Player Rater: The 'all-around' producers
We talk a lot in fantasy basketball about players who have good all-around games. Obviously, this is more important in some formats than it is in others. If you're counting just the points, rebounds and assists categories, you might not care whether a player is shooting a subpar percentage from the floor, or whether some of his field goals happen to be 3-pointers.
One of the fun things about the Player Rater, though, is that it cuts through a lot of our preconceived notions about what makes a good fantasy player. For most of us, in both rotisserie and head-to-head leagues, every category counts exactly the same, whether that's the way we perceive it or not.
The best example of this the past two seasons has been Blake Griffin. Watch the Clippers play, and Griffin quite often looks like the best player on the floor. He has a ton of energy on offense, he throws down ferocious dunks, and even his rebounds seem to have a sort of boundless energy to them. Even his traditional stats look pretty fantastic. He's one of only three players (along with Dwight Howard and Kevin Love) averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, and he's third among power forwards in assists at 2.9 per game.
And yet Blake Griffin is ranked just 89th on the Player Rater this season based on per-game averages. That's because points, rebounds and assists are just three of the eight categories the Player Rater measures. Griffin is a disaster at the foul line and has made just one 3-pointer all season. Those failures, as well as his small contributions in steals and blocks, make Griffin far less valuable in most fantasy leagues than less-heralded players who accumulate value by being halfway decent at everything.
With that in mind, there are currently just six players who have avoided posting a negative contribution in any category, at least to this point in the season. They are all-around players of the highest order, at least in terms of fantasy basketball. Quite significantly, all of them are forwards, except for one (Derrick Rose). And here they are:
(Player Rater rankings in parentheses are based on per-game averages.)
Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder (3): Durant is the perfect roto player; he's really, really good in almost every category. Durant's worst category in fantasy is assists, but at 3.2 per game, he manages to carry some value there, too, especially for his position: He's currently fifth among small forwards in assists per game. His scoring and free throw percentage have dipped a bit this season, but he has offset those losses with increased efficiency from the floor and slight bumps in rebounds and assists from last season. It doesn't look like he'll catch LeBron this season -- LeBron's overall value is a mile ahead of anyone else at the moment -- but Durant should wind up being the second-best fantasy player this season.
Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls (8): At first glance, it might not seem so amazing to see Rose on this list, but consider that he must be a better-than-average shot-blocker in order to be here, which isn't part of the job description for point guards. Rose has missed some time, so his ranking based on per-game numbers is a lot better than his overall ranking at the moment, but if he stays healthy, he should once again be a top-10 fantasy player by the time the season ends. What made Rose so good last season was his scoring; he averaged 25.0 points per game, shot a decent percentage and knocked down a bunch of 3s. This year, the percentage and the 3s have remained, but he's scoring less. Amazingly, Rose, a 71 percent free throw shooter in college, just keeps getting better from the line. Only one player (who we'll discuss in a moment) has taken more free throws this season at a higher percentage than Rose, and that's a huge benefit in fantasy that nearly offsets his drop in scoring.
Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, Nuggets (10): It's pretty amazing to see Gallo ahead of Carmelo Anthony on the per-game Player Rater, but that's the world we're living in these days. When you think of Gallinari, you probably think of his shooting, and for good reason -- Gallinari is a great jump shooter. But where he's really special is in his ability to get to the line. For the second season in a row, he's shooting 89 percent from the line while taking 6.0 free throws per game. That puts him ahead of Rose and makes him more valuable as a free throw shooter so far this season than anyone but Kevin Martin. Fortunately, Gallinari does a whole lot more, contributing a little of everything across the board. His worst category is blocks, but at 0.6 per game, he's at least giving owners something there. The one category to watch would be steals; at 1.7 per game, it has been his second-best category this season, but he's nearly doubling his previous career high. He could lose some ground in that area as the season progresses.
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks (52): It has actually been a pretty disappointing campaign thus far for Dirk, who will miss the next few games in an attempt to get his conditioning in order. His worst category has been a league-average contribution in 3s, but I have a feeling that has a lot to do with his legs. His 3-point attempts are right in line with where they've been the past few seasons, but he's making only 23.5 percent. He'll improve in that area and work his way back into the top 30 or so, even if he won't end up being a top-10 player like he usually is.
Paul George, SG/SF, Pacers (69): Most of George's improvement from last season can be explained by the simple fact that he's playing more minutes, but the one area where he looks like a totally different player is his 3-point shooting. At 46 percent, he's just outside the top 10 in 3-point percentage, and considering his small contributions in steals, blocks, points and rebounds, that's pretty good. Strangely, he's shooting only 44 percent from the floor, but that seems to be the result of his midrange jump shot having disappeared entirely. According to hoopdata.com, he's shooting just 21 percent on shots between 3 and 23 feet from the hoop. This is, most likely, a fluke, and I'm expecting those numbers to rise even as his 3-point percentage drops a bit as the season progresses.
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Mavericks (93): Like Dirk, Marion's worst category is 3-pointers made. Unlike Dirk, Marion is actually having a career year shooting 3s, making 43 percent from behind the arc. Other than that, he chips in a little everywhere, though I'd expect his numbers to drop off a bit as Lamar Odom rounds into form and Dirk returns to the lineup. Marion has been a nice surprise so far this season, but he won't be on a list like this when it's all said and done.