The NBA season is underway and in full throttle. As a fan, I must admit that this year’s happenings thus far have left me rather baffled, yet also entertained. The main headlines are glaring and unexpected at this point of the season. With the Cavs struggling much more than expected early on, the Griz in first place in the West, and the Sixers rapidly trending towards unchartered waters of historically bad franchises, it’s tough to not be at least mildly amused.
However, these are not headlines that we’re used to seeing. There’s something different about the NBA this season that draws a fascination from fans like myself. Maybe it’s the fact that the top two teams in the Eastern Conference (Toronto and Washington) are being led by emerging young superstar point guards. Or how about the fact that young squads like the Kings and Pelicans are in the mix for a potential playoff spot this year? Whichever way you slice it, it’s very transparent to the objective NBA fan that different mixes of young athletic talent make sense for some teams (Phoenix) but not others (my Celtics…).
The NBA has certainly drawn more intrigue from a fantasy perspective because of how players can take advantage of opportunity when it strikes (Tony Wroten) or become more effective when used in the right role (Tyreke Evans). It’s tough to measure a player’s value because of the different metrics used. An NBA coach will value a good close out by a defender on his team while a fantasy owner will just be upset he didn’t get the rebound. However, for the sake of today’s article, we’ll be looking through my eyes as a fantasy owner. That being said, let’s dive into today’s topic: why some bad shooters should be given a chance.
Let’s look at some scenarios where it can be deemed acceptable to roll with guys that like to shoot around six for 15 (or worse) consistently. There are two guys on my current fantasy roster that fit the bill perfectly for this article: Josh Smith and O.J. Mayo. Both have different styles of play and are involved in different team dynamics, but they do have one thing in common: dreadful shooting percentages. My boy J-Smoove is coming in hot with a shooting percentage of 38% this year while Mayo is shooting at a 39% clip. Why keep them you ask? For different reasons.
Let’s start with Josh Smith. This talented guy somehow finds a way to suck night in and night out. He only averages 13 PPG while taking close to 15 shots per contest. Such terrible field goal percentages have always been a turn off for most fantasy investors. I am not one of them. I am a big believer in what people like to call next-level statistics. Take this particular case. People place so much emphasis on Smith’s field goal percentage that they tend to neglect everything else he brings to the table. He is a very valuable commodity due to his ability to contribute in virtually every fantasy category. He is good for around seven boards, five assists, a block and a steal per game. Throw in the added bonus of a three every two games for a power forward and you have a better look at why he is often ranked higher than people would have guessed on fantasy lists.
Smith’s all-around game is surprisingly consistent, especially considering how bad the Pistons have been playing this season. In a fantasy league where each category is a win, I will no doubt bite the bullet on his field percentage and turnovers for his multi-category contributions.
Let’s switch gears now. Mr. Mayo lacks the defensive consistency that Smith brings every night and doesn’t really do too much other than score in the high teens on a good night. Now the question comes up again. Why keep him? Unlike Smith, Mayo has had to really earn his minutes this year. A couple of good scoring performances saw him move to a starting role recently, which has also gifted him, and fantasy owners, with more minutes on the floor.
One of the underrated metrics in fantasy basketball is the effect of a team system or rotation on a player’s performance. The increase in minutes due to the reliance on Mayo’s ability to score the basketball gives him the opportunity to contribute more heavily across the board. There are already scorers in the Bucks lineup around Mayo and he will need to find other ways to keep his starting role and increased usage moving forward in the season. His minutes and role are not guarantees by any means, but the potential that comes with increased minutes is intriguing enough for me not to drop him like other expendable players who barely average double digit points. With the fantasy football playoffs coming up, let’s make analogy. We see this every week with less skilled running backs; they get a heavy volume of touches on a weekly basis when it comes to carries, targets, or both, which is why fantasy owners take a gamble on them. I think of Mayo’s situation the same way. He is obviously more likely to accumulate more categorical stats for my team if he is on the floor more. He is one player in my opinion who will keep that starting role if he is able to display and improve his overall value in fantasy and actual performance with the bump in playing time.
There you have it. Two vastly different justifications for why some bad shooters can be given a chance in the fantasy basketball world. Who knows? In two weeks I could be singing a different tune but that is just the nature of the NBA, which is why is why I find it so addicting. I hope this sheds some light on your fantasy basketball woes and go Celtics.