Helpful pickups for turnover leagues
Lee coming on strong in New Jersey
I'm convinced that the supreme fantasy hoops scoring format includes turnovers as a rotisserie category. You'd know this if you've read some of my past pieces -- such as this draft kit feature -- which examine this preference and strategies to employ in turnover formats. You could have also learned this fact about me by finding my diary in its special secret place, although you'd have to crack the combination on my Dora the Explorer padlock first, then sift through the color-coded unicorn haikus, so you're better off just continuing to read this column.
Similar to last week's featured categories of field goal and free throw percentage, certain players' turnover deficiencies can maim your position in the standings. One must be constantly mindful of his or her team's turnover status and evaluate each player's positive contributions against the negatives.
Looking at statistical categories and their correlation to turnovers, of the top-50 league leaders in the stats listed below, the following number of players feature better than a minus-1.00 standard deviation in turnovers on the Player Rater:
Field goal Player Rater: 25
Field goal attempts: 13
Free throw Player Rater: 25
Free throw attempts: 11
What does this tell us? In short, it's likely that a player who helps significantly in one of the categories with a lower number has a high turnover rate. These categories are unsurprisingly associated with handling the ball, putting it on the floor and distributing, and are often seen as "guard stats." Conversely, acquiring blocks and rebounds without doing much turnover damage is realistic, even expected, so it's painful when your big-man stats come with high turnovers.
High assist totals typically correlate with high turnovers, as do high free throw attempts, for obvious reasons. The key is finding a sure-handed distributor like Chris Duhon, who is oft-reviled due to his unimpressive performance in more than half the categories but is the only player in the top 25 in assists who turns the ball over fewer than twice per game.
For percentages, identifying those special players who contribute with the magical tandem of frequency and accuracy without high turnovers is crucial. This should also be doable through trade, as percentages seem to be the most undervalued categories. But again, more on that in the future.
Listed below are several recently noteworthy players who are widely available and particularly helpful in turnover leagues.
Courtney Lee, SG, New Jersey Nets (2.0 percent owned): His season has been a disappointment, as we've seen minimal overall improvement, with steps backward in shooting percentage and 3s. To look on the bright side, he's been more assertive taking the ball to the rack, doubling his free throw attempts from 1.2 to 2.4 per game this season, while maintaining his deadeye (83.0 percent in 2008-09, 85.7 percent this season). He's heating up, notching double figures in five of six February contests, with at least one steal in each of his past eight games (1.5 per game in that span). His recent accuracy from behind the arc (45 percent this month) is reason for optimism, as his long-range game is improving (he attempted more shots from behind the arc from Feb. 2-8 than he did from Jan. 12 to Feb. 1). The steals are always there, and if you need them but can't take a hit in turnovers or free throws, Lee is worth a look.
Quentin Richardson, SG/SF, Miami Heat (2.3 percent owned): Q's turnovers have decreased in each of the past three seasons (1.1, 1.0, 0.8), and although he's no longer a lock for two-plus 3s per game and rarely notches 30 minutes, he's a much more efficient player than in years past. Sure, he might have blown his chance to guest star on "For the Love of Ray J," but in the fantasy world he's morphed from an aggregate-stats juggernaut to an efficient 3-point specialist who regularly averages twice as many 3s as turnovers, with excellent boards if you're starting him from the shooting guard position.
Shannon Brown, SG, Los Angeles Lakers (1.8 percent owned): I have a feeling the Shannon Brown era is about to begin in Los Angeles. His momentum is building, as he started his first game of the season Monday, and he's primed to shine on the national stage in the dunk contest, as people are already drooling over his high school dunks like this one. His numbers project to 13.9 points, 2.3 assists, 1.2 3s and a steal per game this season if he averaged 35 minutes. With Kobe Bryant recently hindered and now absent, Brown has scored in double digits in four of his past five contests (12.2 points, 3.4 assists, 1.2 3s, just 0.8 turnovers in that span), and his three highest totals this season in minutes played have come in his past three games. He has failed to latch on anywhere thus far, bouncing between three teams in four seasons, although his career averages of 0.5 steals and 3s and recent buzz qualify Brown as a player worth keeping tabs on.
Steve Blake, PG, Portland Trail Blazers (1.0 percent owned): Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Brandon Roy missing 14 of his past 15 games has been witnessing Blake, Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless coexist. The Blazers have lost seven of their past 12 games, although Blake and Miller are beginning to jell -- each scored 20 points Wednesday, and they were efficient as a duo with a combined three turnovers while shooting 56 and 80 percent from the floor and stripe. I much prefer Blake over Miller relative to his perceived value, given Blake's dominance in 3s (1.5 versus 0.2) with relatively equal steals (0.7 versus 0.9), while averaging nearly a turnover fewer per game (1.3 to Miller's 2.2). Blake also has a chance to see his value improve greatly if Miller is eschewed at the deadline, at which point he'd come close to matching the 11 points, five assists, two 3s and one steal he averaged last season.
Charlie Bell, SG, Milwaukee Bucks (0.5 percent owned): Bell has topped 11 points in six of his past eight contests, and has benefited from Michael Redd's absence, starting every game at shooting guard since Redd went down Jan. 10. He has regularly failed to recapture the glory he achieved during the 2006-07 season (13.5 points, 3.0 assists, 1.6 3s and 1.2 steals per game -- he even dropped a triple-double). He then had contract issues, started in just 28 games the following two seasons, and is now re-establishing some value. February has been kind thus far -- 11.2 points, 1.8 3s, 0.5 steals, 83 percent on free throws -- and since Redd isn't returning, Brandon Jennings has sputtered and Luke Ridnour couldn't guard himself (which isn't saying much), Bell should continue to average double-digit points with around 1.5 3s, a steal and virtually nonexistent turnovers.
Dorell Wright, SF, Heat (0.4 percent owned): Remember this guy, who shot 48.8 and 82.6 percent from the field and stripe with 0.7 steals and 0.9 blocks in 25 minutes per game in 2007-08? If not, it's because he played just six games last season and promptly fell off the map. He's inching back toward relevance, as his minutes and 3s have increased with each month of the season so far, including 1.0 3s, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game with just 0.5 turnovers in 24 minutes per contest this month. He has played 25 minutes in three of his past four contests, and as long as his minutes keep increasing, Wright will have sneaky value in turnover formats with his strange statistical combo and the potential to average more 3s, steals and blocks than turnovers from here on out.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.