Commentary

Weighing the percentages is a must

Updated: December 14, 2009, 6:21 PM ET
By Brian McKitish | Special to ESPN.com

It's still fairly early in the season, but if you are in a roto league and already find yourself in a hole in one of the percentage categories, you'd better get to work to try to remedy the situation. It's common knowledge that it becomes increasingly difficult to make a major move in the percentage categories as the season progresses because the larger the sample size gets, the less impact one good night or week will have on your percentages.

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's Top 130 are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN.com standard leagues from this point on, not based on the statistics that have already been accrued. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

RK. Name, POS (RK)
1. LeBron James, SF, CLE (1)
2. Chris Paul, PG, NO (2)
3. Kevin Durant, SG/SF, OKC (3)
4. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (4)
5. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (5)
6. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (7)
7. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (6)
8. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (9)
9. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (14)
10. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (11)
11. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (13)
12. Chris Bosh, PF/C, TOR (10)
13. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (15)
14. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (16)
15. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (12)
16. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (21)
17. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (18)
18. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (19)
19. Brandon Roy, SG, POR (20)
20. Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C, PHO (17)
21. Al Jefferson, C, MIN (23)
22. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (22)
23. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (24)
24. Carlos Boozer, PF, UTA (25)
25. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (26)
26. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (29)
27. Tim Duncan, PF/C, SA (31)
28. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (28)
29. Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, TOR (27)
30. Nene, PF/C, DEN (32)
31. Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL (30)
32. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (36)
33. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (37)
34. Jason Richardson, SG/SF, PHO (33)
35. Gilbert Arenas, PG, WAS (34)
36. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (38)
37. Rashard Lewis, SF/PF, ORL (39)
38. David Lee, PF/C, NY (40)
39. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (41)
40. Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, HOU (35)
41. Troy Murphy, PF/C, IND (46)
42. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (42)
43. Antawn Jamison, PF, WAS (43)
44. Al Horford, PF/C, ATL (45)
45. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (55)
46. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (44)
47. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (47)
48. Caron Butler, SF, WAS (51)
49. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (48)
50. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (58)
51. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (50)
52. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, TOR (49)
53. Danny Granger, SF, IND (8)
54. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (52)
55. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (75)
56. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (53)
57. Al Harrington, PF, NY (54)
58. Joakim Noah, PF/C, CHI (56)
59. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (57)
60. Marcus Camby, PF/C, LAC (59)
61. Jeff Green, SF/PF, OKC (60)
62. Mehmet Okur, C, UTA (62)
63. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (64)
64. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (73)
65. Jason Thompson, PF, SAC (65)
66. Jason Terry, PG/SG, DAL (66)
67. Tony Parker, PG, SA (67)
68. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (68)
69. David West, PF, NO (63)
70. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (80)
71. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (71)
72. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (70)
73. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (61)
74. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (72)
75. Carl Landry, PF, HOU (102)
76. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (76)
77. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (79)
78. John Salmons, SG/SF, CHI (78)
79. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (91)
80. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (69)
81. Thaddeus Young, SF, PHI (77)
82. Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, ATL (81)
83. Rodney Stuckey, PG, DET (82)
84. Brendan Haywood, C, WAS (83)
85. Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, GS (74)
86. Kevin Martin, SG, SAC (96)
87. Raymond Felton, PG, CHA (103)
88. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHI (90)
89. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (94)
90. Allen Iverson, PG/SG, PHI (86)
91. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIA (87)
92. Shawn Marion, SF/PF, DAL (95)
93. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (88)
94. Charlie Villanueva, SF/PF, DET (89)
95. Boris Diaw, SF/PF, CHA (84)
96. Mario Chalmers, PG, MIA (92)
97. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (93)
98. Richard Hamilton, SG, DET (NR)
99. Courtney Lee, SG, NJ (112)
100. Andris Biedrins, C, GS (85)
101. C. Douglas-Roberts, SG, NJ (97)
102. Ron Artest, SF, LAL (104)
103. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (98)
104. Spencer Hawes, C, SAC (99)
105. Larry Hughes, SG, NY (100)
106. Jermaine O'Neal, C, MIA (101)
107. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (105)
108. Ersan Ilyasova, SF, MIL (107)
109. Kendrick Perkins, C, BOS (111)
110. Wilson Chandler, SG/SF, NY (109)
111. Kenyon Martin, PF, DEN (110)
112. Ben Wallace, PF/C, DET (115)
113. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (108)
114. Corey Maggette, SF, GS (106)
115. Mike Bibby, PG, ATL (114)
116. Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, IND (129)
117. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (NR)
118. Andre Miller, PG, POR (118)
119. Jonny Flynn, PG, MIN (119)
120. Samuel Dalembert, C, PHI (NR)
121. Lamar Odom, SF/PF, LAL (120)
122. Ronnie Brewer, SG, UTA (126)
123. Peja Stojakovic, SF, NO (122)
124. Michael Redd, SG, MIL (128)
125. A. Randolph, SF/PF, GS (116)
126. Joel Przybilla, C, POR (125)
127. Chris Duhon, PG, NY (NR)
128. Josh Howard, SG/SF, DAL (NR)
129. Corey Brewer, SG/SF, MIN (113)
130. Shane Battier, SF, HOU (117)

Take, for instance, one of my roto league teams that is currently shooting 43.7 percent from the floor (1,556-for-3,561) and 79.6 percent from the line (815-for-1,024). If I have a good shooting stretch at this point in the season, I can realistically make up some ground in both categories relatively quickly. Let's say my team shoots 230-for-500 from the floor (46 percent) and 125-for-150 (83 percent) from the line during the next week. My field goal percentage would improve to 44.0 percent, while my free throw percentage would jump to 80.1 percent. Not too bad, right?

Now, to help illustrate how this becomes increasingly difficult as the season progresses, let's see how that same "good" week affects the numbers later in the season. To do this let's double my team's current shooting totals and add the same good week numbers to the equation. After running the numbers, my team's field goal percentage would improve slightly to 43.8 percent, and its free throw percentage would be just 79.8 percent.

Field goal percentage: (3,112 + 230) divided by (7,122 + 500) = 43.8 percent
Free throw percentage: (1,630 + 125) divided by (2,048 + 150) = 79.8 percent

As you can see, the impact of a big week later in the season will have far less effect on your overall percentage numbers. Don't get me wrong; it's not impossible to improve in these areas later in the season, it's just more difficult. And that means that if you are in a roto league, you really need to start working to improve now before it's too late.

So, how do we do this? The plan to improve your percentages is relatively simple but takes some strategic planning.

1. In trade negotiations, target efficient shooters who also take a high volume of shots. Far too many owners overlook the power of attempts when it comes to the percentages. The more attempts a player takes, the more impact he'll have on the category (good or bad). We will examine this in more depth below.

2. Addition by subtraction: Trade a player such as Trevor Ariza, who shoots 39.2 percent from the floor, for someone like Jason Richardson, who is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor. Not only will your team see immediate results, but the team to which you traded Ariza will drop while you rise. This also works when adding and dropping players in the free-agent market.

3. Find efficiency where you least expect it. Generally speaking, power forwards and centers have a tough time hitting their free throws, and guards/swingmen are less efficient from the floor. If you can find big men who hit their free throws such as Pau Gasol or Brook Lopez, or guards who shoot a high percentage from the floor such as Steve Nash or Tony Parker, you'll have a huge leg up on your competition.

4. Use the waiver wire to your advantage. The wire typically is filled with players who can help from either the floor or the line but don't contribute much in the other categories. Even if these players don't attempt a ton of shots, you can stream solid shooters into your lineup a few nights a week to improve your percentages.

The most important factor in this strategy is Step 1, targeting efficient, high-volume shooters. To give you an idea of how much of an impact a player's attempts can have on the percentage categories, let's examine Dwight Howard's free throw shooting. His woes from the stripe have garnered much attention throughout the years, particularly with the fantasy crowd. It's not so much the percentage that bothers us as it is the sheer number of attempts. Howard attempts 10.7 free throws per game and therefore contributes more to your team's free throw percentage than a player who's getting to the line only twice per game. Simply put, not all percentages are created equal.

How, then, do we account for attempts when evaluating fantasy players? For example, let's say we want to compare Howard to Rajon Rondo. Howard makes 6.2 free throws in 10.7 attempts per game for a percentage of 58.4 percent. Rondo, on the other hand, makes 1.0 free throws in 2.0 attempts with an overall percentage of 51.1 percent. (Note that the numbers aren't perfect due to rounding for per-game averages.) On the surface, it would appear Howard is a better free throw shooter than Rondo, but we all know that is not the case in the fantasy game.

To account for the power of attempts, I typically like to introduce a constant player to the equation. My constant player is a fairly average shooter who shoots 76.6 percent from the floor with 3.6 free throws made and 4.7 free throws attempted per game. With the constant now added to the mix, we can get a better feel for just how much Howard's free throw attempts affect your team's total free throw percentage compared to Rondo's. The equation looks something like this:

Howard + constant = (6.2 + 3.6) divided by (10.7 + 4.7) = 63.6 percent
Rondo + constant = (1.0 + 3.6) divided by (2.0 + 4.7) = 68.7 percent

With our new adjusted free throw percentage, we can see the impact of Howard's attempts a little more clearly, and it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that Rondo ends up being the better fantasy free throw shooter. The math isn't perfect, and I'm sure there are some variables I haven't accounted for, but it is an easy way for fantasy owners to create a ranking system for the percentage categories. (This works the same way for field goal percentage.) Just add the constant to every player in the league, and you have a ranking system which takes into account both the player's percentage and attempts per game. This can easily be accomplished using an Excel spreadsheet.

Using the equation, we can now properly calculate the best and worst fantasy players for the percentages.

Notes on the percentage rankings

• Keep in mind that the percentage numbers in the tables above may be slightly off because of the use of averages rather than totals.

• What we see above is a snapshot of how the landscape looks at this moment, and this in no way predicts how players will shoot the ball going forward. You'll notice that Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas land on the list of fantasy's worst for free throw percentage. But keep in mind that both are struggling from the line right now. Jamison is a career 73.1 percent shooter from the line, while Gilbert shoots it at 80.5 percent for his career. Both should improve dramatically as the season progresses and will find themselves off this list later in the season.

Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Mo Williams do not get to the free throw line as much as we'd like, but they shoot at such a high percentage that the quality makes up for the lack of attempts. The same can be said for Kendrick Perkins, Paul Millsap and Emeka Okafor (and Greg Oden before he got hurt) for the field goal percentage category. This surprised me slightly, as I initially thought that these types of players would not land on the "best" lists because of a lack of attempts.

Carl Landry and Chris Paul are the only two players who show up on the "best" list in both categories. And with that said, I'm moving Landry way up in my rankings this week.

• Trevor Ariza, Gilbert Arenas and Corey Brewer show up on both "worst" lists. As mentioned before, Arenas should get better from the stripe, so I'm not going to move him down too much. Brewer also should improve from the free throw line, but this hurts his fantasy status nonetheless. I do not have much faith in Ariza improving in either category, so his owners might want to look to deal him if (and only if) they are struggling with the percentages. Just remember that Ariza does so much in so many other categories, so do not trade him unless you have a major problem with your percentages.

Dwyane Wade's inclusion on the list for fantasy's worst in the field goal percentage category is perhaps the most surprising. Wade is a career 48.0 percent shooter from the floor, so we should expect his 42.5 field goal percentage to skyrocket as we get deeper into the season. If someone is selling him at a discount because of his poor shooting, jump all over it.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com.

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com and is a two-time Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year, as named by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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