As the season progresses, we fantasy owners have to take a hard look at our rosters and evaluate which stats we need and which stats we have more of than we can really use. The idea, remember, is to accumulate as many points in as many categories as possible. If your team wins the field goal percentage category by shooting, say, 51 percent from the floor when the next-best team is at 47 percent, you may have been better off dealing one of your high-percentage shooters for a guy who makes more 3-pointers or gets more steals.
Using the Player Rater rankings based on averages per game and sorting by category, we can see not only the rankings of which players are best in which categories, but how much better those players are relative to the league as a whole. This is important; as we all are probably aware, the difference between 20 points per game and 18 points per game is not nearly as significant as the difference between 2.2 blocks per game and 1.4 blocks per game (for example).
What follows are a couple of players you may want to target in each category on the Player Rater if you need to make up ground in that category over the balance of the season. I have taken availability into consideration to a certain extent, so you won't see LeBron James or Kevin Durant on these lists.
Each player's ranking in that particular category is included, followed by his ranking overall; both are based on per-game averages. This week we'll look at the four categories that have to do with scoring: field goal percentage, free throw percentage, 3-pointers made and points. Next week we'll look at the other stats: rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Field Goal Percentage
Kendrick Perkins, C, Boston Celtics (1, 70): This may seem a little obvious since Perkins is leading the league in this category by a sizeable margin in real life (as well as fantasy), but Perk is still the sort of fantasy player who can be had for the right price. He really only contributes in three categories: field goal percentage, blocks and rebounds. What's important to realize here is that Perkins is no longer an afterthought in the Celtics' offense. Even when guys like Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace are healthy, the Celtics tend to feed the ball into Perkins in the post multiple times per game. While he does have a tendency to turn the ball over, when he does shoot it, it usually goes in.
Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs (69, 122): It won't be hard, most likely, to pry Parker away from one of your leaguemates. He's been a bit better of late, but has been disappointing this season on the whole, and his overall ranking is extremely low. Still, in an off year, Parker is shooting almost 49 percent from the floor. If you can sacrifice a point guard who makes more 3s or gets more steals, a guy like Parker can help you recover ground in field goal percentage quickly, because he does most of his damage from the floor but doesn't take a ton of 3s.
Free Throw Percentage
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Washington Wizards (22, 178): During Gilbert Arenas' current extended absence, Foye has begun to prove that he deserves a spot on most fantasy teams. Over his past five games, Foye is playing 40 minutes per game, and he's a good bet to continue to play big minutes as the season wears on. He has never been a great player in terms of getting to the line, but when he does get to the line, he makes the shots. For his career, he's nearly an 86 percent shooter from the line, and this season he's at almost 93 percent.
Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, New Jersey Nets (18, 96): He seems to be healthy at the moment, and although he's struggling with his shot from the floor, for his eight games in the month of January, Yi is getting to the line nearly seven times per game and connecting on nearly 84 percent of his shots there. For all of the risk that comes with his trouble staying healthy, there are few players who can help you more in this category on a per-game basis.
Peja Stojakovic, SF, New Orleans Hornets (8, 158): Peja is worth owning only if you are using him to make up ground in this category. He doesn't shoot a high percentage from the floor, never gets to the line and doesn't add any of the peripheral stats one might look for in a fantasy player. All of that aside, he's fifth in the league in 3-pointers made (despite some recent struggles), and that's not going to change unless he misses time with an injury. For the record, I'm not advocating trading for this guy -- you're better off picking him up off the waiver wire -- but if you stand to gain a lot in your league's standings by gaining some ground in 3s, Peja's probably your best bet right now.
J.R. Smith, SG, Denver Nuggets (19, 133): Smith is already ranked pretty highly in 3s despite some unforeseen struggles from that distance so far this season. After hovering right around 40 percent on 3s the past three seasons, he's at just 33 percent this season. As a result is making just 1.8 3s per game this season as opposed to 2.2 3s per game last season, even though his attempts are just about the same. The theory here is that Smith's struggles won't last forever. Trade for him now while his value is still down, and there's a good chance he'll be a lot better in the second half of the season.
Corey Maggette, SG/SF, Golden State Warriors (20, 50): Maggette could have been listed in either of the percentage categories above; he seems to have undergone a slight philosophical shift and is no longer taking the 3-pointers that were such a drain on his field goal shooting in the past. As a result, he seems to have become an even better all-around scorer and has been absolutely torching people over the past month. He's averaging a remarkable 28.8 points per game in January by taking good shots and living at the line. For the time being, he's a good bet to keep seeing big minutes in Golden State, and if you offer up someone who does a bit more of the less-heralded work -- steals, assists, etc. -- you might be able to pry him away from a fellow owner. As someone who owns Maggette in multiple leagues, I can say for certain that if you need him to boost your scoring, he can absolutely be had for the right price.
Richard Hamilton, SG, Detroit Pistons (28, 150): It has certainly been a difficult season for Hamilton so far. His team is no longer good and he's spent a lot of time being injured. Most recently he missed a game against the New York Knicks (always a team with a knack for giving up big numbers) with some sort of stomach flu. However, before this most recent flare-up, Rip had been scoring points in bunches, and his 18.9 points per game on the season would be good for 25th in the league if he qualified. Going forward, assuming he's as ready to go as he appeared to be over the past couple of weeks, he should be of some help in the scoring category if you can take a hit in field goal percentage. Most importantly, if you act now, you still might be able to trade for him without giving up anything of major consequence.
Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.