Last week, the focus of this column shifted from identifying the best available players to those who help in specific categories in order to address team needs. I highlighted methods of identifying needs beyond a quick glimpse at the standings and recognized players capable of helping in 3-pointers, rebounds, assists and steals.
This week it's field goal percentage, free throw percentage and blocks. First, though, let's examine some ways of identifying category-based helpers aside from sorting by leaders in the category for the season:
• If you are going to sort by the statistic, look at their performance over the past seven, past 15 and past 30 days in order to get a broader sense about recent trends and whether or not players are capable of sustaining performance in a category for an extended period of time. Simply looking by season averages limits the scope of your assessment.
• If there are no obvious standouts, take a look at per-minute stats, and if any players are blowing up a category when they're on the court in limited minutes. These players often earn more minutes as the season progresses.
• Targeting out-of-position stats is helpful. This means identifying guards who rebound or block shots, and power forwards or centers who can drain 3s or get assists. This allows your team to gain ground in categories from atypical roster spots for the stat.
• Percentages are tricky. Simply looking at a player's average is deceiving, since the real impact upon your roster comes from the combination of accuracy and frequency of attempts. And since players with high field goal and free throw attempts are typically the type of high-usage guys owned in most leagues, finding impactful waiver additions here is difficult. In general, I look for players to be attempting at least eight field goals or three free throws per game in order for them to affect the standings.
• Furthermore, with respect to field goal percentage, evaluating the merits of a player's high percentage is made easier by examining where they're getting their buckets. Hoopdata.com is spectacular, listing player's percentages and attempts at the rim, from 3 to 10 feet, 11 to 15 feet, 16 to 23 feet and on 3-pointers, and much more. If a player is getting most of his buckets close, it's more likely that his high percentages are sustainable. If he's shooting a high percentage on long twos, the toughest shot to consistently hit at a high percentage, then expect some regression.
Field Goal Percentage
Ed Davis, PF/C, Toronto Raptors (12.2 percent owned): Davis is a career 55.0 percent shooter and, with Andrea Bargnani sidelined indefinitely, he should be in line for more minutes and increased usage, as demonstrated by his 24 points and 12 boards on 11-for-13 shooting in 45 minutes Wednesday night. His stock is skyrocketing, so grab him now: He was owned in just 0.6 percent of leagues Tuesday. More than half of his career attempts have been at the rim, where he's finishing at a 76.1 percent clip this season, and he's also got some upside in rebounds, blocks and steals, where he's averaging 5.8, 0.7 and 0.6, respectively, in just 17.2 minutes per game. Davis also boasts a fantastic 19.7 Player Efficiency Rating, exhibiting the improvements he's made this year. He does his damage around the basket and has nice touch inside, which should allow him to be a significant helper in this category with his increased opportunity.
Jared Dudley, SG/SF, Phoenix Suns (8.3 percent owned): An unheralded statistic to get out of position is high field goal percentage from the guard position. Dudley is a career 47.4 percent shooter and is at 52.0 percent in December on 8.3 shots per game. He's taking fewer 2-point jumpers and more 3-pointers this season, a nice trend for fantasy, as well as making 75 percent of his shots at the rim. Even when he takes long jumpers, he's consistently efficient, as he finished with a 49.0 percent mark last season. It's rare to have a combination of high field goal percentage and 3-pointers made, but over the past 15 days Dudley is shooting 55.4 percent from the floor with 1.8 3s per game. He also played a team-high 43 minutes Wednesday, scoring 15 points on 7-for-14 shooting with nine boards, five assists and three steals, so his stock appears to be on the rise.
Enes Kanter, C, Utah Jazz (0.3 percent owned): Kanter is attempting just 5.3 shots per game, so his 53.4 percent clip doesn't help you tremendously. But this one is all about potential, and he exhibited what he can do if given more minutes in a recent start, scoring 18 points with eight rebounds in 35 minutes. He's a career 50.0 percent shooter and is attempting 56.6 percent of his shots at the rim this season, finishing with a 66.7 percent mark close to the basket. His ability to be efficient close has improved this year as the weight he shed this offseason allows him to get off the ground more quickly, an area of his game that hampered him as a rookie. It'll take extended injuries or a trade for him to get the shot, but he's one of the best speculative adds for this category in the league as he could have significant second-half impact if minutes open up for him to get buckets at the rim.
Free Throw Percentage
Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, Detroit Pistons (79.7 percent owned): Stuckey breaks my rule of highlighting only widely available players, but he's been dropped in some leagues and is one of the most impactful players in free throw percentage. Last season he was 16th most helpful overall on the Player Rater in free throws, as he shot 83.4 percent on 5.8 attempts per game. This stems from his ability to draw contract with the best with them as well as the fact he struggles to finish when he does, leading to regular trips to the charity stripe for two attempts. He doesn't provide the assists and 3s you want from a point guard, but he does this one thing very well, so if you're looking for a free throw jolt and he was dropped, add Stuckey now.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards (25.5 percent owned): Beal should be owned for a variety of reasons: consistent double-digit scoring, his contribution in 3-pointers, his ability to rebound and block shots from the shooting guard position. However, his unsung attribute is his high frequency and accuracy from the stripe. He's yet to be consistent with his attempts, as they seem to depend on how much of an attacking mentality he has game-to-game; in his past six games, he has two with six attempts and two with zero. But as he matures in that aspect I expect the attempts to go up and accuracy to remain excellent, and eventually he'll be one of the better contributors in the league in this category.
Martell Webster, SF, Washington Wizards (0.1 percent owned): His overall fantasy game is ugly, but he'll give you 3s and hit his free throws. He's nailing 82.9 percent of his free throws on 3.4 attempts per game over the past 30 days. He could see an uptick in attempts as he started his first game of the season Friday and is averaging 26.5 minutes this month compared to 21.4 in November.
Bismack Biyombo, PF/C, Charlotte Bobcats (12.4 percent owned): He's a dynamic shot-blocker due to his incredible springs and wingspan, evidenced by his career 1.8 blocks per game in 23.0 minutes. His minutes are on the rise, as he's played at least 29 minutes in each of the past five games including 39 minutes Wednesday, and he is averaging 2.0 blocks and 10.3 rebounds per game in four starts. If he can consistently get minutes in the upper-20s, you're looking at 8 or 9 boards and 2-plus blocks per game, which buoys your defensive stats and immediately makes your team competitive in the blocks department.
Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, Sacramento Kings (0.8 percent owned): Garcia has always been one of my favorites , but he can't stay healthy enough to consistently help fantasy teams. He flashed his impressive skill set in a recent stint with Tyreke Evans sidelined, averaging 14.0 points, 3.3 3s, 2.7 blocks and 1.3 steals in three starts. Evans returned Wednesday, but Garcia still started and swatted two shots in 22 minutes. His career 1.0 3s, 0.7 blocks and 0.8 steals illustrates his fantasy potential, as does the fact he averaged 1.4/0.8/0.9 two seasons ago. Last season his block and steal rates were career highs, so despite his age he's still posting excellent defensive statistics. As mentioned, blocks from guards are a prime out-of-position statistic, and Garcia is one of the best guard-eligible players in that area.
Ekpe Udoh, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks (0.1 percent owned): Like Biyombo, Udoh is a fantastic shot blocker, although he's not as good of a rebounder and doesn't have the opportunity for as many minutes with Larry Sanders, Samuel Dalembert, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, John Henson and the rest of the Bucks' crowded back court. Still, he has at least 2 blocks in six of the past 10 games, has averaged 1.5 blocks per game for his career in just 19.8 minutes and will help your team in swats despite his limited playing time.