of the categories and see if we can mind our gaps:
Field Goal Percentage
Samuel Dalembert – Check out this shot chart and then we’ll catch up below:
See all those sets of two numbers that have a backslash between them? Check out how many of the numbers are concentrated in one specific area. Those numbers are Dalembert’s Field Goals Made vs. Field Goals Attempted and 136 out of 168 of them (80.9 percent) came from right around the rim. I’ll go ahead state the obvious here: when you’re trying to make up ground in FG percentage, it’s a really good thing when a player takes almost 81 percent of hit shots from within two or three feet of the basket (and makes 62.50 percent of those shots). Dalembert isn’t going to make LeBron jealous with his shot volume, but he’s shooting 62.2 percent from the field over his last 10 games (and 57.7 percent on the season).
(Special thanks to NBA.com/Stats for the shot chart and to Mike Gallagher of Rotoworld for showing me that you don’t have to be a complete poindexter to enjoy the value of shot charts)
Free Throw Percentage
P.J. Tucker – Tucker won’t be a huge help in any category (and he only averages 1.8 free throws per game), but he also hasn’t missed a free throw since 2013! Yes, that was only two weeks ago, but doing anything sixteen times in a row without messing up is pretty impressive. Tucker has been playing over 30 minutes per game this season and can help a little bit with his season averages of 9.3 points, 5.9 boards, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 three’s per game. Better yet, he’s available in over 98 percent of leagues and can help solidify a shake free throw category.
Randy Foye – Know who’s been the best player to own in terms of three pointers of the past two weeks? I think the name before that sentence gave the answer away, but if you guessed Randy Foye, give yourself a high five. Over his past five games, Foye has averaged 3.6 three-pointers per game and has shot 20-of-37 from downtown in that span. That 54 percent pace won’t last, but Foye has been playing over 33 minutes per game in January and is still averaging 1.9 threes per game on the season. Owned in less than 50 percent of leagues, Foye can help you make a dent in your three-pointer category in a hurry.
Jared Sullinger – I think I might have a higher vertical than Sullinger, but that doesn’t really matter since he’s topped 10 rebounds in four of his last five games (and seven of his last 11) and I haven’t racked up a rebound since intramurals. Sully (I’m not sure if anyone actually calls him that, but I will) has been playing 30.2 minutes per game over his last five games and should see that number stay stable or continue to rise as the Celtics try to sell off more parts than your local auto body. He’s only available in 35 percent of leagues (so you may have to trade for him), but Sully makes for a great pick up if he’s on your waiver wire and you’re in need of rebounds.
D.J. Augustin – Have you ever used the words “durable” and “Kirk Hinrich” used in the same sentence? Besides the fact that Hinrich once auditioned to play Mr. Glass in Unbreakable, there’s a good chance he might get traded within the next month, which would make Augustin the only point guard worth his salt in Chicago. Even with Hinrich around, Augustin has been averaging 6.4 assists per game since the ball dropped in Times Square (and that’s in only 28.4 minutes per game). Augustin is available in almost 80 percent of leagues and is a good assists option even with Hinrich around. Imagine how good he’ll be if Hinrich gets hurt or is traded.
Jimmy Butler – You’re going to have to acquire Butler via trade (unless you’re in a six-team league), but he’s more than worth it if you’re short on steals. With Luol Deng taking his talents to Cleveland, Butler has been seeing HUGE minutes lately and is surprisingly among the Top 10 in thefts on the season when you sort by per game averages. Over his past 10 games, Butler has been averaging a ridiculous 40.8 minutes per game and has responded to the increased playing time with 2.2 steals per game in that span (which would put him fourth among steals leaders if he is able to maintain that pace).
Elton Brand – Surprise! Elton Brand is still in the NBA! Owned in less than 1 percent of leagues, Brand has been among the Top 5 players in blocks over the past two weeks. I won’t sit here and say (type?) that I trust Brand to be productive all year, but with Al Horford out for the season, someone not named Paul Millsap has to step up down low for the Hawks. The 34-year-old won’t give you much outside of blocks, but he’s been playing 22.6 minutes per game over his past five games and has been giving his fantasy owners 2.6 blocks per game over that span.
Jodie Meeks – With Kobe Bryant out for who knows how long and Nick Young being as boneheaded as his nickname sounds, Meeks has stepped up as one of the Lake Show’s primary scoring options. He’s available in over 30 percent of leagues (so he’s relatively available) and has been averaging 19.3 points in 37.8 minutes per game during the month of January. 2014 has been treating Meeks well and his 2.3 three-pointers per game this month are a cherry on the sundae if you’re in need of points.