Protecting the Percentage: In Praise of Ray Allen
“Protect the percentage” is a phrase that entered my repertoire during the championships of a head-to-head league, in which I had the barest sliver of an advantage in field-goal percentage heading into the final day. I spent the evening watching basketball and drinking with my nemesis, a close friend of mine, and barking at the television screen: “Inshallah, protect the percentage.”* Unfortunately, the last-minute blocks-related pickup of Andray Blatche did little to protect the percentage, as he went something like 0-for-6. Blatche, you and I have unfinished business.
I was blindsided—usually big men give great field-goal percentage and hurt you on free throws, and for Blatche, the game was a bit of an anomaly—but it goes to show that protecting the percentage isn’t always as easy as sitting your guards and starting your bigs. No, the protection of the percentage is dazzling in its complexity, like the human brain, or like how they put those little ships into bottles.
And one of the toughest things to do is be competitive in three-pointers while protecting FG%. 3PT% tends to be low; the league so far this year has shot 35.2% from behind the arc. Consequently, players who make lots of threes tend to drag down your FG%. Have a look at the per-game leaders in 3PT in 2008-09. (The last column here [*fg%] is the USE(LESS) FG% score, which produces a fantasy value based on percentage, league average, and number of attempts. Negative is bad; positive is good.)
Surprising variation here, no? The list is dominated by guards, of course, and almost everyone has a negative score (meaning, a below-league-average field-goal percentage), but Ray Allen and Jameer Nelson have managed crazy high exceptions to the rule, and there are other players who won’t hurt you: Jason Terry, Troy Murphy, Imaginary Non-Injured Michael Redd.
Digging deeper: as noted last week, Jameer Nelson’s redonkulous season average of 50.3% is much, much higher than his career average of 46.5%, meaning this season came out of nowhere and is unlikely to recur. (And no, I don’t feel good about his shoulder injury, even if it fulfilled last week’s prediction that his value was about to decline. The East is way more interesting when Orlando has an All-Star point guard.) Ray Allen’s numbers are even crazier: his career average from the field is 44.8%, which he is currently beating by an unsustainable 4.7 points. Three-point shooters, in other words, can help you protect the percentage if they’re having wacko unpredictable years. Helpful? Not really—although it does indicate which three-point shooters will be overvalued the following year. Last year’s top long-distance shooters with high FG% were Mike Miller, Steve Nash, and Mike Dunleavy.** This year: not so much.
Here’s the full list of three-point shooters with positive *fg%:
A lot of these guys are having career years, you will notice.
Finally, as always, here’s the USE(LESS) Top 25 over the past ten games, and there is a doozy at the top:
Bynum? We barely knew ‘im. Also, people need to start talking about Yao Ming’s ridiculous year. He’s headed for his best full year in every statistical respect. And he co-authored an autobiography with Ric Bucher! That was in 2004, but I didn’t know about it at the time. Yes, I am currently reading Yao Ming’s Wikipedia page, and enjoying every goddamned minute of it.
To conclude: Do you want to protect the percentage? Ask me your fantasy basketball questions in the comments field below and I will respond with alacrity.
*Sometimes when we drink we go into Ironic Islam mode. Ironic Islam: catch the fever! Catch it, infidel.
**Insert inflammatory racial Bill Simmons–attributable witticism here.