Categorical helpers who can shoot
One of the most frustrating fantasy conundrums to find oneself in is a large deficit in field goal or free throw percentage early in the season. This ties your hands, because for every roster decision going forward you must be mindful of every player's impact in the percentages, since players can actually impact you negatively. Not only is it tough to gain percentage points, it's tough to make progress in other categories -- blocks, for example -- when you're hurting in free throws, since most of the game's best shot-blockers aren't quality foul shooters. Let's take a look at widely available players to target who contribute in categories without the low percentages that typically accompany them.
Blocks/Free throw percentage
Drew Gooden, PF/C, Mavericks (5.4 percent owned): Gooden no longer plays enough minutes to provide scoring with high field goal percentage, rebounds or steals, as he has in the past, but he's averaging 1.3 blocks in the past 30 days, and his 1.2 blocks per game for the season is the second-best total of his career. He won't wow, but gives you blocks without hurting your free throw percentage (Gooden hasn't shot lower than 76 percent from the line for any of his four teams during the past season and a half), something only a handful of players do. Of the top 50 players in blocks last season, only nine were above average in free throws on the Player Rater, which illustrates how rare a cheap source of blocks with free throw accuracy truly is.
Nenad Krstic, C, Thunder (0.6 percent owned): He's averaging 1.1 swats per game during both the past 30 and 15 days, and as is the case for many European big men, he has a nice shooting touch from the stripe, as well as the ability to knock down open 18-footers. We're not looking at immense upside here, but he's good for a decent 25 minutes or so per night, with slightly above-average blocks, decent boards, good percentages and low turnovers. Nothing sexy, but in those deep, two-center leagues where you're often scraping the bottom of the barrel, fill out your roster with non-harmful players like Krstic for more balanced team stats.
Yi Jianlian, SF/PF, Nets (1.8 percent owned): Yi returned with a vengeance Thursday, scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds and hitting four 3s. He's a fantastic free throw shooter (81.5 percent for his career) who provides both blocks and rebounds and has yet to hit his upside. The Nets need resuscitation, and Yi is poised to provide some much-needed outside shooting, and provides decent rebounding and block numbers if you start him at small forward. Don't hesitate with Yi, as he's only a couple of more big games away from shooting up the most-added list.
Dorell Wright, SF, Heat (0.4 percent owned): Wright has been effective off the bench this month, averaging 0.7 blocks, along with 0.7 3s and 0.4 steals in December. He was once a promising fantasy player but has fallen by the wayside the past couple of seasons, and now Wright is back simply trying to make his name as somebody worthy of a rotation spot. But underneath, his tools translate very nicely to fantasy, as finding a player with the skill set for both 3s and blocks is hard to do. Even though he's not doing it in bunches right now, Wright has those type of skills, while not hurting you from the stripe.
Rebounds/Free throw percentage
Marvin Williams, SF/PF, Hawks (4.3 percent owned): Williams is averaging 6.6 rebounds per game in December, a number that's not impressive for a power forward, but if you're starting him at small forward or utility, his 5.9 boards per game for the season rank 20th among those eligible at small forward.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Bucks (1.1 percent owned): With his 1.5 3s per game, his name typically shows up under the 3-pointers section of these types of articles, but Delfino's sneaky value is in his solid rebounding with guard eligibility and 80 percent shooting from the stripe. Hurting in free throw percentage and boards? Want an effective, efficient way to make up ground in boards quietly without damage and with peripheral benefits? Start a guard with four-plus boards per game like Delfino, whose 4.7 boards per game over the past 30 days ranks 15th best among guard-eligible players -- and fewer than half of those players shoot 80 percent from the stripe like he does.
Field goal percentage/3-pointers
J.J. Redick, SG, Magic (2.4 percent owned): The former college phenom is rounding into a nice role-player who won't hurt you in any category, even field goal percentage this season despite his career-high 3.3 attempts per game from downtown. Like most widely available players -- most players in the column -- he doesn't shoot enough to have a serious positive impact upon the percentage category. But the key is that he doesn't hurt you while you try to make up ground somewhere else, and if you're dying for 3s, Redick has averaged at least 1.4 per game in every month this season, and doesn't turn the ball over, to boot. It was nice to see him play 24 minutes on both Tuesday and Thursday nights, as the Magic boasted a healthy Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes and Jason Williams in the lineup. If Redick is still getting PT with those players around, it's an indication he's a regular part of the Magic rotation and a consistent threat from downtown, while shooting a career-best 47 percent from the floor.
Maurice Evans, SG/SF, Hawks (0.8 percent owned): Evans is averaging 1.5 3s per game on 47 percent shooting from behind the arc this month, including two 3s per game over the past 15 days. He's a career 45 percent shooter from the floor, something to note when sifting among the many available 3-point helpers, the simplest category to find on waivers. Fantasy owners often have to choose between players like Evans, Andres Nocioni, Martell Webster and Steve Blake when looking for 3s on the waiver wire. What separates Evans from those players is the fact they're all shooting less than 40 percent from the floor over the past month, a trait common to players who take a majority of their shots from distance. Evans is also averaging a steal per game over the past 15 days, is shooting nearly 94 percent from the free throw line this season, and he boasts an insane four turnovers. Total, for the season. Four. Again, it's essential that filler players are efficient in percentages (and turnovers, if that's your thing), so always look at a player's potential negative impact on your team when considering adding him.
Points/Field goal and Free throw percentage
Tony Allen, SG, Celtics (0.5 percent owned): The Celtics are deep, and Allen is coming off a long layoff, but he's a career 47.3 percent shooter from the field and was on a tear in 2007 before his freak injury, and that season averaged 11.5 points and 1.5 steals per game while shooting an incredible 51 percent from the floor for a guard in 24 minutes of play. When digging for points from the guard slot in deep leagues, you're typically choosing from subpar field goal shooters like C.J. Miles and DeMar DeRozan (both shooting 43 percent in the past 30 days), but if you can get similar scoring without the harmful shooting percentage from a player like Allen, you're helping your team in several areas.
Marreese Speights, PF/C, 76ers (24.4 percent owned): He's a career 51 and 77 percent shooter from the floor and stripe, respectively, and is averaging 17 points on better than 48 percent shooting since his return from injury. He's an active scorer who'll be owned in most formats soon, although he's still unowned in three of four ESPN leagues.
Willie Green, SG, 76ers (0.5 percent owned): Green's shot selection has improved, and with Lou Williams back in the mix and Jrue Holiday regularly handling the ball, Green's efficiency has increased dramatically this season. He's setting career highs in percentages and lows in turnovers, and is currently averaging nearly 12 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the floor in December. Holiday is bound to have some hiccups, and who knows when and how much Allen Iverson will play, so Green will be key for the Sixers and should retain value even if he's shifted to the bench.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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