Fantasy Basketball: Be Wary of Efficiency Statistics

Gordon Hayward has broken out in 2014, yet he's the second-worst player according to FG%I.
Gordon Hayward has broken out in 2014, yet he's the second-worst player according to FG%I.Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Daniel HudsonCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2014

Efficiency doesn't matter in fantasy basketball. In a recent article by ESPN's John Cregan, he contends that a useful metric called "field goal impact," or FG%I, could help shine light on players who convert a high percentage of threes in conjunction with good field-goal percentage. While interesting, these sorts of statistics shouldn't be taken too seriously.

For starters, most owners will simply look at field-goal percentage and three-point percentage individually. There's no need to meld the two together into a curiously invented stat.

Here are just a handful of players who rank in the bottom 20 of FG%I: John Wall, Evan Turner, Tim Duncan, Russell Westbrook and Brandon Jennings. The conversation should stop right here. Could Jennings improve his field-goal percentage? Absolutely. Should a healthy Westbrook take fewer three-pointers? Probably.

But what fantasy owner is going to pass on Duncan for Amir Johnson, the latter of which is in the top 10 in FG%I? These sorts of stats are hardly even good reference material, much less actionable suggestions.

If your team needs threes, go get threes. If your team needs field-goal percentage, go get field-goal percentage. If your team needs both, go get Marco Belinelli (available in 97 percent of ESPN leagues). This doesn't require advanced statistics that conclude Gordon Hayward, 2014 fantasy breakout, as the second-worst player based on a certain metric.

Anthony Tolliver is fifth in the NBA in three-point percentage and is available in 99.9 percent of ESPN leagues.
Anthony Tolliver is fifth in the NBA in three-point percentage and is available in 99.9 percent of ESPN leagues.Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

A follow-up article by Cregan highlighted "inefficient" players. Simply, it identified players who were negative in FG%I, free-throw percentage on the ESPN Player Rater and assist-to-turnover ratio on the Player Rater.

Again, let's start by listing a handful of the 15 players that scored negatives in all three: Josh Smith, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Michael Carter-Williams and Paul Millsap.

This is ludicrous! Essentially, these players are deemed "inefficient" because they make a low percentage of shots, take too many threes and/or turn the ball over frequently. But even a remotely knowledgeable fantasy owner can look at the career percentages of these players, realize these facts and plan accordingly.

In head-to-head leagues, the percentage statistics might be completely irrelevant for owners employing a strategy that targets the counting stats, like rebounds and assists (which are six of the standard eight that are scored), and disregards efficiency. Who cares? A perfectly designed team for this strategy will go 6-2 each week.

Roto owners certainly need to take more consideration of the broad spectrum of statistics, but even then, are they prepared to dump Millsap, who's having a top-20 year, simply because he's "inefficient"?

The most useful fantasy basketball strategy continues to be mixing your starting lineup with broad contributors and uber-specialists in key areas. Regular monitoring and maintenance trumps invented statistics dependent upon an irrelevant "efficiency" metric every day.

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