Percentage Killers — Who’s Shooting Can You Avoid Or Exploit

Josh Smith

This shot probably missed

I got into a interesting discussion on the fantasy basketball subreddit the other day, regarding the benefits or hindrances of the fantasy basketball percentages categories. It was a discourse over whether or not you should ignore the percentage categories in head to head leagues. Honestly, I can see both sides.

The thought process behind ignoring these categories is that in head to head leagues, because the sample size is so small on a weekly basis, there is more room for variation, meaning that even if you build what looks like a strong percentage team, a couple of bad games can throw you out in the category. It’s a reasonable theory, but there is also the flip side. In a head to head weekly matchup, because there are so few games, an injury or short schedule, can leave you well short in the games played area, impacting your ability to compete in the counting stats. Because the percentages are ratios, they are not effected by games played and allow you to compete in those categories regardless of your game total.

Irrespective of your opinion on percentages in head to head leagues, you ignore them at your peril in roto leagues. It’s just too hard to punt a percentage category in rotisserie formats and come out on top.

The other thing to pay attention to with percentages, is that not all percentages are created equal. Let’s look at the elite free throw shooters as an example.

James Harden shot 86.6 percent on his free throws last season.

Dirk Nowitzki shot 89.9 percent on his free throws.

Basic analysis would have you think that Dirk was the better contributor in the free throw percentage, but that is not the case. Because Harden went to the line 9.1 times a game compared with Dirk’s 4.7, Harden had a bigger impact on the free throw percentage category. Volume is a key factor, but it is also balanced with efficiency, which makes these categories so tantalising

So, bearing that in mind, let’s look at the players who have their overall value impacted the most by the percentage categories. So, if you choose to punt those categories, you can get an idea of which players get a bump in value, or conversely, which players to avoid if you are building your team around efficiency.

These rankings are based on performance in both the field goal and free throw percentage categories, and the list starts from the player with the largest negative impact in those categories.

Ranking Name FG% FT%
 1 Josh Smith, Detroit 41.9% 53.2%
 2 Dwight Howard, Houston 59.1% 54.7%
 3 Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 40.5% 70.3%
 4 Brandon Jennings, Detroit 37.3% 75.1%
 5 Tony Wroten, Philadelphia 42.7% 64.1%
 6 Jeff Taylor, Charlotte 37.6% 55.3%
 7 J.J. Hickson, Denver 50.8% 51.7%
 8 Rajon Rondo, Boston 40.3% 62.7%
 9 Xavier Henry, Lakers 41.7% 65.5%
 10 DeAndre Jordan, Clippers 67.6% 42.8%

Poor percentages aren’t exclusive to guards or big men and its interesting to see that despite their massive field goal percentages, both Howard and Jordan still manage to make it onto the list. Obviously, if you were just punting free throw percentage, it’d be a different story, but this is for an overall percentage punt.

So, if you’re going down the route of ignoring percentages, these guys are great, possibly undervalued targets. With the exception of Wroten, Taylor, and Henry, these players are great stat accumulators and would have a big value boost if this is your strategy.

What about the flip side? The guys who provide the most value via the percentage categories.

Ranking Name FG% FT%
1 Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City 50.3% 87.3%
2 Brook Lopez, Brooklyn 56.3% 81.7%
3 LeBron James, Miami 56.7% 75.0%
4 Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas 49.7% 89.9%
5 James Harden, Houston 45.6% 86.6%
6 Brandan Wright, Dallas 67.7% 72.6%
7 Al Horford, Atlanta 56.7% 68.2%
8 Anthony Davis, New Orleans 51.9% 79.1%
9 Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City 53.6% 78.4%
10 Robin Lopez, Portland 55.1% 81.8%

Again, there’s not too many surprises, with top 10 staples Durant, James, Harden, Davis and Nowitzki making an appearance. What this list also shows, is the value a good free throw shooting big man can have. It’s what makes Brook Lopez, despite his injuries, an elite fantasy option and helps his twin brother, Robin’s ascendency last season. If you are punting these percentages, should you mark these guys down? Obviously, Durant, LeBron, Davis and Harden are all no-brainer first round picks no matter the format, but guys like the Lopez twins, Ibaka and Nowitzki derive a lot fo their value from the percentages, so they need to be knocked down a little depending on your strategy.

One other thing to take into account specifically regarding field goal percentage is that it is an all encompassing shooting stat. In saying that, I mean it takes into account two point shots and three point shots. But, obviously in fantasy, with points and three-pointers being their own individual categories, there can be some trade off for a lower field goal percentage, if its leading to a contribution in those other two categories. Luckily, there is a stat ready made to evaluate these things — effective field goal percentage or eFG%.

Effective field goal percentage is calculated as follows

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA

Now, by looking at this number and the volume of shots taken, we can see just who was the most impactful field goal shooter, with that added bonus of adding three-pointers. Here are the top 10 contributors in the eFG% category.

Ranking Name eFG% FGA
1 LeBron James, Miami 61.0% 17.6
2 Andre Drummond, Detroit 62.3% 9.5
3 DeAndre Jordan, Clippers 67.6% 6.3
4 Kyle Korver, Atlanta 62.6% 8.6
5 Brandan Wright, Dallas 67.7% 5.7
6 Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City 56.0% 20.8
7 Stephen Curry, Golden State 56.6% 17.7
8 Dwight Howard, Houston 59.3% 11.3
9 Al Horford, Atlanta 57.1% 14.5
10 Goran Dragic, Phoenix 56.1% 14.4

As you can tell, it’s a combination of efficiency and volume that leads to the most impact as well as a mix of big men and long range bombers.

The bottom 10 guys is a different kettle of fish. This shows guys who hurt your field goal percentage, but don’t make up for that by hitting three-pointers and if you are looking at focusing a team on field goal percentage, these guys are must avoid.

Ranking Name eFG% FGA
1 Derrick Rose, Chicago 40.2% 16.4
2 Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 43.1% 15.1
3 Kemba Walker, Charlotte 44.1% 15.7
4 LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland 45.9% 20.6
5 DeMar DeRozan, Toronto 45.2% 17.8
6 Josh Smith, Detroit 44.8% 16.0
7 Brandon Jennings, Detroit 44.1% 14.2
8 Trey Burke, Utah 44.2% 12.8
9 Rajon Rondo, Boston 44.0% 11.7
10 Kobe Bryant, Lakers 44.5% 12.2

The biggest anomaly on this list is probably Aldridge, who as a big man, really impacts your field goal percentage negatively. What this list also does, is cement my thoughts that Smith and Jennings are horrible, horrible basketball players. Rose and Bryant can be excused, playing so few games after returning from an injury.

Remember though, no matter how you treat percentages, they form a large part of fantasy scoring so can’t be disregarded totally, even if you are punting them as a category, as your other league mates may not have the same thought and value the players differently.

One thought on “Percentage Killers — Who’s Shooting Can You Avoid Or Exploit

  1. I am in an auction draft where I got Jordan ($13). The lg is h2h, pts, 15-man roster, 14-tm, dynasty lg….and like you said his ft is awful, yet doesn’t go to line a lot so I think I can compensate for that as auction progresses …I always look to build a balanced team so I don’t tend to punt cats…

    This is some great insight into players to look out for…

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