We have just over two months remaining in the NBA season, still a bit more than a third. In rotisserie leagues you're running out of time to make outcome-changing moves, but you haven't run out just yet. One often overlooked area that you can often trade to correct is your shooting percentage. Field goal and free throw percentages count as two different categories, but often roto owners don't specifically game-plan for them as they're still most impressed with counting categories and see percentages as an afterthought.
The thing is, as my editor Chris Liss often points out, the percentages are the hardest categories in which to make a last minute push. That's because once we get past the All-Star break many roto owners will also fall by the wayside, as teams with no shot at catching up often become dead teams. Dead teams rarely if ever change their lineups, or pick up new players, or adjust for injuries. As such, those teams tend to plummet down the rankings in the counting categories over the last month or so of the season. But since percentages are ratios they aren't affected by how many games are played, so even dead teams generally won't move much in FG% or FT% down the stretch. Thus, a savvy owner that is still competitive should maximize his shooting percentages now, knowing that odds are good he can finish at least solidly in most counting categories just by staying active until the finish line.
So, how can that savvy owner still maximize their percentages at this stage of the game? Well, maximizing good shooters and minimizing poor shooters is easier than ever to accomplish now, since Yahoo! now keeps track of field goals and free throws made in addition to just percentages. Tyson Chandler is shooting a blistering 65% from the field, but it hardly matters to your bottom line because he makes so few shots (fewer than four per game). Similarly, Rajon Rondo is an awful free throw shooter at 56% from the line, but he really isn't hurting you that much because he's taking fewer than two free throws per game. To make a splash in your percentages, ignore players like those and instead move around the guys taking and making (or missing) the most shots. Here are a few names to either trade for or ship out if you want to move your percentages before the year ends.
Dwight Howard: Likely sell, but it's complicated
Howard is a poster-boy for this topic because, like Shaquille O'Neal a decade ago, he can literally bring you to a 1 in FT% by himself…on the other hand, he can also play a huge part in getting you a 12 in FG%. He takes a lot of both field goals and free throws, so you need to look at your team to decide whether he's worth it. In one roto league I was in fourth place in both FG% and FT% at the end of December when I traded for Howard. Now, my FT% has slid, bu only two slots while my FG% is in first place by almost a full percentage point. Howard can be poison, but if used correctly he can be of benefit as well.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade: Sell in certain situations
Be clear: LeBron and Wade are both among the best fantasy producers in the league, and I only advocate moving them under certain circumstances. That said, they are tied for second in the NBA with 9.1 FTA per game and both (LeBron – 76%, Wade – 73%) are shooting below most roto leagues' average free throw percentages (in my league 76.5% is next-to-last in FT%). They won't outright lose your FT% like Howard can, but they can bump your team to a lower mark without the ability to easily move up. On the other hand both LeBron and Wade also shoot well from the field on a lot of attempts, so again, if your squad can afford the FT hit they can help you in FG.
Kevin Durant: Buy
If you're planning to trade LeBron for percentage reasons, Durant is one of the few players that's worth it in a 1-for-1 swap and also can improve your percentages. Durant takes nine free throws per game, and makes them at an 89% clip (with corresponding 47% FG on more than 20 FGA).
Kevin Martin: Buy
Martin is just ok from the field, but he's money at drawing and making FTs (8.8 FTA, 89% FT%). In fact, in the league I traded for Howard I also traded for Martin on the same day. Martin's likely a big part of the reason I've only dropped two free throw slots even with Howard.
Blake Griffin: Sell
Griffin is like a junior version of Howard, shooting 61% from the line on 8.6 FTA. And though Griffin's 51% FG% is good it isn't nearly as positive as Howard's 58%. Thus, strictly in percentages, Griffin is probably nearly as harmful to your team as Howard would be.
Kevin Love: Buy
Love's 88% FT on almost seven FTA and 47% on almost 15 FGA will really help you in the former without hurting you in the latter.
Monta Ellis: Sell
Ellis isn't awful at either category (45.7% FG on 20.5 FGA, 77.3% FT on 6.3 FTA), but he shoots an awful lot, and both of his percentages are at the lower end for most roto leagues.
Dirk Nowitzki: Buy
Nowitzki (89% FT on six FTA and 53% FG on 16 FTA) is similar to Love, except he gives a tangible boost to both shooting categories.
Tyreke Evans: Sell
He's shooting only 41% from the field on almost 17 FGA, and only 75% on almost five FTA, a double-downer.
Amare Stoudemire: Buy
Stoudemire isn't shooting quite as well as he has in the past, but his 51% FG on almost 20 FGA and 79% FG on more than eight FTA are still very strong, especially for a center.
Gerald Wallace: Sell
Like Evans, Wallace's 74% on six FTA and 42% on 12 FGA is one of the worst combos of both in the league.
Corey Maggette: Buy (likely for cheap)
Maggette is traditionally a free throw specialist, and now that he's healthy he's again getting enough minutes to fulfill that role with 86% FT on 5.4 FTA and 50% FG on 12.3 FTA for the last month.
Around the League
• Melo rumors: After seeming as though it were only a matter of time before Carmelo Anthony became a Knick, the Lakers are rumored to have entered the fray as potential suitors with Andrew Bynum as bait. Already there are denials from an unnamed Lakers front office source, and Bynum has dismissed the trade talk as "just another rumor". On the other hand, unlike New Jersey or New York, if Melo ends up on the Lakers this could actually hurt his fantasy value. On a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom there wouldn't be enough shots or rebounds for Melo to maintain his current rates. It sounds as though the Lakers are a long shot, but for the first time Melo owners might need to pay attention and consider a pre-emptive trade if the talks get serious.
• Roy return soon?: Brandon Roy resumed practice this week after having arthroscopic surgery on both knees last month, with the intention of return to game action as soon as this weekend. He has since admitted he will not play this weekend, but says his knees are close to pain free. Not long ago Roy was thought to be done for the year, and even with the news of his impending return there is no guarantee that his health holds up. That said, if the Roy owner in your league dropped him, and you can afford the roster spot he makes for an interesting pick-up with legitimate first-round-pick upside.
• Pacers revitalized by new coach: The Pacers had 17 wins and 27 losses (including eight losses in their previous nine games) when they fired Jim O'Brien late last month. Since then they've won four of their first five under new coach Frank Vogel, averaging 107.6 ppg. Their competition hasn't been the strongest, but they hung 112 points in Miami in their most recent outing to prove they're legit. Perhaps the most rejuvenated Pacer in the new regime is Roy Hibbert, who's averaging 16.6 points on 47.8% FG thus far under Vogel after stumbling to January averages of 9.5 points on 38.8% averages under O'Brien.
• Williams wrist update: Deron Williams has played well (20.3 points, 10.7 assists) in the three games since he returned from a wrist injury, but is still complaining that the wrist is sore. It appears he will try to tough it out with his usual minute allotment moving forward, but the All Star break is coming soon, and it wouldn't be shocking if he sat for a game or two if the wrist gets worse.
• Horford's back and angry dad: Horford has missed two straight games with an injured back, but the Hawks do not play again until Saturday which gives him a reasonable chance to heal in the interim. Consider him day-to-day. Interestingly, his father Tito blames his position for his physical ills. Tito would like Al to move back to his natural power forward slot so he doesn't have to bang with the big boys. While this is something the Hawks could look at moving forward, Horford has made the All Star team at center for two straight years and should continue to put up big numbers in the middle when he returns.
• Chauncey's knee: Chauncey Billups suffered a strained left knee in Monday's game, but an MRI revealed no serious injury. He will travel with the team on Wednesday, but he's a game-time decision as far as actually playing against the Warriors.
• Beasley's trick ankle: Michael Beasley has taken a page from the Stephen Curry book, and has re-re-re-sprained his left ankle for at least the third time since December. Like Curry, Beasley has thus far been able to recover and not miss a lot of game action with each injury, but consistently missing a bit of time here and there can build up in leagues with weekly lineup changes. This is something to keep in mind when planning for your fantasy playoffs.
• Irresistable Cavs and Immovable Wizards: The Cleveland Cavaliers have lost an NBA record 25 games in a row. The Washington Wizards are 0–25 on the road this year. The Wizards play on the road, in Cleveland, on Sunday. SOMEBODY has to win. I am strangely giddy about this game, and will actually be disappointed if the Cavs win before Sunday as this game is setting up to be epic.
• Ersan Ilyasova (37% owned): Ilyasova has been starting and playing a consistent 30 minutes a night for the last few weeks, and has responded with consistently strong play. He has been a steady double-digit rebound threat, can knock down the three, and contributes regularly to the defensive categories in addition to scoring double-figures in six of his last nine games.
• Carlos Delfino (37% owned): Another Buck, Delfino was one of the most added players earlier in the season before head and neck injuries caused him to miss two months. His shot has been off since his return, but if he stays healthy he should get it back and resume positive fantasy value.
• Sam Young (10% owned): Young has moved into the starting lineup for the Grizzlies, and seems to be gaining confidence. He has averaged 16 points (50% FG, 82% FT) with 2.8 boards, 2.4 assists and 2.0 steals over his last five games.
• Tony Allen (7% owned): Allen is a short-term add candidate for as long as Rudy Gay (toe) is sidelined. Allen started for Gay on Tuesday, and responded with 27 points, five steals, three blocks and three boards in 40 minutes of action. While those numbers are too much to expect even if he gets a few more starts, Allen is a credible scorer and defender that could put up solid production as an injury sub.
Keeping up with the Professor
Don't forget that you can catch me on the radio every Friday afternoon at 12:30 PM EST on Rotowire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 147, Sirius 211.