The purpose of this column is to give fantasy owners a look at players to target on the waiver wire who will help in specific categories. Typically, we will look specifically at recent trends with regard to minutes and categories, but with the regular season yet to get underway, we’ve deviated slightly from the typical format to help provide strategy for your drafts.
In last week’s column, we looked at players that are going later in drafts that are specifically useful in certain categories. In this week’s installment, we’ll look at players getting drafted in most leagues who will be especially detrimental in certain categories based on the average value expected from fantasy relevant players at that position.
Serge Ibaka, F, OKC – It’s obvious that Ibaka is worthy of top-50 consideration in all Roto leagues where blocks are a category. Last year, Ibaka averaged 3.7 blocks per game and was useful in field-goal percentage and rebounding, as well. Just know that by taking Ibaka, you’re getting a player who will score woefully few points for someone getting draft that high. Last season, Ibaka averaged 9.1 points per contest, and while we would expect him to continue to improve as an offensive player, you will still need to surround him with some dynamic scorers to help offset his deficiencies.
Brook Lopez, C, BRK – While Lopez is a pretty competent scorer, in recent years he has been among the worst rebounding big men in the league. His health limited him to just five games last season, but in 2010-11 he played 82 games and averaged a very respectable 35.2 minutes per game. However, he was only able to haul in 5.9 boards per contest. There’s always hope that he could return to averaging more than eight rebounds per game, like he did in his first two seasons, but he plays alongside Kris Humphries, who dominates the glass (11.0 rebounds per game last season). Lopez has value, but recognize that he won’t contribute traditional rebounding numbers for a center.
George Hill, PG, IND – Hill will have a slightly different role this season with the Pacers as the starter, but it’s still hard to see him being a big contributor in assists compared to his contemporaries. Last season, he averaged just 4.1 dimes per 36 minutes, which was a career high. Hill will likely be picked in the later rounds of standard leagues, but expect the numbers of a combo guard, not a starting point guard.
Steve Nash, PG, LAL and Chauncey Billups, PG, LAC – The two veteran point guards who call Staples Center home have more in common than just their old age and their zip code. Both Nash (38 years old) and Billups (36 years old) are dreadful at stealing the ball from the opposition. Nash will get drafted in every league, while Billups will get drafted in the late rounds of some standard leagues and most deep leagues. They both have specific categories where they are way above average for where they get drafted, but neither player is likely to average much more than 0.5 steals per game.
Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI – Boozer is a steady mid-round option at the four. He offers points, rebounds, and a great field-goal percentage. But for a power forward who will start on a roster in most fantasy leagues this season, a career average of 0.4 blocks per game is pretty dismal. The Bulls don’t need him to block shots because they have Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, and if you draft Boozer, you’ll need to copy Chicago’s strategy and surround him with some big men who can protect the rim.
Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS – Rondo is an annual fantasy enigma in Roto leagues. He can win you assists (11.7 per game last season) and steals (1.8 per game), and he can send your team to last place in three-pointers (0.2 per game) and free-throw percentage (59.7 percent). If you grab Rondo, his deficiencies can be counteracted if you realize them and surround him with some sharp shooters. Just know that he’s slipping in your draft room for a reason.
John Wall, PG, WAS – Instead of working to improve his three-point shot after his rookie season, when he hoisted up 115 threes while connecting on just 29.6 percent of them, Wall simply opted to stop shooting the long ball. Last season, he made 3-of-42 from behind the arc, which is horrible for any NBA player, let alone a franchise point guard. With Bradley Beal, Jordan Crawford, and Martell Webster all expected to get their fair share of attempts from distance, it would be surprising if Wall contributes much of anything in this category when he returns from his knee injury around Thanksgiving.
Kyle Lowry, PG, TOR – Lowry really broke out as a solid fantasy point guard last season with the Rockets, but the one area where he didn’t turn heads was his shooting efficiency. Lowry attempted 10.9 shots per game and connected on just 40.9 percent of them in 2011-12. He was a 37.4 percent shooter from three-point range and an 86.4 percent shooter from the free-throw line, so it would seem like the tools are there for him to become a more consistent shooter overall, but we have yet to see him do it in a full season as a starter.
Dwight Howard, C, LAL and Blake Griffin, PF, LAC – These are perhaps the two most obvious examples of category killers in fantasy basketball. Howard (49.1 percent last season) could be a top-three pick in all formats if his free-throw shooting wasn’t such a joke. Griffin (52.1 percent) is equally as bad, but his inadequacies at the line make less sense, since he has shown the ability to make a 15-footer on occasion. A daring fantasy mind might team these two up and punt free-throw percentage, because if you end up with just one of them, it will be difficult to put together a strategy to finish in the top half of your league in this category.