Commentary

Grand Theft Roto: Atypical statistics

Updated: February 8, 2012, 11:35 AM ET
By Tom Carpenter | Special to ESPN.com

One of the beauties of basketball is that regardless of your shape, size or position, you can score points. If you're a 7-foot center, you can use your height to toss shots over your opponent in the paint. If you're a bulky power forward, you can use your weight to bang through your defender and score from the post. If you're a quick 5-10 point guard, you can blow by your opponent to get easy layups. And if you're somewhere in between the biggest and smallest, you can square up from beyond the arc and drop open jumpers.

You want proof that you can score from any position on the court? Just look at the positions of the top six scorers in the NBA: SG Kobe Bryant, SF LeBron James, SF Kevin Durant, PF Kevin Love, PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge and PG Derrick Rose. Every position is represented amongst the elite scorers in the Association.

However, while scoring is an equal opportunity statistic, the same cannot be said about the other stats we use in Fantasyland. That's because those other stats are affected dramatically by your physical skill set. Guards are typically quick and pressure the opposing ball handler, so they are apt to compile more steals than big men, who are typically slower than a guard and don't pressure the ball handler. On the flip, though, shorter guards defending people outside the paint are less likely to rack up blocks when compared to a big man who does his work closer to the basket. Going further, most guards carry a lower field goal percentage because they take more jumpers than a big man, who takes most of his shots close the rim. On the other hand, guards are typically better shooters, so their free throw percentage usually is higher than big guys.

This all means that a player who is an exception to these trends -- i.e., one who compiles stats that are unusual for his position -- carries that much more value in fantasy terms. This is particularly important in rotisserie leagues when you are trying to catch up in a specific category. For example, if you are way behind in 3-pointers and need to max out your team's 3-point production the rest of the season to catch up, you'll want to have quality 3-point shooters filling out your guard and small forward spots and have one or two of the rare big men who rack up treys.

Let's examine players you can target in trades, because they produce stats in categories that are unusual for their positions.

[+] EnlargeGreg Monroe
Brock Williams-Smith/Getty ImagesGreg Monroe may not block shots, but his contributions in steals are a nice bonus.

Steals

Potential targets: SG/SF Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers (1.8 per game), SF Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (1.7), SF LeBron James, Miami Heat (1.7), SF Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers (1.6), C Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (1.5), PF Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz (1.5), SF/PF Gerald Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers (1.5), PF/C Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (1.5), SF/PF Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (1.3)

We expect our steals to come from our point and shooting guards, so when we can plug in a forward -- or even a center -- who can match that level of production, it's golden. I got the idea for this column when I was drooling over the 1.5 steals per game Monroe has cranked out this season. He hinted at this ability as a rookie last season when he averaged 1.6 per game after the All-Star break. Since he's 6-11 and 250 pounds, I wasn't convinced he could do it over the long haul, but he's proved himself thus far in his sophomore campaign. Monroe has at least one steal in 18 consecutive games and 11 times this season he has swiped at least two balls in a game. Granted, he doesn't come through with big-man blocks (0.5 per game), but the steals make up for it.

Blocks

Potential targets: SF/PF Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (2.0 per game), SF James Johnson, Toronto Raptors (1.5), SF Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (1.5), SG Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (1.4), PG John Wall, Washington Wizards (1.0)

While it's an exception for a big man to rack up swipes, it's even rarer for a small forward or guard to block shots at a reliable pace. The five guys listed here are the only non-bigs who are averaging at least one rejection per game this season. Wall's pace of one each contest is particularly impressive as a point guard. It certainly reflects his ridiculous physical skills to be able to swat a shot each game, despite not playing defense near the rim. Rodrigue Beaubois didn't make the list because he hasn't seen enough action to have a quality per-game average, but the 6-2 guard has averaged 1.6 blocks per game in his five starts to date. He's worth keeping an eye on if he ever earns a full-time role.

3-pointers

Potential targets: PF Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (1.8 per game), PF/C Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs (1.7), PF Al Harrington, Denver Nuggets (1.6), PF/C Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (1.4), SF/PF Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets (1.4), PF Antawn Jamison, Cleveland Cavaliers (1.4)

Almost as rare as small shot-blockers are big men who can bomb from beyond the arc. Jamison and Harrington have been doing it for years, while Love, Bargs and Gallinari are the new breed (although Bargnani and Gallinari are currently out with injuries). Once upon a time, Dirk Nowitzki was the king of long-range bigs, but those days are long gone now, because he doesn't attempt enough 3s and is shooting an embarrassing 21.6 percent from outside the arc this season.

Kyrie Irving
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireKyrie Irving has been impressive, but no one would've expected such a high field goal percentage.

Field goal percentage

Potential targets: PG Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns (55.6 FG%), PG Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (51.5 FG%), PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers (50.0 FG%), SG Ray Allen, Boston Celtics (49.5 FG%), PG/SG Mo Williams, Los Angeles Clippers (48.9 FG%), PG Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks (48.6 FG%), PG Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets (47.6 FG%), SG James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder (47.1 FG%), PG Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets (47.1 FG%)

I discussed the weight of percentages last week, so you know that you'll have to take the quality percentages Nash and Miller post with a grain of salt, because they don't attempt enough shots to make a big difference in your rankings. However, every little bit helps, so you can't just ignore them. I'm really impressed with Irving, because he's a rookie point guard on a bad team, so it's staggering he can hit half of his shots. Harden and Lawson should maintain or improve upon these percentages as they mature as pro ballers.

Free throw percentage

Potential targets: PF Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (81.8 FT%), PF/C Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors (84.3 FT%), SF/PF Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets (84.3 FT%), PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (78.9 FT%), PF/C Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (82.0 FT%), PF/C Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks (81.1 FT%)

This list is thinned out a bit now, because Bargnani and Gallinari are hurt, and Stoudemire is attempting just 5.1 free throws per game this season. That's 2.6 fewer than last season and barely half of the 9.9 he attempted at his peak during the 2004-05 campaign with the Phoenix Suns. Still, when you look at big men like Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin, who can single-handedly sink your team in free throws, you can ride these other exceptional bigs to get you headed in the right direction.

Rebounds

Potential targets: SF LeBron James, Miami Heat (8.5 per game), SF Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (8.3), SF/PF Gerald Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers (6.7), SG/SF Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers (6.6), SF Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies (6.6), SF/PF Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks (6.2), SF Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (6.0)

It's tougher for a small forward to pile up boards than a power forward or center, because he's not in the paint as often. So these guys who all average at least 6.0 boards per game are particularly impressive. The most amazing guy in this group is Iggy, who is eligible at shooting guard and averages 6.6 rebounds per game. If you're trying to catch up in boards, Iggy's a player you almost have to trade for.

Assists

Potential targets: SF LeBron James, Miami Heat (6.8 per game), SG/SF Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (5.5), SG/SF Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers (5.2), SF Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic (4.6), SF Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks (4.2)

So you can't pry a stud point guard off of one of the owners in your league, but you need dimes? Well, you can go trade for Pierce and Turkoglu, which would give you more than 10 assists per game between them. It's a backdoor route to success, and odds are your opponent won't realize the true fantasy value that comes with dime production from a small forward.

You may have noticed that several players appeared in more than one category. That proves the tremendous fantasy value of guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani, Gerald Wallace and Danilo Gallinari. Not only do they crank out terrific fantasy stats in general, but they exceed the standards expected from the positions they play on the court.

Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

Tom Carpenter

Fantasy and Insider
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball and football analyst, co-host of the Fantasy Focus Basketball podcast, and an NBA, NFL and NHL analyst for Insider and Rumor Central.

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