I want to start this week off by saying that Brook Lopez not making the All-Star team is some bullcrap. With that off my chest, below are this week’s suggestions of players to pluck from the waiver wire. Two of them are repeats from last week because y’all just aren’t listening. Help me, help you!
Tiago Splitter, C, San Antonio Spurs (36% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
I’ve always been a big fan of Tiago Splitter, who is on a solid run of eight straight games putting double figures in the scoring column while shooting 70.6 percent from the floor. That shiz cray! In the past week (four games), he averaged 17.0 points and 8.8 boards in 32 minutes. As a starter this season (23 games), which he has been for the past month, Splitter is averaging 11.5 points, 59.5 FG% (7.3 FGA), 76.2 FT% (3.7 FTA), 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, a steal and block in a mere 27 minutes. Things are looking up for the Brazilian, so add him if you have a roster spot in all leagues.
Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, Houston Rockets (29%)
Delfino is probably the easiest add amongst this group because he’s been getting consistent minutes (about 25) since the beginning of the season. He’s having a very good January (13 games), averaging 12.8 points on 45.0 percent shooting from the floor and 80.0 percent from the stripe, 2.8 treys, 2.8 rebounds, 2.1 dimes and 1.2 steals in 27 minutes. If he’s available in your league and you like across the board contributions, breathe easy adding Delfino.
Tyler Zeller, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers (24%)
Since Anderson Varejao is out of the season and the Cavs pretty much stink, Zeller is going to get a lot of playing time. In the past week (two games), he averaged 9.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.0 rejections. But he also shot 36.4 percent from the field while chucking up 11.0 shots per. The offense will come in time, but the thing to like about Zeller is how active he is and how that translates to board and block production. He has a high basketball IQ and will figure it out. If you have a need for rebounds and swats, grab him in any sized league.
Earl Clark, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (22%)
Things must be really bad in Lala Land when Clark is averaging 37 minutes a game, which he’s done in the past week (three games). He’s kept up with his solid play from earlier this month and in the past week, averaged a double-double (12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds) while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor while taking a dozen shots. Wait, Kobe is allowing his teammates to get double-digit shot attempts? Anyway, as long as Clark keeps starting and/or getting starter minutes, he’s kind of convinced me and should be added in standard leagues. And if Pau Gasol does get traded, you’ll reap the benefits with this add now.
Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls (6%)
Now, I’m not saying that Butler needs to be an instant add, but he should be on the radar in deep leagues. He’s filled in admirably for an injured Luol Deng. In the past week (four games), he averaged 14.8 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the deck (10.5 FGA) and 95.0 percent from the freebie line (5.0 FTA), 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals. Deng looks to be out tonight, but will naturally come back at some point. If anything, Butler put himself on the radar for more PT.
Dante Cunningham, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves (5%)
Cunningham is an interesting deep-league add because while his shooting kind of stinks (36.8 percent in seven games as a starter this season and 39.5 percent in 11 January games), he’s at least getting his shots up (10.9 FGA as a starter and 10.4 FGA in January). As a starter, he’s averaging 8.4 points and 9.0 points in January. A shot falls here and there, the points go up. Last week (two games), Cunningham shot 59.1 percent from the floor (11.0 FGA) and averaged 13.5 points. See what I mean? And the 29 minutes per game is solid … until Kevin Love comes back that is.
And the Answer Is: Josh Whitling
TBJ: How important are advanced metrics in fantasy basketball?
Whitling: Fantasy hoops is all about statistics – very specific and traditional statistics– which measure a player’s fantasy value. But when a player’s stats are anomalous compared to his career norms, if he’s overperforming or underperforming, it is beneficial to use advanced statistics to help explain what shows up in the box score. Based on these, we can make inferences about what to expect from the player going forward.
Field goal percentage is one of the basic statistics most easily-analyzed by using more specific, advanced shooting stats. Hoopdata.com is the Mecca for breaking down player shooting, because it tells us where players are shooting from the floor, how often, and how effectively they’re converting. Knowing if a player is getting his points at the rim or on long two-pointers helps assess the validity of his field goal percentage.
Let’s examine a player whose shooting is discrepant from his career averages to see if we can glean some insight about why, as well as what to expect in the future based on advanced statistics:
Ty Lawson: He had an average draft position of 19.2 in ESPN leagues after finishing 19th on the player rater last season, largely due to his 48.8 percent shooting from the floor and 82.4 percent from the stripe. But this season his field goal percentage has dropped to 42.3 percent, the primary reason he’s fallen to 73rd on the player rater, especially considering his assists and steals are actually up. Taking a look at a breakdown of his shooting statistics draws a clear picture of what’s awry with Lawson.
Lawson is once again shooting over 60 percent at the rim, and actually taking more shots inside than last season, typically a positive sign for field goal percentage. But his jumper is askew across the board – he’s shooting 21.9 percent worse from 3-9 feet, 16.8 percent worse from 10-16 feet, 7.0 percent worse from 16-23 feet and 2.1 percent worse from beyond the arc. His true shooting has dropped to 49.7 percent this despite being near 60 in each of his previous seasons, so I’d expect that to regress back toward his career mean. In Lawson’s case, his jumper was broken for the first month or so, but he’s already improving, and usually a player’s jump-shooting statistics inch toward their career norms as the season progresses. Furthermore, most of his troubles have been on short and mid-range jumpers between 3-16 feet, which should self-correct more naturally than long twos or 3-pointers. Thus, advanced shooting stats indicate Lawson is a nice buy low, as evidenced by his already-improved shooting in January. He’s at 47.3 percent from the field and ranks 48th on the 15-day player rater.
As far as other advanced stats are concerned, plus/minus rankings for individual players as well as 5-man units (available on 82games.com) can be indicative of playing time moving forward for more marginal players. Per-48 minute stats help us here, too, as does player efficiency rating. Of course, there are certain factors that can’t be quantified statistically – a player’s age, conditioning, off-court issues, relationship with coach, compatibility with teammates – which also affect player statistics, and I monitor these issues by reading material by writers close to the team to get insight. When it comes down to it, though, there’s almost always a reason statistical outliers exist, and oftentimes the deeper, more advanced statistics provide the best explanation as to why.
Number of Team Games in Week 14 (1/28-2/3)
Four Games: CHI, DET, GSW, LAL, MIL, NOR, ORL, SAC, TOR, UTA, WAS
Three Games: BKN, BOS, CHA, CLE, DAL, DEN, HOU, IND, LAC, MEM, MIA, MIN, NYK, PHI, PHO, POR
Two Games: ATL, OKC, SAS
Dennis Velasco is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and can be followed on Twitter (@dv140). Feel free tweet him with your fantasy hoops questions.