New trends in atypical production


I went to the Staples Center to see the Los Angeles Lakers dismantle the Indiana Pacers the other night. Personally, I'm lukewarm on the Lakers, but I love the Pacers. Jim O'Brien always promises numerical goodness for the discriminating viewer. But I've been frustrated by the tumult in their backcourt rotation, which is robbing owners of some fine waiver-wire opportunities. More than anything, I went to root for Brandon Rush to crack 30 minutes.

I've been heavily tracking Rush's fantasy development during the past month. Ever since he was showcased near the trade deadline, he's shown an improved tendency toward providing prospective owners with blocks, steals and 3s, a nifty combination from a pure shooting guard.

If you look at Rush's recent stats, you might gloss over the fact that he's been averaging 0.8 blocks per night. You might not think 0.8 blocks is anything worth writing about, but when you weight that 0.8 by his position, Rush starts looking like Josh Smith.

That number of blocks from a shooting guard is a prime example of "atypical production."

Atypical production refers to a player who provides stats that run counter to the usual box scores at his selected position. Centers who can pass or shoot from distance, point guards who can rebound, shooting guards who can do anything other than destroy your field goal percentage … these are the types of players who can provide categorical depth.

When you have broad-based categorical depth spread across multiple positions, you're giving yourself an instantaneous edge, while providing insurance to your lineup against injury, slump or suspension.

With the trade deadline well in the past, let's take an extra-close look at new trends in atypical production. Due to all of the recent rotational shakeups, this is the time of the season certain players begin to come out of the numerical woodwork.

(I'm going to try not to frustrate you by listing players that won't be available -- via wire or trade -- in your league. You don't need me to tell you that Jason Kidd has been averaging 6.3 rebounds a night, do you?)

Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks

Past 30 days: 11.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.9 3s, 3.7 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.4 bpg

When Delfino hit a rough patch a couple of weeks back, I figured he had maxed out on his recent run. After all, with the arrival of John Salmons, Delfino's minutes and numbers were sure to take a hit. But instead of going into the tank, Delfino righted the ship, regained his minutes and continued one the more underappreciated fantasy seasons of 2009-10.

Due to his playing the 2008-09 season in Russia, Delfino was way off the fantasy radar at the beginning of the season. He spent the first couple of months carving out about 25 minutes per game, throwing in a nice line here and there, but nothing inordinately special. Then came the latest Michael Redd injury, and Delfino soon found himself being called upon to increase his shot attempts.

Well, it turned out that the extra five minutes and five shot attempts a night were all Delfino required to make him a nice waiver-wire add.

What I like about owning Delfino is the fact that he'll increase his numbers in other areas on nights his shot is off. He's got elite steals and 3s potential to go with his solid boards and points, but what makes Delfino truly special are the assists. They've steadily crept upward every month from 1.0 per game in November to 3.6 in February. In a season when assist help has been at a premium, Delfino's been a great pickup, especially when you factor in his multi-positional eligibility.

Brandon Rush, SG, Pacers

Past 30 days: 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 3s, 0.5 spg, 0.5 spg, 0.8 bpg

Mike Dunleavy's back, but Rush has continued to hold on to enough minutes to warrant fantasy consideration. His services may be required only in deeper leagues, but his fine January (10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.8 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 3s) proved that Rush has more to offer owners than just the fine outside shooting. Any shooting guard capable of consistently offering a block a night can be of some use down the stretch.

Trevor Ariza, SG/SF Houston Rockets

Past 30 days: 14.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 3s, 4.1 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.7 bpg

Ariza has had a shockingly inefficient campaign, especially in light of his solid PERs as a Laker, and extra-especially in light of his playing for one of the more efficient teams in the NBA.

The plain truth is that this is a young man who should be allowed only limited access to the NBA 3-point line. In December, it wasn't that he only shot an Antonio Walker-esque 28.4 percent from deep, but also that he shot 84 of the darned things. That means he missed 58 3s in 30 days. Fifty-eight! How does Shane Battier, the poster child for veteran intangibility, allow that to happen?

Anyway, someone finally seemed to have gotten to Ariza, because his attempts dropped to 38 in an injury-shortened February. If he can keep the 3-point attempts down to, say, three or four a night, he's well worth picking up when he comes back (sometime in the next week).

Mike Miller, SG/SF, Washington Wizards

Past 30 days: 9.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.7 3s, .533 FG pct., 0.9 spg

As someone who watches, well, every Wizards game, I can't begin to count the number of times I've screamed at Miller to shoot. A couple of times, in search of an answer, I've even called DirecTV customer service. And now, with no Antawn Jamison, no Caron Butler, and no Josh Howard? Miller's still stuck on 5-7 attempts per game.

But if you can stomach the low point totals, Miller's capable of filling a Battier-type role in your lineup. Like Ariza and Delfino, he's an elite assists producer when you adjust his numbers by his position. He'll always give your box score something, even if you know he's capable of much, much more.

Drew Gooden, PF/C, Los Angeles Clippers

Past 30 days: 15.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .510 FG pct., .929 FT pct., 5.6 FTA

Carl Landry, PF, Sacramento Kings

Past 30 days: 15.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .508 FG pct., .859 FT pct., 6.5 FTA

I'm bunching Gooden and Landry together here to underscore a point. If you can find a power forward not only capable of hitting 85.9 percent from the line, but who also can get to the line six times a night, you're looking at an undervalued asset. Power forwards who are double percentage threats aren't easy to find.

Ersan Ilyasova, SF/PF, Bucks

Past 30 days: 10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg .513 FG pct., 0.7 3s, 0.7 spg

You have to think the Bucks only have room for so many multidimensional forwards, but every now and then Ilyasova bubbles to the surface with a box score like he had last night: 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, with a steal, block and a 3-pointer. It happens only every now and then, but his per-40-minute numbers are impressive, and it's only his second season. Without Hakim Warrick standing in the way, Ilyasova should get a chance to carve out a larger role in the Bucks' rotation.

Anthony Tolliver, C, Golden State Warriors

Past 30 days: 10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.2 3s, 0.7 bpg

Ronny Turiaf, PF/C, Warriors

Past 30 days: 7.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.2 bpg, .580 FG pct.

I'm grouping these two players together to underscore the effect of Golden State's high-paced style, even on their big men. With a rash of injuries, and the mysterious disappearance of Andris Biedrins, both Tolliver and Turiaf are almost (the "almost" is Don Nelson insurance) assured of big minutes in March. Now, Tolliver gives you 3s from the center position, and Turiaf is an elite shot-blocker … but look closer and you'll see both are also posting respectable assist totals. With so many points flying around in Nelson's system, even the big men are going to collect an extra assist here and there.