Fantasy Basketball: Stat Stuffers
Over the past year or so, the fantasy basketball world has come to a Robert Frost-like fork in the road and has basically split into two factions: New School (daily) and Old School (season-long). While I love daily fantasy basketball and will be writing about it here on XN Sports every week, I started playing season-long years ago and still have a soft spot in my heart for it (even if it is becoming the road less traveled).
What’s the difference between being successful at daily vs. season-long fantasy basketball? Well, outside of one being a one-day contest while the other spans the entire season (duh), daily is all about maximizing a player’s value on any given day in the form of points and salary cap balance while season-long is all about acing your draft, working the waiver wire, pulling off good trades, and most importantly, balancing each category in the standings.
A successful season-long owner (either in roto or head-to-head) is always checking their categories. Are you losing blocks every week in your head-to-head league? Are you ahead by 100 steals in your roto league? Do you have a player who’s only contributing in a category that you don’t need? These are all things owners should be monitoring as the season progresses so that they can make trades and waiver pickup accordingly. We’re only halfway through the season, so there’s still time to take stock of your categories and make some moves.
Each and every week, I’ll be taking a look at a few players who can help you make up ground in each category (I’m not including turnovers. As I said last week: 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
DeMarre Carroll – Check out this shot chart and then we’ll catch up below:
When you’re trying to make up ground in the FG% category, it’s generally a good thing when one of your players is taking most of his shots around the basket. As you can see in the shot chart above, Carroll is making over 60% of his field goal attempts from within eight feet of the basket. As you can see in the shot chart below, over 43% of his attempts come within eight feet of the basket.
When you combine these two shot charts, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Carroll (who is shooting over 55% from the field in 33.2 minutes per game this month) is a worthwhile pickup for anyone trying to make up some ground in the FG% category.
(And again, a special thanks to NBA.com/Stats for the shot chart and to my colleague at RotoWorld, Mike Gallagher, for showing me that you don’t have to be a complete poindexter to enjoy the value of shot charts)
Free Throw Percentage
Courtney Lee – Besides the fact that his name is Courtney, Lee can bring a lot of value to your fantasy hoops team. Tony Allen will return at some point and hurt Lee’s value, but he’s become close to a must-add if you’re targeting improvement in your FT% category. The former Net/Magic/Rocket/Celtic is a 84.3% free throw shooter in his career and has upped his charity stripe game to a ridiculous 1.000% since joining the Grizzlies nine games ago. He’ll miss at some point, but Lee is averaging 2.9 free throw attempts per game with the Grizzlies and again…HE HASN’T MISSED ANY OF THEM. When you’re trying to make up for someone like Andre Drummond submarining your free throw percentage, a guy who hasn’t missed 26 straight free throw attempts is a great start. Oh, and he’s available is something like 95 percent of leagues depending on the site you’re playing on.
Mirza Teletovic – A lot of players who can help in three-pointers are one-trick ponies and Teletovic is no exception. After overcoming some early season frustrations over his playing time, Teletovic’s minutes have risen to around 20 per game and he’s used those minutes to drain almost 2.5 triples per game over the past two months. His 9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game averages are nothing to write home about, but anyone who is hitting threes at a better rate than James Harden over the past month is someone who can help solidify your three-pointers category.
Jason Thompson – Pop quiz of the week: who is under five percent owned in most leagues and is among the Top 15 rebounders over the past 15 days? (You’re going to need more than fantasy basketball category help if you haven’t figured the answer out by now). In his past 12 games, Thompson has posted double-digit rebounds in six of them and is now averaging 8.6 rebounds per game in the month of January. The former RiderCollege star (is there such a thing?) has seen his minutes rise to 28.6 per game this month and should be a solid source of boards going forward (especially with Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins banged up).
Ramon Sessions – I wrote about Sessions in last week’s daily column, but he’s been dishing out enough assists to warrant a double dip. Over the past seven days (basically when Kemba Walker got hurt), Sessions has had more assists than guys like Goran Dragic, Brandon Jennings, and Michael Carter-Williams. You can read more about why I like Sessions in the link above, but he’s going to be a great source of assists for at least the next week (and maybe more depending on how long Kemba is out).
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – As the season progresses, Mo Cheeks has finally been giving KCP a longer leash (he’s averaging 35.2 over his last five games). During that span, Caldwell-Pope has been the sixth-best player to own in terms of steals as his 2.8 per game over his last five has been better than some of the best steals guys in the league like John Wall and Michael Carter-Williams. We’re obviously looking at an extremely small sample size, but there could be some steals value in the rookie if his increased playing time continues.
James Johnson – If you had started Johnson in your lineup over the past 15 days, you would have added 16 blocks to your season totals (fifth best in the league during that span). Check your standings. 16 blocks makes a pretty big difference — and that was in just seven games. Up until Saturday’s game against the Rockets, there was a stretch of eight games where you were getting at least two blocks from Johnson every time you had him in your lineup. I’d love to see what would happen if Johnson got more than 22.9 minutes per game since he’s 13th in the NBA in terms of blocks per 48 minutes, but he’s producing just fine in his limited minutes and definitely warrants a pickup.
Rodney Stuckey – Seems a little weird to recommend two Pistons in one article, but there is almost always fantasy value to be found on bad real life teams. Like KCP, Stuckey has seen a bump in his minutes over the past seven days and has responded with an average of 18.0 points per game during that span (the same as James Harden). Better yet, there are rumors circling that Mo Cheeks might move Stuckey into the Pistons’ starting lineup (potentially at the expense of Caldwell-Pope), so his minutes will at the very least stay stable. Stuckey’s biggest bugaboo has been his health, but he’ll be able to provide a big boost in the points category as long as he stays healthy (admittedly a big if).
Honorable Mention (via trade or waivers): D.J. Augustin, Terrance Ross, DeMar DeRozan