Fantasy Basketball Working the Wire: Playing the Percentages

Will OvertonCorrespondent IJanuary 15, 2011

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 10:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot during the NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers at US Airways Center on December 10, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Trail Blazers defeated the Suns 101-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Some of the more frustrating statistics in fantasy basketball are the percentage based ones. Sometimes it feels impossible to make up any ground in these categories and once people get behind in them they typically just write them off and work on gaining ground elsewhere as if you can’t improve on your percentages. It’s not as easy to make up ground in your two percentage categories, but if you work at it while everyone else is ignoring it you have a chance to get a big boost in the standings. Last year the closest race in the standings in my league was FG percentage and that was ultimately what the league came down to, so don’t just ignore them.

If you are lacking in either FG percentage or FT percentage, the time to make adjustments is now. Improving on percentage can sometimes be a bit of a slower process because there is so much give and take. What a 10 for 15 night from Dwight Howard does a two for 14 night from Gilbert Arenas can completely undo. So if you are going to make a push in the percentage categories you don’t want to wait until the end of the year to do it.

The next thing you need to know is that when looking at adding high percentage guys to your team, don’t just look at the actual percentage itself. If a certain player shoots 88 percent from the free throw line, but only gets to the line for two attempts per game, then you are going to be making up ground incredibly slow. Same thing with field goals, look for guys who shoot enough shots and free throws to actually make a difference for you.

In this waiver report I am going to lay out five guys you should consider adding to boost your percentages. In addition I am going to highlight three more players to consider trading for whose percentage value might be going unnoticed by another owner.


Waiver Wire Pickups

Ramon Sessions: At some point somebody on the Cleveland Cavaliers is going to have to step it up. And for as promising as guys like Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga are, Sessions is more proven and more ready to step up and take on a scoring role on this team. Sessions' season shooting percentage isn’t overly appealing at 43 percent, but in the nine games played since Christmas Sessions is shooting over 50 percent from the field. Meanwhile he is an 81 percent free throw shooter and he averages over four attempts per game which is significant enough to make an impact. He is available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues and 75 percent of Yahoo ones. He might not be your first choice, but if you play in a deeper league, he can lend some help in getting those percentages up.

Ty Lawson: He isn’t getting as many shots coming off the bench as he was as a starter while Chauncey Billups was hurt, but Billups could be on his way out of town too. And even if that deal doesn’t happen, Lawson can help you in these categories. The Nuggets guard shot over 50 percent from the field last year and currently stands at 49 percent this season. He’s only sporting a 72 percent free throw mark, but in December and January that’s 81 percent and that’s much closer to where he should be. Even coming off the bench Lawson should easily average eight field goal attempts and three free throws a night with the occasional big game to give a little extra boost. He’s available in a ton of leagues and besides the percentages, if Billups does get moved, Lawson is a must own. Why not gamble and try and beat people to the punch?

Brandon Bass: He’s been a pleasant surprise to the Orlando Magic this year and while he isn’t owned in many leagues, he’s been a pretty nice surprise to his owners. He averages double-digit points, grabs a handful of rebounds and is an excellent percentage player. So far this season Bass is shooting 52 percent from the field and 84 percent from the charity stripe, not bad for a big man. He’s surrounded by injury concerns right now, but he seems to be determined to play through the pain and it doesn’t seem to have slowed him down too much recently. He doesn’t take a bunch of shots or free throws, but any contribution you can get like this from a power forward is one you take, especially off the waiver wire.

Carl Landry: The Kings can’t seem to make up their mind what they want in the frontcourt, but when given the chance to play Landry has played well. Currently Landry is shooting just over 48 percent from the field and 72 percent from the free throw line, but both number could easily go up. In fact over the last 30 days he’s hit 51 percent of his shots and 80 percent of his free throws. I can’t promise he’ll get 30 minutes every night, his minutes are hit and miss, but he’ll average right around the 25–28 mark and should still take enough shots and free throws to make a difference. He’s currently available in over half of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

Grant Hill: I realize he has a sprained knee right now, but I cannot understand why his owner percentages have dropped under 70 percent on ESPN and Yahoo. He had a couple rough games before the injury but for the season he’s done far better than people would have expected. He’s an aging player whose better days are behind him, but don’t be so foolish as to think he can’t still help your fantasy team. So far this year Hill is shooting 51 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free throw line. He’s also taking over 10 shots and nearly four free throws per game. Hill is very much still capable of helping you out and if someone in your league overreacted and dropped him then reap the benefits of their mistake.


Trade Market Targets

Ray Allen: Because Allen is so well known as a three point specialist I think people often assume he doesn’t have a very good FG percentage, but that’s just not true. Allen is a career 45 percent shooter, but the last two seasons he has been right around 48 percent and so far this year he’s over 50 percent. Allen does take a lot of threes, but he takes good threes and he makes a lot of them. And while he's not getting to the line a ton, he remains one of the best free throw shooters in the game. If people don’t appreciate what Allen brings to the table then you should be offering to take him off their hands for them.

D.J. Augustin: He’s only shooting 44 percent for the season, but in the eight games since Paul Silas took over as coach he has shot over 49 percent from the field which is a nice match to go with his 90 percent free throw shooting. Sometimes a little change is all you need and it seems to have done a lot of good for Augustin who is thriving in Silas’ system. If the other owners in your league aren’t paying as much attention as you then you could steal Augustin from someone by flaunting mediocre overall numbers, while not letting them in on how he’s done with the new boss.

David West: One of the best free throw shooting big men West’s percentage is actually down from a career 84 percent to 77 percent so far. Though it is rising after an odd off month in November where he only shot 68 percent. West also manages to get himself to the line 4-5 times per game which helps. He’s also at 51 percent from the field and with Chris Paul back is thriving as the team’s No. 1 scorer, taking 14-15 shots per game.  West is a definite trade target for those seeking percentage boosts as he remains one of the league’s best kept secrets.

What do you think about the percentage categories? Are you a boom or bust guy or do you work to improve your percentages?  Any of these guys particularly appealing to you in terms of percentage boosts? As always, I’d love to hear your comments, questions or points of argument.

For more fantasy basketball news and notes check me out at Rotoprofessor Basketball