Adjusting field goal percentages
How 3-pointers can help offset players with relatively low shooting from the floor
Most NBA teams are already at least 12 games into the season, which means we're fast approaching the time when early-season anomalies will settle into actual trends. And by around game No. 20, you'll have a very good idea what kind of team you put together. You'll see what you did wrong, what you did right and which categories are your strengths and weaknesses.
Thus, right now is a good time to take a step back and look at your percentage categories.
In the first couple of weeks of the season, with such a small sample size, there's almost no point in doing that. You'll just drive yourself crazy. But around Thanksgiving, I like to look deeper into how my team is really shooting.
If you're in a rotisserie format league, starting the season with strong percentages is doubly important. Because they're the hardest categories to change late in the season, you should look to build an early lead, then deal from that strength to get help in other areas later in the season. Above all, you should pay close attention to your team's field goal percentage.
Even if you're in a head-to-head league, you need to get a feel for which players are rising and falling in this category. It's good to know how individual players are trending when the trade market begins to open up.
The biggest challenge in building a strong field goal percentage is balancing your lineup's need for 3-pointers. Conventional wisdom dictates that there is a trade-off in this area. But in reality, there are players out there who can boost your 3s without killing your field goal percentage.
What you need to look at is adjusted field goal percentage (also known as ADJ FG%), which is a simple but illuminating stat. All it does is factor in the amount of points accrued per field goal attempt, thereby underscoring which players are helping and hurting from behind the arc. To use ESPN.com's example nearly verbatim: If Shaquille O'Neal makes 3 of 5 field goal attempts, all 2-pointers, for six points, his ADJ FG% (six points on five attempts) is .600. Meanwhile, if Ray Allen is 2-for-5 shooting, but both field goals are 3-pointers, his ADJ FG% (six points on five attempts) is also .600.
With that, here are the players whose percentages are being aided and derailed by the 3-pointer:
Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans Hornets (ADJ FG% .661)
Anthony Morrow, SG, Golden State Warriors (ADJ FG% .629)
Jason Richardson, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (ADJ FG% .620)
Channing Frye PF/C, Phoenix Suns (ADJ FG% .604)
Danilo Gallinari, SF, New York Knicks (ADJ FG% .602)
These are all players whose field goal percentages are boosted to Dwight Howard levels by 3-pointers. By and large, these are players whose percentages jump more than 10 percent when adjusted for 3s. (Frye goes from .464 to .604, meaning he's taking and making an incredible number of 3s for a big man.)
Because Gallinari, Morrow and Frye are all occupying new, more prominent roles on their respective teams, it's hard to predict whether they're on this list to stay. And of course, Chris Paul (ADJ FG% of .528 in 2008-09) is a freak of nature and was on absolute fire before he got hurt.
Obviously, the benefits of playing alongside Steve Nash are on full display here. Jason Richardson is an especially interesting prospect; he has undergone a career makeover as a percentage booster. He's always been underrated in the ADJ FG% department because of his production in the 3-pointer area, but after his trade to Phoenix last season, he hit a new height, finishing at .544 in 3-point percentage for 2008-09.
Overall, you can see how playing in an up-tempo offensive system boosts the ADJ FG% of certain players (the ones who can shoot) as a result of the higher volume of available attempts. Although it's impossible to see any perimeter player continue at this clip during the course of a full season, all these guys should be good for an ADJ FG% of at least .550 by season's end.
Paul Pierce, SG/SF Boston Celtics (ADJ FG% .589)
Steve Nash, PG, Phoenix Suns (ADJ FG% .579)
Beno Udrih, PG, Sacramento Kings (ADJ FG% .573)
LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers (ADJ FG% .562)
Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (ADJ FG% .548)
Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks (ADJ FG% .546)
Andrea Bargnani, PF/C Toronto Raptors (ADJ FG% .546)
Mike Bibby, PG, Atlanta Hawks (ADJ FG% .542)
Here you find a huge run of offensively efficient point guards. Beno Udrih is a productive player when healthy and given a decent number of minutes; he should keep up at least the latter until Kevin Martin returns.
LeBron is getting a career-high boost in ADJ FG% thanks to his newfound aggression from behind the arc.
Looking at the rookies, I'm a little suspicious of Brandon Jennings ranking so high, but it's becoming dangerous to bet against the man. Stephen Curry is a natural fit among the NBA's elite in this category, and I'd expect we'll be seeing him high on this list for about the next decade.
Mike Bibby is the personification of the power of the ADJ FG% stat. Bibby's annually strong ADJ FG% is the reason he has been so underrated the past few seasons. Even though he averages only six assists or so per game, he always has been able to hit a high percentage of his 3-point shots. Whenever he cracks the 12-point barrier, you can bet at least six of those points are from 3-pointers.
Leandro Barbosa, SG, Phoenix Suns (ADJ FG% .555)
J.R. Smith, SG, Denver Nuggets (ADJ FG% .544)
Jose Calderon, PG, Toronto Raptors (ADJ FG% .541)
Ray Allen, SG, Boston Celtics (ADJ FG% .538)
Boris Diaw, SF/PF, Charlotte Bobcats (ADJ FG% .513)
Troy Murphy, PF/C Indiana Pacers (ADJ FG% .478)
Mehmet Okur, C, Utah Jazz (ADJ FG% .478)
Rashard Lewis, SF, Orlando Magic (ADJ FG% .387)
These are all players who ranked in the top 40 of ADJ FG% in 2008-09, so don't be alarmed by some of the low percentages on this list. I'm including Murphy, Lewis and Okur because of their perennially high ADJ FG%. All three have been off to slow starts for various reasons (back, recreational activities, ankle), but the odds dictate they'll all soon be back in the .530-.550 ADJ FG% range.
This underscores how valuable Murphy and Okur truly are; it's difficult to find a center who can actually shoot 3-pointers (and hit them) on a regular basis. You can count these players on one hand; Frye, Bargnani, Murphy and Okur.
Because they tend to hoist more 3s than anybody, it's always nice to see shooting guards rank this high. Ray Allen's ADJ FG% isn't as lofty as it was earlier in his career, but he's still among the NBA's best at his position.
Sort of scary
Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls (ADJ FG% .438)
Baron Davis, PG, Los Angeles Clippers (ADJ FG% .435)
Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, Sacramento Kings (ADJ FG% .431)
Wilson Chandler, SG/SF, New York Knicks (ADJ FG% .421)
Caron Butler, SF, Washington Wizards (ADJ FG% .409)
Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Miami Heat (ADJ FG% .402)
Andre Miller, PG, Portland Trail Blazers (ADJ FG% .402)
John Salmons, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls (ADJ FG% .394)
Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, Charlotte Bobcats (ADJ FG% .364)
To be blunt, these are the people who should stop jacking 3s until they receive league approval. (OK, that's not fair Baron Davis shouldn't shoot at all.)
But at least Davis' ADJ FG% is 10 percentage points higher than his FG%. Most of these players are pulling off the rare feat of having their ADJ FG% improved by only 1-5 points over their FG%. That means they're not hitting their 2-pointers and, as a result, aren't even trying from behind the arc.
It's no surprise that in this neighborhood, you'll find players in new offensive systems, or systems that are plain offensive. Normally, Andre Miller wouldn't be down this low, but being forced to attempt shots outside his comfort zone has led to a drop in his field goal shooting across the board.
Meanwhile, you would expect a rookie such as Tyreke Evans to post a low ADJ FG% in his first season (much like the improving Russell Westbrook did last season). It's also way too early in the season (and his career) to write off Michael Beasley, but after some encouraging signs in the preseason, his production has fallen off a cliff.
Of all these players, Gerald Wallace and Caron Butler are the most disappointing because of their traditional dependability in this area.
Both are victims of their respective teamwide offensive malaises. Butler is playing in a new system, but it's a Flip Saunders system, so you would expect his ADJ FG% to have started to climb back up by now. And of course, Wallace might be on the least fantasy-friendly NBA team of all time.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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