There are as many draft strategies out there as Lindsay Lohan court appearances, but the one I’ve grown particularly fond of recently is drafting for percentages. The tough thing about this strategy is that it requires the ability focus in on a particular set of players during and after a draft and completely ignore others, but I swear it seems to work for me more than any other strategy I’ve tried.
Now I’ve discussed effective percentages what seems like ad nauseum on GMTR, but it’s the concept of adjusting a player’s shooting percentages by the number of shots that they take compared to league average. This allows an apple-to-apples comparison between players by imagining what would happen if they all took the same number of shots.
Kevin Durant may have shot 88% from the line last season, but since he took 8.7 free throws a game, it’s the fantasy equivalent of him hitting 100% of his free throws if he only took the league average number. Similarly, a guy like Steve Nash shoots a higher percentage from the line than Durant, but has less of an overall effect on a fantasy team since he only averages about 3 free throws a game.
Confusing? Maybe. But here is a list of effective percentages for the 2010-11 season if you want to check it out.
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The main reason to draft for percentages is because it’s the best way injury-proof your team. While the other standard statistical categories used in fantasy basketball leagues (points, rebounds, etc) are counting stats, percentages are ratio stats. It doesn’t matter how many free throws your team takes, just what percentage of those shots they make. Your fantasy team somehow went 1 for 1 from the line for the week? Great, you win that category.*
So while injuries may chip away at your fantasy team in the counting categories, they have much less of an effect on the percentage categories (unless you happen to replace your efficient scorer with a chucker while he’s injured). When players have nagging injuries causing them to miss a game or two during the week, it’s going to hurt your point and rebound totals, but those percentage categories won’t necessarily be affected.
And in the inevitable case where your team completely blows out with injuries, you can use the FG%, FT% and TO categories as a life preserver until your team gets healthy again. Going 3-6 on the week in an H2H league isn’t great, but at least it spares you the embarrassment of a couple 0-9 or 1-8 weeks.
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Percentages are just two categories out of 8 or 9, so they should not be the primary factor you use when drafting a player. The goal is still to rack up more points, rebounds and assists than anyone else. But when you are deciding between two equally good players, try using their shooting efficiency as a tie breaker. To help me do that, I like to group players into three categories during a draft.
Group A: The plus efficiency guys. Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, etc.
Group B. They won’t kill you. Includes most of the league. Think LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Group C. The category killers. Dwight Howard, Demarcus Cousins, Trevor Ariza.
The goal using this strategy is to pull as many guys from group A as possible during a draft. However, there will be times based on the position of the draft or your team need where you’ll have to dig into the group B pool of players, which is fine. Of course, avoiding players in Group C is absolutely necessarily if you want to draft for percentages.
So, what does the start of an efficiency-based draft look like?
You have the 1st pick in the draft: Kevin Durant
It’s the easiest decision that you’ll have to make in any draft. In addition to being an all around fantasy beast, Durant is the league’s second best free throw shooter (only Kevin Martin was better last year), hitting 88% of 8.7 free throws a game he took in 2011-12. His FG% is right around league average, which isn’t great, but it’s acceptable given his position and the fact that he scores nearly 30 points a game.
Follow it up with: A high FG% guy like Lamarcus Aldridge or Al Horford.
You have a mid-first round draft pick: Chris Paul/Kevin Love
Paul was briefly traded to the Lakers last night before several owners cried to the commissioner and the trade was blocked. From a fantasy perspective, it would have been nice to see Paul running with talented scorers like Kobe and Bynum (no offense Trevor Ariza), but even on the Hornets or mystery team X, Paul is going to make his magic happen. Paul was a 50% shooter from the floor before last season’s down year, plus he shot 88% from the line to go along with 10 assists a game.
With Love, his 47% shooting and 85% from line are just gravy on top of an insane 20 and 15 per game scoring/rebounding averages. He may not bring the blocks of Dwight Howard, but not too many guys in the league will let you lock up the rebounding category while also contributing positively in percentages.
Follow it up with: A big man like Aldridge, Al Jefferson or Horford for Paul. Love probably has the toughest pairing here. You could go big again with one of the guys above, or draft a scorer like Carmelo Anthony (who was surprisingly efficient once he joined the Knicks) or Rudy Gay. A PG in this spot would be tough to come by.
You have a late-first round draft pick: Stephen Curry/Pau Gasol/Dirk Nowitzki/Amare Stoudemire
Picking at or near the turn in a draft gives you the most flexibility when building a team. Since PGs and Cs are always at a premium, why not grab one who is a plus in the percentages categories? Ok, Dirk doesn’t qualify at center, but Gasol and Amare will in most leagues. Amare is the riskiest play here both in terms of health and how he’s going to mesh long term with Melo, but if he falls to the second round a Curry/Amare pairing would be a great 1-2 combo.
Like Paul, Curry is a plus guy at both percentage categories, which is amazing since he also hit 2 threes a game last year. He took the least number of free throws out of any first rounder last season (only 3.1 per game), but he hit them at a 94% clip, which is good for an effective FT% of 90%.
Follow it up with: Stephen Curry/Pau Gasol/Dirk Nowitzki/Amare Stoudemire/Carmelo Anthony
There is nothing wrong with getting your two bigs out of the way in the first two rounds, but the real prize here would be coming away with Curry in one of these spots.
As you move down the draft
There are good percentage guys at just about any spot in the draft if you look hard enough. After the second round, Steve Nash is a guy to target if you need a PG. Chris Bosh, David Lee, David West, Elton Brand and Brook Lopez all big men who can hit the free throw. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are old, but they are some of the best all-around percentage guys in the league. In terms of young players, Serge Ibaka is decent from the line for a big man, Demar Derozan was a plus-plus percentages guy in 82 games for the Raptors, Wesley Matthews had decent percentages for a SG last year and Nicolas Batum is an efficient player with some breakout potential this season.
*Unless your league has a minimum requirement for shots taken