Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2013 [Print without images]

Thursday, January 31, 2013
Help in assists, points, blocks

By Josh Whitling
Special to ESPN.com

As we continue examining players whose primary contributions come in specific categories, it's important to assess how to analyze team needs and the impact that new additions will have upon your roster. If you're behind in a category, it's crucial to assess whether adding a one-category wonder is worth the hit you'll take in other areas. If you're substantially behind in blocks, but entrenched in heated races in other categories, for example, adding a blocks specialist might not be as beneficial as adding somebody with above-average block totals (say, 0.8 per game) who contributes elsewhere. Or, a player with strong percentages and low turnovers who averages three assists per game might be more valuable to you than a five-assist player in a nine-category roto league in which you're last in assists but can't afford to sacrifice percentages and turnovers.

A helpful way to understand the impact of player contributions in specific categories is by comprehending what the average player in your league produces in each area. To do this, your league's "players" page is a valuable tool. Here's how:

Click "Players" on your league page. Then click "On Rosters" under "availability," click "All."

Sort by the specific category and find the player in the middle. For 10-team, 13-man roster leagues, this is the 65th-ranked player on a roster in a specific category. This number will provide your league's median production in the category, and an idea about the type of impact future additions will have compared to your league standards.

Here is the average median statistical contribution of several leagues in which I participate, both roto and head-to-head formats. This is just a baseline. To get an accurate idea of your statistical averages, you must do this for your own league. The numbers will fluctuate based upon the league's competitiveness and settings.

Here are some widely available options for specific categories that can help make up for your team's areas of deficiency:

Assists

Bayless
Bayless

Jerryd Bayless, PG/SG, Memphis Grizzlies (24.6 percent owned): Many expected Bayless to be one of the best backup point guards in the league, in a fantasy sense, because of his potent offensive game and his ability to play on or off the ball. But while his ability to score fits in nicely with what Memphis needs from a backup at both guard slots, his historically middling defense doesn't jell with what the Grizzlies typically look for in their players. He's adjusting well, though, and earning more playing time, which will result in a nice combination of assists, 3s, steals and points. He's playing 22.4 minutes per game in January, compared to 16.6 in December. Additionally, Bayless has posted six or more assists four times this month after doing it twice previously this season, and he has at least five dimes in four of his past five games. He's scored in double figures in four straight games after doing so three times previously this season. Things are looking up for Bayless, who has talent and opportunity and seems to finally be adjusting to his new digs.

Barbosa
Barbosa

Leandro Barbosa, SG, Boston Celtics (0.4 percent owned): "Who replaces Rondo in Boston?" was among the most common utterances this weekend, and for good reason. The problem is that there isn't a clear answer because there isn't another true point guard on Boston's roster. Unfortunately, four combo guards doesn't equal one point guard, so assists and offensive production should be spread among Avery Bradley, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa. I see Terry having the most overall value, especially if he can get the pick-and-pop game clicking with Kevin Garnett. But among the rest, Barbosa's 5.1 assists per-48 minutes dwarfs Lee's 2.9 and Bradley's paltry 1.8. Barbosa has been a spark plug for the Celtics and distributes effectively, with his assist rate of 18.74 (rate of assists against possessions used) the highest mark since his rookie season, according to hoopdata.com. With a bump in minutes, Barbosa could viably average 11 to 14 points, 3 to 4 assists and about 1.5 3-pointers per game, numbers worth a roster spot in most formats.

Blocks

Gibson
Gibson

Taj Gibson, PF/C, Chicago Bulls (1.4 percent owned): Anytime I've highlighted blocks options over the past several years, Gibson has always been there, as he's consistently one of the best shot-blockers in the league on a per-minute basis. Despite his long-term contract with the Bulls and his importance to the team (his +2.7 plus/minus ranks third on the team), he simply doesn't get as many minutes as he deserves with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah around. His 3.14 blocks per-48 minutes this season rank 15th in the league, and his 1.9 blocks per game in January rank 13th overall. Boozer missed Wednesday's contest and is day-to-day with a hamstring injury, which could bode well for Gibson's value, as he scored 14 points with nine rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes with Boozer on the bench. Both Boozer and his hamstrings are notoriously fickle when it comes to injuries, so feel free to add Gibson now if you want dependable swats with injury-based upside.

Haywood
Haywood

Brendan Haywood, C, Charlotte Bobcats (0.1 percent owned): Despite his age and low ceiling, Haywood is a legitimate defensive backup center, and he has benefited from Byron Mullens' absence, averaging 20.4 minutes per game with 1.6 blocks, 4.3 rebounds and 0.6 steals per game over the past 30 days. Only 16 players have 1.6 or more blocks per game in that span, so despite his shortcomings elsewhere, Haywood would be the second-best shot-blocker on most fantasy teams. He's an example of a player worth adding only if you can afford a one-category helper. If you can deal with his lack of production elsewhere, he's a reliable source of swats.

Johnson
Johnson

James Johnson, SF/PF, Sacramento Kings (0.1 percent owned): Johnson possesses a special blend of toughness and athleticism, with the ability to effectively defend the 3 or 4, making him valuable to a Kings roster riddled with defensive issues. But much like Gibson, Johnson's lack of minutes is problematic. He flashes a dazzling fantasy skill set and provides added value with his ability to accrue blocks from the small forward position. Among small forward-eligible players, he ranks second in the league with 1.3 blocks per game over the past 30 days, behind only Josh Smith. The fact that those 1.3 blocks come in just 15.7 minutes per game is both frustrating and tantalizing, as it's wild to imagine the type of stats he'd put up with 30-plus minutes per game on a nightly basis. The only stat you can consistently depend on from Johnson is blocks, although they come from an atypical position for that category if you start him at small forward. Like Gibson, however, there's substantial overall upside here if he's able to get more PT, so if you want a potential lottery ticket down the stretch and desperately need blocks now, Johnson is an intriguing option.

Points

Beasley
Beasley

Michael Beasley, SF/PF, Phoenix Suns (26.7 percent owned): Beasley is one of my least favorite fantasy players of the past decade, due to the fact that he can't consistently provide value in any category other than scoring. On top of that, his advanced statistics have declined across the board this season, as he's posting worse numbers in true shooting percentage, player efficiency rating, total rebounding rate and field goal percentage in every area on the court from the rim to the 3-point line. But despite his flaws, Beasley gets buckets and has played well under coach Lindsey Hunter, averaging 18.2 points on 53.4 percent shooting since the coaching change. If all you need is points, Beasley is one of the only widely available players who could conceivably average 20 per game going forward, so if you can stomach the rest of his stats, he's an option for those in search of scoring.

Young
Young

Nick Young, SG, Philadelphia 76ers (8.2 percent owned): Young lacks a well-rounded fantasy game, as he's a nonefficient scorer capable of providing points and 3s but not much else. But points are tricky to find on the waiver wire: Of the 107 players averaging at least 12.1 points per game over the past 30 days, Young is the only one owned in fewer than 10 percent of leagues, and one of four owned in fewer than 50 percent of leagues (the others are Alan Anderson, Randy Foye and J.J. Barea, all valid options if you need points). Young is benefiting from Jason Richardson's injury, averaging 16.6 points with 2.2 3s over the past five games. Young's short-term value has increased, and that should translate into a bump in his long-term value as well, as this productive stretch should earn him more run when Richardson returns. Young's defensive ability is lopsided -- he's effective in isolation and poor with regards to team defense -- but he's not as bad overall as his reputation dictates, and he should be able to consistently provide double-digit scoring with healthy 3-point totals for teams in need of a scoring punch.