August 23, 2019, 4:20 am
Points, rebounds, assists. Points, rebounds, assists. Triple-doubles. To many casual fantasy basketball players, I’ve just summed up all the stats that determine a player’s value.
“What’s that guy average?”
“20, five and seven!”
Since you’re here reading this, you no doubt also incorporate steals, blocks, threes and maybe even turnovers into your evaluations. You even take more than a passing glance at a player’s percentages. Paying mind to steals and blocks is a requisite to move past casual fantasy player territory. But how do you get an edge on seasoned fantasy veterans that know their stuff? One of the many ways is our focus here — understanding just how severley the percentage categories can negatively impact our teams’ stats and who the main culprits were last season. I’ll also include a few relevant rookies to watch.
Field goal percentage and free throw percentage have another component involved that makes the percentage itself misleading: Volume. You’re probably aware of this, but even the most savvy player may not know the majority of NBA players’ shot attempts per game.
Here’s an example: Who’s someone that shot terribly from the floor last year? Lonzo Ball did, right? Only 40.6 percent. Instead of that, we’d have been better off locking up a point guard that can shoot much better, like Kemba Walker or D’Angelo Russell (both 43.4 percent), don’t you think? Well, Ball’s percentage on 9.7 field goal attempts per game compared to Walker and Russell’s 20.5 and 18.7 attempts, respectively, was significantly less harmful to our team’s percentage.
So this is key. And since even the most addicted fantasy fans aren’t going to commit each player’s attempts per game to memory, it’s crucial to use a player’s value in that category as opposed to their percentage when determining how they’ll affect your team. I’ve compiled a list of last season’s twenty worst performers under consideration in standard leagues that had the most negative impact on each percentage category. The values that I used come from Basketball Monster’s 2018-19 player rater.
Many fantasy players more or less ignore these categories. Take advantage of that by targeting good percentages, and be wary not only of these players that can sink you in one category, but of those from the additional list I’ve provided at the end: The worst 15 players when combining negative values in BOTH percentages.
***To all the percentage punters out there: Here are many of the players whose values increase the most for you of course. But remember that you’re not just trying to collect all these players to be the worst at a category. You’re completely ignoring the category and focusing on everything else.
Free Throw Killers
1. Hassan Whiteside
2018-19: 44.9% on 3.4 Free Throw Attempts per game
Are you feeling lucky? Here’s Whiteside’s free throw percentage for the four prior years (with similar volume): 50.0, 65.0, 62.8, 70.3. It looked as thought he’d turned a corner at least twice before this most recent season. It’s always possible that the move to Portland causes a change. But in which direction?
2. Steven Adams
2018-19: 50.0% on 3.7 FTA per game
Adams’ free throw percentage has decreased from 61.1 three seasons ago to 55.9 to last season’s coin-flip.
3. Andre Drummond
2018-19: 59.0% on 5.2 FTA per game
Here’s a relative success story. Until recently, Drummond had never hit over 42 percent from the line for a season. He’s now gone for 60.5 and 59.0 percent. The 26-year-old could still have improvement coming, but it goes to show you how his current strides don’t save him from being a big negative.
4. Ben Simmons
2018-19: 60.0% on 5.4 FTA per game
Simmons increased his percentage from a rookie season mark of 56.0. I have confidence that this trend will continue. Keep in mind that it’s tougher to roster a point guard that doesn’t hit free throws at a high rate since the threshold is higher.
5. Rudy Gobert
2018-19: 63.6% on 6.4 FTA per game
Gobert dipped a bit from his 68.2 percent in the previous season. For a player that goes as early in drafts as he does, it’s worth thinking twice about taking on this potential free throw anchor.
6. LeBron James
2018-19: 66.5% on 7.6 FTA per game
This was the worst mark of James’ career. A jump back to something like his 73.1 percent in the previous season could easily happen after the longest offseason he’s ever had.
7. Russell Westbrook
2018-19: 65.6% on 6.2 FTA per game
This is still baffling. Westbrook was between 78 and 85 percent from the line in his first nine seasons (with the best mark coming in season nine). Then he went for 73.7 and now 65.6. I know there’s the theory that the shorter time limit between free throws is the cause, but I think there’s got to be a chance his rate gets back to respectability.
8. Willie Cauley-Stein
2018-19: 55.1% on 3.1 FTA per game
Cauley-Stein’s percentage has been dropping. He may have fewer attempts due to fewer minutes this season, at least.
9. Montrezl Harrell
2018-19: 64.3% on 5.0 FTA per game
It wasn’t a problem that he hit his freebies at a low percentage when he wasn’t playing much, but after last season’s breakout, Harrell should continue to be on the floor for significant minutes.
10. Brandon Ingram
2018-19: 67.5% on 5.6 FTA per game
Entering his age-22 season, there’s still hope that Ingram can get this number closer to league-average.
11. Clint Capela
2018-19: 63.6% on 3.9 FTA per game
Capela’s percentage has improved in each season of his career. It may not be able to get too much better at this point, but getting him out of punt territory would be great.
12. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2018-19: 72.9% on 9.5 FTA per game
It’s concerning to see a potential No. 1 pick here, but keep in mind that he was at 77.0 percent two seasons prior, which was roughly league average.
13. Luka Doncic
2018-19: 71.3% on 6.7 FTA per game
Luka hit between 72 and 79 percent from the line over four seasons with Real Madrid. Like Giannis, I think he’s likely to get closer to the league average this season.
14. Dennis Smith Jr.
2018-19: 63.5% on 2.9 FTA per game
After 71.5 percent at NC State and 69.4 percent in his rookie season, Smith continued to go the wrong way, even declining from his second-year days with the Mavs to those with the Knicks. I wouldn’t expect it to get worse. Hopefully a bounce-back is in the cards.
15. Markelle Fultz
2018-19: 56.8% on 1.9 FTA per game
Fultz only shot 37 free throws last season, but he did improve from 47.6 percent on a total of 21 free throws in his rookie season. I’m not going to pretend like any one of us has any clue as to what Fultz’s future holds from the free throw line. Anything beyond a lane violation for losing control of the ball might be considered a success. But he did hit 64.9 percent in college. We’re rooting for you, Markelle.
16. Marvin Bagley III
2018-19: 69.1% on 4.2 FTA per game
This number was an improvement on his 62.7 percent in college. It feels like a small increase is in the cards again this coming season in which he should find more consistency.
17. Alex Len
2018-19: 64.8% on 2.8 FTA per game
Len’s percentage from the line peaked at 72.8, but that’s decreased in each of the subsequent three seasons. There’s the potential for an increase in minutes this season, so the negative impact could be worse than ever.
18. Mitchell Robinson
2018-19: 60.0% on 2.0 FTA per game
Another low-volume free throw guy looking at an increase in minutes, Robinson will have to up his percentage to offset what should be an increased volume.
19. Lonzo Ball
2018-19: 41.7% on 1.0 FTA per game
With the worst percentage on the list, Ball’s impact could be worse this season, as it’s hard to imagine him only attempting one freebie per game again. He did hit 67.3 percent from the line in college, however. So I’d expect a decent jump with his move to New Orleans.
20. Kenneth Faried
2018-19: 64.6% on 2.7 FTA per game
Faried’s role — heck, his team — is unclear at the moment, so it’s tough to know how impactful his sub-par percentage will be.
64.0% on 6.2 FTA per game
66.5% on 5.9 FTA per game
66.3% on 5.1 FTA per game
Field Goal Killers
1. Kevin Knox
2018-19: 36.9% on 12.2 Field Goal Attempts per game
It’s mostly going to be guards that have a problem with this category, so it’s even tougher to take a chance on a forward that struggles this much from the floor. Knox shot 44.5 percent at Kentucky with a similar amount of 3-point attempts, so there’s reason for optimism.
2. Tim Hardaway Jr.
2018-19: 39.3% on 15.3 FGA per game
Hardaway had a career-high of 45.5 percent from the field a few years back. His 3-point attempts increased the following season and that’s helped to sink his field goal percentage these past two years. He’s likely looking at a reduced role this season, so I’d expect his volume to decrease and his efficiency to bounce back a bit.
3. Kevin Love
38.5% on 12.9 FGA per game
Another big that shoots threes, Love has never had a good field goal percentage for a frontcourt guy. He topped out at 47.0 percent nearly a decade ago and hit 45.8 percent just two seasons back. This past year was quite an outlier and I’d expect him to get back to respectability, but that’s assuming better health.
4. Isaiah Thomas
34.3% on 8.3 FGA per game
That’s two injury-plagued seasons below 38 percent from the floor in a row. Hopefully Thomas is a bit healthier this coming season with a shot at a minutes increase in Washington. That would likely bring better efficiency but also many more attempts than last season, so he’ll probably still be quite a detriment in this category.
5. Andrew Wiggins
41.2% on 16.6 FGA per game
Wiggins is coming off of three straight decreases in field goal percentage. His peak was at 45.9, so we know he’s capable of improvement. That might require a drop in usage, which could be helpful for the Wolves as well.
6. Russell Westbrook
42.8% on 20.2 FGA per game
Westbrook’s move to Houston should come with a slight decrease in attempts and it wouldn’t be surprising to find him able to take higher-percentage shots next to James Harden. I expect Russ to move down this list a bit.
7. Eric Gordon
40.9% on 13.8 FGA per game
Gordon’s rate has been very consistent for years. It’s probable that he’ll take a few less shots with Westbrook coming in, so he may not hurt quite as much here.
8. Trae Young
41.8% on 15.5 FGA per game
As he finished the season on a high note, Young’s field goal percentage was on the rise as well. I’d expect a small improvement this season.
9. Josh Richardson
41.2% on 14.1 FGA per game
Richardson leaves a situation where he led his team in field goal attempts per game to one in which he might be the fifth option. Look for a dip in attempts but a healthy increase in percentage as he’s been over 45 percent in two of his four seasons.
10. Donovan Mitchell
43.2% on 19.9 FGA per game
Even with the Jazz’s changes at point guard, Mitchell seems bound for a similar output. But he’s just entering his age-23 season, so an improvement wouldn’t be a surprise either.
11. Kemba Walker
43.4% on 20.5 FGA per game
Here’s an easy choice for a candidate to drop out of this list. With a higher-quality roster around him, Kemba should see better (and fewer) shots.
12. Dennis Schroder
41.4% on 14.0 FGA per game
Schroder has had a season in which he shot over 45 percent from the floor, so he’s got a shot to improve. It’ll be tough to guess how the new backcourt affects him, though.
13. Victor Oladipo
42.3% on 16.3 FGA per game
Oladipo’s 2017-18 breakout season’s 47.7 percent was definitely an outlier. And coming off of a significant injury, I wouldn’t expect an improvement here.
14. James Harden
44.2% on 24.5 FGA per game
In seven seasons in Houston, Harden’s field goal percentage has always been between 43.8 and 45.6. Such remarkably consistent numbers aren’t so bad when you consider how many threes he attempts (and makes). He’s in line for an increase in spot-up threes with Westbrook in town, so we could see a bit of a jump in percentage this season.
15. Luka Doncic
42.6% on 16.5 FGA per game
52.6, 46.0, 46.3. Those are Doncic’s numbers over his previous three seasons in Spain. It stands to reason that his experience will boost that rate up a bit this year.
16. Trevor Ariza
39.9% on 10.7 FGA per game
That’s five years under 42 percent from the floor for Ariza. His attempts will decrease a bit, but a sizable bump in percentage isn’t likely.
17. Paul George
43.8% on 21.0 FGA per game
If he can get 21 shots per game next to Westbrook, he can probably get that next to Kawhi Leonard and his new low-usage teammates. More of the same is probably in line for his field goal percentage.
18. Will Barton
40.2% on 10.7 FGA per game
Barton should bounce back after an injury-plagued season. Don’t expect him to be as much of a killer this year.
19. D’Angelo Russell
43.4% on 18.7 FGA per game
This was a career-high mark for Russell. Not bad for a career-high number of attempts. Now with Golden State, one would expect another incremental step.
20. Lou Williams
42.5% on 15.2 FGA per game
Entering his age-33 season with two All-NBA players coming in, this looks like another guy to see a drop in usage potentially paired with an increase in quality of attempts.
42.3% on 12.7 FGA per game
35.6% on 12.0 FGA per game
41.5% on 7.5 FGA per game
1. Russell Westbrook
2. Isaiah Thomas
3. Luka Doncic
4. Andrew Wiggins
5. Kevin Knox
6. Dennis Smith Jr.
7. Lonzo Ball
8. Victor Oladipo
9. Markelle Fultz
10. Josh Jackson
11. Hassan Whiteside
12. Andre Drummond
13. Caris LeVert
14. Justise Winslow
15. LeBron James