Welcome to the first “Category Strategy” column of the season. The purpose of this article is to give fantasy owners a few players to target that will help in a specific scoring category. These players won’t be options in all leagues, but they will at least be worth keeping an eye on, and figure to be worth adding in deeper formats.
Typically in this space, we will look at recent trends with regards to minutes and categories, but since the regular season has yet to get underway, we’ll look at players who are going later in drafts that are useful in a specific category.
Remember that these recommended players are listed because they should bolster stats in a specific area. Their inclusion in this article does not necessarily suggest that they will be solid all-around performers.
Michael Beasley, F, PHX – Last season, Beasley’s ability to score was somewhat lost on his coach, Rick Adelman. That might have been for the better, as far as the Timberwolves were concerned, but in Phoenix, Beasley should be free to hoist up shots on a team with few players who can match his scoring ability. In his first season with the Timberwolves in 2010-11, Beasley averaged 19.2 points while playing 32.3 minutes per game. Those are numbers he could reach again in his first season with his third team in five years. If you bypassed the elite scorers and took Chris Paul, Greg Monroe or Ty Lawson with one of your first two picks, Beasley can help on draft day by providing cheap scoring.
Raymond Felton, G, NY – Felton’s 2011-12 season with the Trail Blazers was a disaster, but part of the reason it was thought of as a major disappointment was his impressive 54-game stint with the Knicks in 2010-11. Obviously former head coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo style played a big role in Felton averaging 9.0 assists per game with the Knicks, but Felton was also in better shape. Reports out of Knicks camp indicate Felton is back to the level of fitness that helped him put up the best numbers of his career when he was last in New York. We have Felton projected as an eighth-round selection in standard leagues, which is a pretty nice place to find a guy who could average seven assists per night.
Rebounds and Blocks
Bismack Biyombo, F, CHR – Biyombo averaged 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in under 30 minutes per game in the 41 starts he made last season. We expect the 20-year-old to keep improving in his second year, and, since he’s one of the only Bobcats who figures into the team’s future plans, there’s no reason he won’t see more playing time and more starts in 2012-13. Biyombo’s per-36 minute numbers project to 9.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks, and while he probably won’t see that much playing time, it’s a good indicator of what he is capable of. We have Biyombo ranked outside the top 150 players, making him a great target if your team is lacking players who hit the glass and protect the rim.
Kawhi Leonard, F, SAS – As a starter last season Leonard averaged 1.5 steals in 25.7 minutes per game. He had an impressive offseason, training with Team USA and dominating in Summer League, so expectations are high for Leonard’s sophomore season. If he holds onto a starting role and sees a slight uptick in minutes, he should average around 1.7 steals per game. Leonard is one of few players you can snap up after the first 6-7 rounds who will do that much pilfering.
Steve Novak, F, NYK – For Novak, it just comes down to minutes. He averaged 2.5 three-pointers while seeing just 19.0 minutes per game last season. It would be hard to expect him to shoot an absurd 47 percent from deep, as he did a season ago, but as long as he gets around 20 minutes per game this season, he should once again be among the league leaders in threes. He is ranked outside of RotoWire’s top 150 players, meaning he won’t be costly on draft day.
Anthony Morrow, G, ATL – Morrow has always been money from downtown, shooting 42.6 percent for his career, and he should see plenty of opportunities with the Hawks. He can play the two and the three for Atlanta, and when he’s on the court, he will be free to shoot the ball. Last year he matched his career average of 1.7 three-pointers per game, and in the late rounds of drafts, he’s a great candidate to bolster a fantasy team that lacks volume sharpshooters.
Field Goal Percentage
Tiago Splitter, F, SAS – Splitter’s numbers increased across the board in his second NBA season, the most impressive of which was his 61.8 percent shooting from the floor. He attempted only 5.8 shots per game, but as he continues to improve, and as Tim Duncan continues to rest more, Splitter will get more looks. If you drafted a high-volume shooting point guard like Deron Williams, Jeremy Lin or Brandon Jennings early in your draft, Splitter is a perfect compliment to help reinforce your squad’s field-goal percentage.
Free Throw Percentage
Kevin Martin, G, HOU – Martin is no longer the player who averaged 10.3 free-throw attempts per game in 2008-09. In fact, he only averaged 4.5 attempts from the charity stripe last season. But he has always been among the best free-throw shooters in the league. He boasts an 86.5 percent clip for his career and last season shot 89.4 percent. If you end up with Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan or JaVale McGee as your center, Martin is a great option later in drafts if you aren’t completely throwing this category.