Grand Theft Roto: Help in the percentages
A few weeks ago, I wished upon a star that I would be able to watch every NBA game possible. Then, my girlfriend e-mailed my dad, suggesting he buy me the NBA League Pass as an early Christmas present. My wish was granted. Both the e-mail and Daddy's generosity are worthy of my undying love. The majesty of the constant squeak of shoes and comments from unfamiliar announcers (from the Bulls' broadcast of Tuesday's game against Charlotte: "They should invite everybody down to the lower bowl tonight;" from the Thunder's broadcast: "Mama said there'd be days like this") coming from my TV makes my heart melt. Plus, it allows me to better assess players fantasy-wise. You know, you can read as many recaps and peruse as many box scores as possible, but it takes a local Minnesota broadcast to see that Mike Miller looks out of shape.
Last week, I highlighted players to target in trades to address specific categorical needs. I covered steals, blocks, assists and 3s, and this week I'll look at percentages and rebounds.
Nene Hilario: His value still is very high and fairly legitimate if he stays healthy. He won't shoot 62 percent from the floor, but 57 percent is doable, as he posted that mark over 64 games in 2006-07. He's the type of player fantasy owners drafted late, played like crazy for the first month and now want to deal for a "better player." He is by no means slumping, but his numbers are lower this month (12.1 points per game on 55.2 percent shooting in December versus 14.8 points on 62.7 percent shooting in November), which could be giving the Hilario owner in your league a trading itch. Oftentimes in cases like this, owners underestimate the longevity of a player's success and sell too low. Even if Hilario posts his December averages for the rest of the season, he'll be a top player in field goal percentage. Play up the fact that his numbers have gone down, and see how his owner responds.
Tony Parker: This is a case of trying to take advantage of the fact that a player's value can be thrown off by an early season injury. Parker is shooting a bit worse than his norm lately (45.8 percent in December), but more importantly, he has started every contest and is averaging nearly 34 minutes per game. He also is averaging a career-high 17.1 shot attempts per game, which makes his consistently accurate shooting even more beneficial. Point guards often are the biggest killers of field goal percentage, and although Parker doesn't provide the 3s or free-throw proficiency I typically seek in a guard, his efficiency from the paint is prolific and he's simply one of the best ways to address this category with one player. Point out the fact that his stats were inflated by his 55-point game against Minnesota on Nov. 5, and see whether his owner bites. It's all about spin.
Deron Williams: Williams missed 13 of the first 15 games of the season but has played all eight games in December, averaging a modest 14.3 points, nine assists and a steal while shooting 41 percent from the floor. He likely is driving his owner nuts, since he probably cost a first- or second-round pick (his average draft position was 12.6) and hasn't played that way so far. Much like Parker, Williams is a point guard who knows how to take it to the rack, and he doesn't merely settle for jumpers, illustrated by his career 46.3 field goal percentage and 50.7 mark in 82 games last season. His aggressiveness also gets him to the line on a regular basis (five times per game last season), where he's shooting 85.1 percent this season. But he's shooting 40.3 percent from the floor this season, a primary reason for his dip in stats. It's a number that should increase (along with his points) to about 45 percent shortly, making Williams an ideal trade target, as he's played just enough games for his owner to be worrying about his overall production. I'm not. Buy low on him if you can, as he should play like a top-20 guy from here on out and his perceived value likely is a bit lower at the moment.
Corey Maggette: Maggette has a small tear in his hamstring, and his return date is indefinite. This means his value is negligible. If you're in a position to stash a player away for a few weeks, get rid of roster fodder for Maggette and ride his nearly unmatched combination of frequency and efficiency (85.9 percent on 8.4 attempts per game in 16 games this season) from the stripe when he returns. When he does return, be sure to start him at forward, because stacking your fantasy frontcourt (try to get an efficient center, too) with accurate free-throw shooters is the best way to ensure success or make up ground in free-throw percentage. Same thing goes for guards with quality field goal percentage, forwards and centers who shoot 3s or get steals, and any other players who excel in categories players at their position typically don't.
Marvin Williams: The former second overall pick is a career 80.1 percent shooter from behind the stripe and is shooting 81.7 percent this season on four attempts per game. He's not a fantasy all-star, but if you're looking for throw-in players in trades, efficient players like Williams are always better ways to fill out your roster. Also, if the primary target you're receiving is a downgrade in a certain category, say free throws, offsetting the potential damage with players who are effective in that category is smart. With Williams, you know you're not in store for any 5-for-10 nights from the stripe, which is valuable when you're hurting in the category. He is averaging nearly 35 minutes per game, provides a handful of steals and blocks, and most importantly doesn't hurt you anywhere.
D.J. Augustin: I'm watching him shoot two free throws right now: swish, swish. (Oh the glory of 12 channels in the 400s that feature every game.) He finished Tuesday night's contest 13-for-13 from the stripe en route to 29 points, seven assists and four 3s. With Jason Richardson out of the picture, Augustin will continue to put up huge numbers, and his free throws are delicate rainbows. Despite his diminutive stature, Augustin isn't afraid to drive; he goes to the line about three times per game and rarely misses. Even though the lineup likely will be shaken with him, Raymond Felton and newcomer Raja Bell in the mix, he'll be productive and get minutes wherever he's playing. He is coming off the bench right now but will see big minutes as a cornerstone of the Bobcats' backcourt. He is owned in too few leagues (34 percent of ESPN leagues) and could pay huge dividends as a throw-in player in a multiplayer trade.
Troy Murphy: He used to be a consistent double-digit rebound guy, until that dropped off the past two seasons as he was shuffled in and out of the lineups of two teams. But now he is consistently putting up double-doubles and dropping 3s (a career-high 1.7 per game this season). He is averaging 11.6 rebounds per game in December, playing more than 34 minutes per game. He's a mainstay in the Pacers' lineup, and even though he doesn't block shots from the center position (which is what you should be pointing out to his owner in e-mails setting up the trade), he is grabbing boards like it's 2005 and should see his strangely low free-throw percentage of 65.8 move closer to his career 77.7 mark. Point out his deficiencies, and bask in the boards.
Carlos Boozer: He's been out since Nov. 19 with a bum quad, and Paul Millsap has been flourishing in his absence. Boozer has been practicing with the team and should return in the next week or two, although his value undoubtedly has fallen due to the uncertainty surrounding his injury. He likely will return slowly, and Millsap will continue to get playing time, especially at first, which will keep Boozer's value low. He has "buy low" written all over him, and even though it's a gamble, fantasy studs like Boozer don't come at a low price very often. I'm targeting him in several leagues, banking on him averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds for the rest of the season. To be safe, though, my plan is to break out the fantasy football strategy and handcuff Boozer with Millsap. Since Millsap is owned in just 58 percent of ESPN leagues and likely will be dropped in many when Boozer returns, I suggest you do the same. If you're looking for a top player who has diminished perceived value and who will get you gobs of boards soon, Boozer is a prime target.
Andrew Bynum: His average rebounds per game has dropped more than one since last season, and it's hard for him to get 35-plus minutes with the Lakers' depth and his tendency to get in foul trouble. But he has double-digit rebounds in five of his past seven contests and should grow in leaps and bounds over the next few seasons. One of those leaps should happen this season, and his 14.4 points per game in December is a season high, an indication that overall improvement is on the way. Also, Pau Gasol has missed significant time the past two seasons, and if that happens this year, Bynum's numbers and minutes will increase. Right now, Bynum is at nine boards per game, but I see him being in double-digits by the end of the season.
Next week, I'll hit the mailbag and recognize my first GTR of the week, awarded to the owner who pulls off the savviest swipe.
Got a trade question? Page Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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