Empty Points Syndrome


Instead of a standard intro, I wanted to throw out a brief piece of unrelated advice: Those of you in weekly transaction leagues, next week is a big week in fantasy because of the extended playing period in ESPN leagues (Feb. 14-27). Take a look a some 6-game players who might be available in your league: Randy Foye, Mike Dunleavy, Ben Gordon, Ryan Gomes and Austin Daye all spring to mind.

This week, I sort of want to expand on last week's anti-points-per-game creed by focusing on players who suffer from a particular fantasy malady. A disorder I refer to as "Empty Points Syndrome."

There is no greater factor to a player's being overrated for fantasy purposes than a high scoring average. Of course, most elite players score a lot, but there are some elite NBA players who don't quite earn the same distinction in fantasy, given their actual production.

As of this writing, a couple of these players are currently playing so out of their minds that you might be moved to ask, "Are you out of your #@!*#% mind?" But that kind of language? It's just the Empty Points Syndrome talking.

Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets (24.7 ppg)
Weaknesses: FG% (.444), steals (0.9 per game), blocks (0.7)

During the past seven days, Anthony is averaging an unreal 33.8 ppg. His Player Rater number from the past 15 days (PR15) is all the way up to 11.21.

But look at it this way: How could a player averaging 33.8 ppg only have a PR15 of 11.21? Answer: by posting average to below-average stats in multiple categories.

Now that Anthony has heated up from the floor and stopped pouting/deferring, his assists have dropped by almost two per game (1.0 apg in February). Historically, Anthony isn't only streaky from the field, he's streaky in his defensive categories. He can sometimes go for entire weeks without recording a single block. Like many players on this list, his "hustle" numbers are driven by his offense. When the shot isn't falling, everything else suffers.

Coming off a recent 50-point game, one would need a heck of an offer to consider moving Anthony at the moment. But with all of the uncertainty surrounding him, there might never be a better time to deal him. With either team currently in the trade rumor lead (Knicks, Lakers), Anthony would go from being the unquestioned No. 1 option to co-Alpha Dog status.

Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers (22.6 ppg)
Weaknesses: FT% (.605), steals (0.7), blocks (0.5)

There's no player as fun to own in fantasy today. Aside from the highlights, gaudy points and rebounds, I love Griffin's very un-power-forward-like 2.8 assists per game. And of course, he's young, which means his statistical palette is still expanding. You'd be hard-pressed to find a player with higher-pitched hype right now.

So how could I consider trading the most dynamic player in the NBA? Because, at the moment, the hype is outpacing the production.

Analysts trip over themselves offering comparisons to Griffin: Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Amare Stoudemire, etc. But here's another: Dwight Howard. If Griffin doesn't improve his free throw shooting, he'll soon be Exhibit 1A in the "Can I draft a category-killer?" debate.

And the lack of blocks and steals are just buzzkills. Perhaps it's laudatory that a player with Griffin's amount of abandon is disciplined enough not to play for the block, but it's plain crazy that someone with his drool-worthy athleticism could be notching only an anemic 0.54 blocks per game.

Luis Scola, PF/C, Houston Rockets (19.4 ppg)
Weaknesses: FT% (.717), steals (0.7), blocks (0.6)

A very efficient scorer, Scola hasn't required a ton of Yao Ming's former touches to up his production. Overall, Scola is trending up. His scoring average is scraping the 20-point mark, he's continued to grab his customary eight rebounds a night and, best of all, he's doubled his blocks.

The problem? He's doubled it from 0.3 to 0.6 per game, going from "shockingly flat-footed" to "depressingly mediocre." For a power forward, he's merely average in his rebounding and free throw percentage. Scola makes up for it a bit with his passing (2.5 apg), but in the end he presents a lot of the same flaws as Griffin.

Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets (16.3 ppg)
Weaknesses: FG% (.429), rebounds (5.3), steals (0.3), blocks (0.7)

The players on this list all have their pluses and minuses, but Lopez is the only player who actually posts a stat I would deem as offensive. That, of course, being Lopez's utterly inexcusable 5.3 rebounds per game.

It's become almost a cliché to talk about undersized opposing players who have outrebounded Lopez this season. Every time the Nets play the Bucks another Lopez versus Earl Boykins comparison is presented for exasperated fantasy writers. But lost in the hand-wringing over Lopez's rebounding has been his poor field goal shooting, steals and blocks.

Just like Anthony, Lopez has been on a scoring tear as of late, but he's still done little to raise his below-par averages in the other categories.

Jeff Green, SF/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder (15.3 ppg)
Weaknesses: FG% (.431), rebounds (5.8), steals (0.9), blocks (0.9)

Green must really want to stay in Oklahoma City because he's making one of the more limpid contract-year pushes in recent NBA memory. Green has come on as of late, but even when he scores he's hard-pressed to put together a complete stat line. Look at his game last weekend against the Jazz, in which Green scored 20 points but put it together with no rebounds or steals.

It wouldn't be so frustrating if Green didn't flash such mini-Danny Granger upside. Maybe there just isn't room for him to put up big numbers as a No. 3 option. Looking at the numbers, perhaps Russell Westbrook's ascendancy has come at Green's expense. But when Green puts it all together, he can provide across-the-board value at near-elite levels. Look at his game from Jan. 30 versus the Heat -- 23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, a block and a 3-pointer on 10-of-21 shooting.

Green's name has surfaced in trade rumors as of late, and I've got to admit I'd be very bullish on Green if he got dealt to another team. And by another team, I mean, "anyone but Cleveland."

Michael Beasley, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (19.9 ppg)
Weaknesses: rebounds (5.6), steals (0.7), blocks (0.8)

It's not quite fair putting Beasley on this list. If it weren't for Kevin Love, Beasley would be on the short ballot for most improved player. Love's rebounding zeal is also partially to blame for Beasley's disappointing rebounding totals. And before he developed ankle problems last month, Beasley was showing a willingness to improve his blocks, averaging 1.1 per game in December.

With all of us -- Beasley included -- getting used to his being a fantasy must-play, it's still been hard to get a read on a proper expectation on his production. And if Beasley's ankle continues to bother him, it could limit his numbers down the stretch. I could see Beasley toughing it out in an attempt to shed the "brittle" label, but until he puts together a solid couple of weeks I'd temper my expectations.

Nick Young, SG, Washington Wizards (17.6 ppg)
Weaknesses: rebounds (2.8), assists (1.3), steals (0.7), blocks (0.3)

I'm pleased to see Young finally displaying some consistency, but he's sort of a new-millennium Jeff Malone: a Washingtonian shooting guard whose value is boosted because of the utter dearth of scoring punch surrounding him.

DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors (15.7 ppg)
Weaknesses: rebounds (3.2), assists (1.8), blocks (0.4)

Sort of like Young, but without the pizzazz. Take that as you will.

Carl Landry, PF, Sacramento Kings (11.9 ppg)
Weaknesses: rebounds (4.7), steals (0.6), blocks (0.4)

People try to blame Landry's ineffectiveness on his bench role in coach Paul Westphal's maddening rotation. But trust me, even given the minutes, Landry is ineffective. A shooting guard in a power forward's body.

Corey Maggette, SF, Milwaukee Bucks (13.0 ppg)
Weaknesses: rebounds (4.0), 3-pointers (0.3), steals (0.3), blocks (0.1)

Maggette's shortfalls aren't exactly new information. You pick him up for points and percentages and absolutely nothing else.

John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.