Turnover leagues: Players to target
When normal people hear the word "turnover," a delicious pastry most likely comes to mind. But fantasy hoops enthusiasts aren't normal people (just ask my cat), and we don't salivate at the thought of turnovers, especially when they show up in the box scores of players on our teams. But including turnovers in your league scoring strategy adds a fun nuance to the game and the challenge of balancing another negative-impact category.
Turnovers primarily affect guards, and most notably the assists and steals categories. Those with the ball in their hands and the ones defending the other team's ball handler are most prone to turning it over. Most big scorers also are turnover-prone. Thus, a key strategy is finding players who contribute in these categories without piling up the flubs. Let's take a look at some players whose value increases when adding this ninth category to the mix:
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks: Among the top 10 scorers last season, only Nowitzki averaged less than two turnovers per game, and many of them averaged three or more. In fact, the discrepancy between him and the rest of the typical first-rounders in turnovers is so significant, one could make a case for taking him No. 1 overall in a roto league that includes turnovers. I still would take Kevin Durant first and Chris Paul second, but Nowitzki is close behind them and the third player overall I'd take in that type of format.
Ron Artest, SF, Los Angeles Lakers: Artest averaged a career-low 1.6 turnovers per game in his first season with the Lakers, and although he no longer contributes much in the points department, he's a nice source of steals (1.4) and 3s (1.6) with solid enough assists (3.0) and without the turnovers of a point guard. As he's become cagier and less hungry for the spotlight, his fantasy game has evolved. And with the low turnovers but consistent production in a few categories, he has value that increases if your league counts turnovers.
Jose Calderon, PG, Toronto Raptors: He's no longer the starter, although his assist-to-turnover rate always has been excellent. His upside is high, and if he is traded or regains the starting job, he'll surely pay huge dividends based on where he's being drafted.
Chris Duhon, PG, Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson has struggled with consistency and injuries, and Duhon has put up excellent assist numbers with low turnovers for the past few seasons. He could end up being one of the better backup point guard options in fantasy and should get enough minutes at some point of the season to contribute significant assists without the turnovers that typically come along with them. Even if he plays minutes in only the low 20s, I wouldn't be surprised to see four assists and a turnover per game, numbers worth noting in deep turnover leagues.
Courtney Lee, SG, Houston Rockets: What do I love about Lee? The fact that he has the potential to have more steals and 3s than turnovers. This makes him a nice "glue" guard in turnover formats. I don't love the fact that he doesn't contribute much elsewhere or the fact that he'll be battling for minutes with Chase Budinger behind Kevin Martin. Still, his value sees a bump when you add turnovers in your league's scoring system.
Jeff Green, SF/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder: Green is blossoming into a fantastic fantasy player, and the fact that he contributes steals, 3s and blocks with low turnovers gives him even more value in formats that count turnovers. He played much better in the second half of last season, and showed what kind of force he can be by averaging 1.4 3s, 1.4 steals and 1.4 turnovers in March. His value is on the rise, and even more so in turnover leagues.
Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Utah Jazz: He used to be a regular first-round choice in fantasy drafts with his incredible combination of blocks and steals, with solid scoring, rebounds and assists to boot. But he has settled in as more of a role player for the Jazz and now can only really be counted on for solid defensive statistics with good percentages. The silver lining of his new role is the fact that he averaged just 1.4 turnovers per game last season, the lowest mark since his rookie season. He's no longer a flashy fantasy superstar, but he's a surefire way to bolster your steals and blocks without taking a hit in the turnover department.
Jarrett Jack, PG, Raptors: Jack is a safe bet in turnover formats after averaging five assists, two turnovers and a 3-pointer per game for the Raptors last season. He doesn't accrue many steals, with just 0.8 per game for his career, but he won't damage your turnover totals and will improve upon his overall numbers if he's able to start all season in Toronto.
Steve Blake, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: Like Jack, Blake doesn't boast high steal totals, but he did have an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost 3-to-1 in his 26 games for the Clippers last season, averaging just 26 minutes per game. The Lakers are high on him, as he will provide a steady hand to complement Kobe Bryant and their other weapons, so he should see significant minutes and be a great source of assists and 3s with lower turnovers than most point guards.
Antawn Jamison, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: Jamison has averaged a measly 1.5 turnovers per game or less in each of his past five seasons, making him a perennial turnover-league darling. He should be in line for a big season for the shallow Cavs, and even though the rest of his numbers should increase considerably, he'll still be one of the surest-handed scorers in the league, and his value increases dramatically in turnover formats.
Beno Udrih, PG, Sacramento Kings: Udrih had a quietly excellent season in 2009-10 and played well alongside Tyreke Evans down the stretch. In 41 starts, he averaged 14.8 points, 6.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.9 3s and 2.0 turnovers per game, providing more of a steadying hand to complement Evans' hard-nosed driving style. And with a career average of 1.5 turnovers per game, he doesn't hurt you in that area, especially with Evans sharing ball-handling duties.
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies: Conley has a career average of 1.9 turnovers per game, and although he's had an up-and-down career, he finished strong last season, averaging 14.7 points, 5.8 assists (to just 2.1 turnovers), 1.7 steals and 0.9 3s per game after the All-Star break. The job is his in Memphis, and despite the fact he hasn't proved to be consistent for an entire season yet, he has proved to be careful when handling the ball.
Ronnie Brewer, SG, Chicago Bulls: Brewer finds himself in new digs this season in Chicago and is set to battle Kyle Korver for playing time. He's been an erratic offensive force during his career, although his ability to accrue thefts always has been excellent, with a career average of 1.5 steals per game in fewer than 27 minutes per contest. He averaged nearly 14 points per game with the Jazz two seasons ago while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, and with his ability to take it to the rim but the lack of a consistent jumper, he's the opposite of Kyle Korver. But the most notable career average for this column is his 0.9 turnovers per game, so if you're hurting for steals late in the draft, he's a solid option in turnover formats.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: With Jonny Flynn sidelined for the first several weeks of the season, Ridnour will start for the Wolves, who boast some new weapons this season in Michael Beasley and Martell Webster. He doesn't play much D, doesn't get many 3s or steals, but undoubtedly racks up assists, and with a very low turnover rate.
Brandon Roy, SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers: Most do-it-all guards who have the ball in their hands and are responsible for as much of their team's backcourt offense as Roy is turn the ball over in bunches. But Roy has managed to average just 1.9 turnovers per game for his career, despite being the centerpiece of his team's offense. He was hobbled by a leg injury for much of last season and his stats were undoubtedly affected, so he should be in line for a bounce-back season.
The same way that we expect to accumulate some turnovers from our guards, we expect our forwards and centers to have relatively low turnovers to balance this out. Thus, forwards and centers who regularly turn over the ball create difficulty in achieving roster balance in turnover formats, much like point guards with especially low free throw percentages do. Here are some forwards and centers who turn the ball over well above average, so you can be mindful of this impact when drafting them in turnover leagues:
Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets; Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers; Carlos Boozer, PF, Bulls; Amare Stoudemire, PF/C, New York Knicks; Danny Granger, SF, Indiana Pacers; Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets; Josh Smith, PF/SF, Atlanta Hawks; Chris Bosh, PF/C, Miami Heat; David Lee, PF/C, Golden State Warriors; Andray Blatche, PF/C, Washington Wizards; Pau Gasol, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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