Underlying stats worth watching


Fantasy owners sometimes get so caught up in statistics that they forget that the best way to analyze a player's performance is to actually watch the games. You can pore over the box scores all you want; rarely do they tell the full story. For fantasy purposes, I've always felt that there is no substitute for watching games, regardless of the sport. Still, we have to be realistic here. Not everyone can dish out the cash to purchase NBA League Pass, and even fewer have the time to watch hoops every night. So, instead, many of us are forced to rely on the stats.

That being the case, we should be sure that we're looking at the right numbers when we're doing our fantasy research. Don't just look for the standard fantasy categories. It's easy to skim the box scores looking at points, rebounds and assists and move on. Instead, examine some of the underlying and obscure statistics. Personally, some of my favorite statistics include shot attempts per game (from the floor, line and behind the arc), minutes per game and per-minute production. When I sit down to prep for this column, I look at these types of stats just as much, if not more, than I look at the standard eight fantasy categories.

With that in mind, let's play a little game of fun with numbers, focusing on some of the underlying stats that we should pay more attention to.

Numbers we like

The Top 130

Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their fantasy value from this point forward in the 2010-11 NBA season. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (1)
2. Chris Paul, PG, NO (2)
3. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (3)
4. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (4)
5. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (5)
6. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (6)
7. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (7)
8. LeBron James, SF, MIA (8)
9. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (11)
10. Danny Granger, SF, IND (10)
11. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (13)
12. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (16)
13. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (9)
14. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (15)
15. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (12)
16. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (14)
17. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (19)
18. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (20)
19. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL (23)
20. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (18)
21. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (21)
22. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (17)
23. John Wall, PG, WAS (22)
24. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (24)
25. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (25)
26. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (26)
27. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (36)
28. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (27)
29. Raymond Felton, PG, NY (38)
30. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (29)
31. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (30)
32. Tim Duncan, C/PF, SA (31)
33. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (41)
34. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (28)
35. David Lee, PF/C, GS (35)
36. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (33)
37. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTA (32)
38. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA (40)
39. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (37)
40. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (43)
41. Jason Richardson, SG, PHO (39)
42. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (34)
43. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (42)
44. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (48)
45. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (44)
46. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (49)
47. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (50)
48. David West, PF, NO (51)
49. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (52)
50. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (47)
51. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (61)
52. Brandon Roy, SG/SF, POR (45)
53. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (46)
54. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (53)
55. Jeff Green, PF/SF, OKC (54)
56. Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS (55)
57. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (56)
58. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (57)
59. Lamar Odom, PF/SF, LAL (58)
60. Nene Hilario, C/PF, DEN (59)
61. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (65)
62. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (60)
63. Marcus Camby, C/PF, POR (64)
64. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (66)
65. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (67)
66. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (79)
67. Andre Miller, PG, POR (68)
68. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (69)
69. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (76)
70. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (70)
71. Gilbert Arenas, PG/SG, WAS (71)
72. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (72)
73. Tony Parker, PG, SA (75)
74. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (62)
75. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (74)
76. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (77)
77. Darren Collison, PG, IND (63)
78. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (78)
79. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, NY (80)
80. Troy Murphy, PF/C, NJ (73)
81. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (81)
82. Dorell Wright, SF, GS (82)
83. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (83)
84. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (91)
85. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (NR)
86. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (85)
87. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, ATL (86)
88. John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL (87)
89. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (88)
90. Boris Diaw, PF/SF, CHA (90)
91. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (101)
92. Caron Butler, SF/SG, DAL (84)
93. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (92)
94. Nicolas Batum, SF, POR (93)
95. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (94)
96. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (95)
97. Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL (96)
98. Beno Udrih, PG, SAC (97)
99. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (111)
100. Rashard Lewis, PF/SF, ORL (98)
101. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, PHO (99)
102. Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC (100)
103. Wesley Matthews, SG, POR (NR)
104. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (102)
105. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (103)
106. Toney Douglas, PG/SG, NY (104)
108. Richard Jefferson, SF, SA (106)
109. Carl Landry, PF, SAC (107)
110. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (108)
111. JaVale McGee, C/PF, WAS (110)
112. Eric Bledsoe, PG, LAC (109)
113. Yao Ming, C, HOU (112)
114. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (113)
115. DeMar DeRozan, SG, TOR (114)
116. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (115)
117. J.J. Hickson, PF, CLE (89)
118. Carlos Delfino, SF/SG, MIL (116)
119. Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, IND (NR)
120. Wesley Johnson, SF, MIN (117)
121. Corey Maggette, SF, MIL (118)
122. Andris Biedrins, C, GS (119)
123. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU (120)
124. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (NR)
125. Charlie Villanueva, PF/SF, DET (NR)
126. Tyson Chandler, C, DAL (123)
127. Ron Artest, SF, LAL (124)
128. Terrence Williams, SF/SG, NJ (125)
129. Daniel Gibson, PG, CLE (126)
130. Darko Milicic, C, MIN (NR)

11.9: Assists per 48 minutes for Jose Calderon, good for seventh in the league. Calderon was once considered an elite fantasy point guard option, and he'll get an opportunity to show us why with Jarrett Jack headed to the New Orleans Hornets. As a side note, Jerryd Bayless looks like a nice speculative pickup in deeper fantasy formats as he'll earn much more playing time in Toronto.

5.17: Assist-to-turnover ratio for Charlotte Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin, best in the league. The Bobcats are not playing all that well this season, but you can't blame Augustin. Those that worried about Augustin slipping back into Larry Brown's doghouse can rest assured that he's not going anywhere near the doghouse with an AST/TO ratio like that.

3.8: 3-point attempts per game for Rudy Gay, which is one of the big reasons why he ranks 10th on our Player Rater when sorted by averages. Gay was a big 3-point shooter when he first came into the league, but he stopped shooting as many 3s once O.J. Mayo joined the Memphis Grizzlies. We're happy to see the trend reversal, although we shouldn't expect him to stay this high on the Player Rater all year. He is shooting well above his career norms from both the field and the free throw line, so don't be surprised if he comes back down to earth a little in those two areas.

2: Raymond Felton's rank on our Player Rater as of Monday (Felton was No. 1 before Pau Gasol's monster game Sunday). We knew Felton had a chance to be a great fantasy asset for the New York Knicks under Mike D'Antoni, but wow, we didn't expect this! Is Felton playing a bit over his head? Sure, but not by much. Averaging 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 3-pointers, the only areas I could see coming back down are his steals and his percentages (47.3 percent from the floor and 88.9 percent from the line). And with that said, Felton is moving all the way up into the top 30 this week.

15.8: Rebounds per game for Kevin Love when he's gotten at least 30 minutes on the court (eight games). Love is now averaging 19.8 points, 15.8 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.9 3-pointers in games in which he's played at least 30 minutes, and yes this does include his goose egg 0-point, 7-rebound performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Considering that Kurt Rambis has finally decided that the Wolves are better off with Love on the court, this is extremely good news for Love owners. I'd be very surprised if he doesn't finish the season as the league's top rebounder.

3.7: 3-point field goal attempts per game for Derrick Rose, a jump from 0.8 per game last year. I am now ready to admit that I was completely wrong about Rose at the start of the season. I didn't believe in his ability to hit 3-pointers or create steals, but he is averaging 1.3 3-pointers and 1.1 steals through 11 games thus far. This has the potential to be the worst call I've ever made since I started writing about fantasy hoops, and yes it's killing me inside.

2.9: Steals per 48 minutes for Los Angeles Clippers rookie Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu had seen a spike in playing time prior to logging just 5 minutes against the Knicks on Saturday, and a number like this shows exactly why he has a ton of upside in fantasy leagues. For now he should be left on waivers, but keep a close eye on his minutes and be ready to pounce if it looks like he'll carve out a consistent rotation spot.

Numbers we hate

0: Minutes played for Anthony Randolph in his past three games, and he's not even injured! This is reason No. 256 to drop Randolph if you haven't already. I know it's hard to part ways with a player who has so much potential, but Randolph is not seeing the light of day and it doesn't look like he's going to anytime soon. I'm sure he'll have value at some point this season, but he's a must-drop at the moment.

12.0: Points per game for Elton Brand over his past five contests. Brand has played out of his mind in the early going this season, averaging 15.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, but he still makes for a great sell-high candidate if you can convince an owner that his early season outburst was for real. Don't get me wrong, Brand is going to be a fine option going forward if he can stay healthy, but his points and steals are due to decline, especially once Andre Iguodala returns to form.

0.9: Blocks per 48 minutes for talented Cleveland Cavaliers power forward J.J. Hickson. This is very disappointing, considering Hickson displayed some nice per-minute shot-blocking numbers last season. He's extremely talented on the offensive end, but his lack of defense and rebounding (5.5 boards per game) have kept him from becoming a 30-minute per night player for the Cavs. I still like Hickson's upside in the long run, but he's borderline droppable in shallow fantasy leagues because of the aforementioned lack of boards and blocks.

5.8: Assists per game for Brandon Jennings. This number isn't necessarily bad, it's just disappointing that Jennings hasn't progressed much in this area after averaging 5.7 assists last year. And with the NBA turning into a point guard-dominated league (15 players are averaging 7-plus assists per game as of Monday), Jennings needs to be better here if we are going to consider him a top fantasy PG option, particularly when he shoots sub-40 percent from the floor.

1.4: Dirk Nowitzki's combined average of steals, blocks and 3-pointers on the season. Averaging just 0.6 blocks, 0.4 steals and 0.4 3-pointers on the season, Dirk continues to slowly slide behind more productive players in my top 130. He's still dominant in the percentages and as a scorer, but his days as a 1/1/1 guy are long gone, especially considering he's taking just 1.5 3-pointers per game this season.

42.2: Brook Lopez's shooting percentage from the floor after 13 games, which is well below his career mark of 50.4 percent. That's a number that has to increase as we get deeper into the season. Combine his poor shooting with the fact he's averaging just 6.3 rebounds this season, and Lopez is perhaps the best buy-low candidate on the market right now.

19.0: 3-point field goal percentage for Eric Gordon, which is well below his career average of 36.5 percent. For as great as he's been this year (23.3 points, 4.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers), he might be even better once he starts hitting from downtown. Amazingly, Gordon is still shooting 44.9 percent from the floor, which is a testament to his ability to get to the basket and finish around the rim. His free throw attempts have skyrocketed as he's become more aggressive at taking the ball to the hoop, and he's doing all of that while still taking 4.8 3-pointers per game. Look out once his shooting touch returns!

Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at bmckitish@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish.