Another fantasy basketball season is upon us! Can you believe NBA games will be played exactly one month from the writing of this article?
Free agency has been just about as wild as one can expect after the extended layover, and the rookie class has found their homes. Meanwhile, fantasy basketball players are scrambling to find reliable player rankings and doing mock drafts to hone their strategies.
One thing that can really help you as you start your quest for fantasy dominance is to think long and hard about statistical scarcity. This is a pretty easy concept that means when there is less supply of a statistic, its value increases. In fantasy basketball terms, you can think of it as “blocks are more valuable than points because there are fewer players who block the basketball at a high rate”.
So which statistical categories are the most scarce, and therefore valuable? Answering this question can help you determine which players you want to target. I’ve taken a look at the top 200 players in 9-category rankings and used the statistical projections from Rotowire to get a decent idea.
**This is all based on 9-category head to head scoring.**
It’s important to note that these are VERY early projections, and probably won’t remain super accurate. However, looking at them en masse can help us identify some trends like scarcity.
Here were the averages in each stat among the projections for the top 200 players:
I then looked at how many players were above each of these averages. This would mean they provide “more value” in that statistical category than the average. Here’s what that looks like:
|Category||# of Players Above Avg||% of Players Above Avg|
|3 Pointers Made||98||49%|
|Field Goal Percentage||65||33%|
|Free Throw Percentage||112||56%|
*Of course, for turnovers we’re looking for less instead of more.
As a comparison, here’s the same percentages from last year according to Basketball Monster (which only has the top 188 listed from last season for some reason):
|Category||% of Players Above Avg|
|3 Pointers Made||45%|
|Field Goal Percentage||33%|
|Free Throw Percentage||56%|
A few observations from this very preliminary analysis:
- As with every other season, field goal percentage, blocks, rebounds and assists are the most scarce statistics.
- Rebounds are even more scarce this season than in previous seasons.
- Points are more scarce than in previous seasons, though they’re still pretty widely available.
- Steals are markedly less scarce than in previous seasons as are three pointers.
Using this to inform your drafting strategy
There are a few different ways you can take this information and use it to inform your drafting strategy. One way would be to simply move players that produce these statistics higher up your draft board. That’s simple to do and should help you make sure you aren’t ever completely hopeless in winning a statistical category.
You could also use this information to effectively “corner the market” on a statistical category. Since blocks come at a premium, drafting Hassan Whiteside, Brook Lopez, and Anthony Davis all on the same team would ensure you win that category week after week, for instance.
Lastly, you can use this to inform your end of draft scenario and which free agents you’ll keep on your watchlist and go to for streaming week to week. While there may be a statistical scarcity in the top 200, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a one-dimensional player to fill that gap, like Tristan Thompson with rebounds for example.
Players to Target
Let’s take a deeper dive into those four statistical categories and see who you can draft to fill the hole, and where you can draft them.
Field Goal Percentage
Early Round Targets
- Rudy Gobert – Perhaps one of the most solid second round picks a fantasy basketball team could ask for. You can’t really go wrong with him anywhere in the second, as he’ll provide elite field goal percentage paired with elite blocks. Enjoy being competitive in both categories all season.
- Mitchell Robinson – Mitchell Robinson is an absolute beast, as long as he can stay on the floor. If you want to get aggressive, you could feasibly snag him in the third round to take advantage of his career 72% shooting. He’ll also be an elite source of blocks, but the rebounds aren’t quite there when compared to someone like Gobert. He’ll only be 22 years old next season and he’s never seen more than 23 minutes per game on the floor. Everyone will be watching his relationship with new coach Tom Thibodeau to see if he can eclipse that mark this season.
- John Collins – Collins shot over 58% from the field last season and is one of my favorite targets because you can likely snag him in the second round and he has first round upside. He’s a bit of a forgotten man after he was suspended 25 games last season when he tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2. He may see a bit of a regression with all the veterans the Hawks have been adding and his usage will likely slip, but he’ll still be a main offensive weapon for the Atlanta Hawks. He also added double-digit rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season.
Mid Round Targets
- Clint Capela – He comes with a bit of a caveat, but if you don’t mind his bad 52.6% free throw shooting, he shoots roughly 63% from the field and is a nice source of blocks and rebounds as well. If you are punting free throws, he’s a safe bet in the 4th or 5th rounds, but if you aren’t going that route and he’s still sitting around later, he’s an excellent option for stats that are scarce.
- Zion Williamson – Calling him a “mid-round guy” may be insulting to some fantasy basketball players, but it’s the reality with his severe lack of defensive stats. He’ll provide elite field goal percentage and points, but his other stats are a real concern. He’s a steal if he slips to the mid rounds though with all that potential and you’ll likely have to start reaching in the 3rd to 4th rounds to secure him in your fantasy draft. It just might be worth the gamble.
- Steven Adams – Two guys on the same team that shoot at a very high percentage. The Pels are going to be a fun team to watch, though the fit is a bit awkward. Adams is a 59% career shooter, but his free throw shooting is a concern. He won’t light up the box score, but he’ll contribute to your fantasy team in rebounds, field goal percentage, and blocks with consistency. There are higher upside options, but if you find yourself in need of these stats he’s a good pick 7th-9th rounds.
- Robert Williams – The young big really stepped up for the Celtics in his sophomore campaign and he’s a 72% career shooter. He only managed a bit over 13 minutes per game last season, and his way to minutes this season are a bit murky with Daniel Theis returning and Tristan Thompson being added to the roster. I wouldn’t fault you for reaching for Williams somewhere around the 8th or 9th rounds, but you can probably get him at the end of your draft to see if his role becomes solid.
- DeAndre Jordan – It’s really hard to say if Jordan or Jarrett Allen will start at center for a Brooklyn Nets team that suddenly finds itself in the conversation at the top of the Eastern Conference, but even in 22 minutes per game last season he managed to put up almost a double-double with 8.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. The best thing about DeAndre these days is that he’s no longer a liability at the free throw line, where he has shot 68% and 71% the past two seasons. Many managers will likely steer clear of the muddled center situation in Brooklyn, so he should be available in the later rounds of your draft.
- Jakob Poeltl – Don’t sleep on Jakob. He may not be a super sexy selection in the final rounds of your draft, but he’s a solid source of rebounds and blocks with a career shooting percentage of 63.8%. In 20.7 minutes after the All-Star break last season, he averaged 6.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and over a block per game as well.
Early Round Targets
- Anthony Davis – I’ve already mentioned Mitchell Robinson and Rudy Gobert, but another guy at the top of the top when it comes to blocking shots is Anthony Davis. He’s pretty much guaranteed to go in your top 3, but if you get him congratulations. He’s a beast.
- Kristaps Porzingis – It’s going to be hard to talk you into drafting Kristaps in the second round because the latest updates on his injured knee have been vague, at best. He’s worth it if you decide to jump the gun with his ability to put up points, blocks, rebounds, and three pointers in bunches. If he slips to the third round, don’t let the injury bug scare you too much. He’s a true unicorn.
- Robert Covington – Welcome to Portland, big fella! The fit in Portland is nice and he’ll look to build on a season where he averaged 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks. Since the Rockets had a bit of an insane pace last season, I wouldn’t be surprised at a bit of a regression in stats like these, so I’m personally not looking to target him as he’ll probably go in the third round in most drafts.
Mid Round Targets
- Brook Lopez – He’s averaged over two blocks per game in two straight seasons and there’s no reason he can’t do it again. He’s a solid choice in the 4th or 5th rounds for his ability to hit the three-point shot as well as score the ball. Not a ton of upside here, but his minutes are safe with Bobby Portis as his backup. The Bucks will play Giannis at the five from time to time though.
- Myles Turner – I’ve been known in my leagues to reach for Myles and it always gets a head scratch or two, but with the severe scarcity of blocks, taking Turner in the third round can potentially make sense. He obviously makes a better pick in the 4th or 5th rounds, but he has the potential to lead the league in blocks and now has added the three point shot to his repertoire.
- Chris Boucher – With Marc Gasol joining the Lakers, it’s going to be an interesting competition for the starting gig in Toronto. Aron Baynes is a solid player so I would suggest following that positional battle up until your draft. Boucher has the best upside of the two. He showed flashes in his 13 minutes per game last season, and his per-36 numbers are great: 18.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2.7 blocks. Can you say what? The upside is tremendous and depending on how competitive your league is, you might look to reach for him towards the end of the middle rounds in hopes that he can emerge as the primary center for the Raptors. If your league is casual, you can probably wait until the end of the draft to snag him.
- Nerlens Noel – Probably best to leave him undrafted, but he’s someone you should have on your watchlist all season long. He put up 1.5 blocks per game in just 18.5 minutes per game last season in OKC and with Mitchell Robinson still figuring out how not to foul, he could be an absolute steal if you are able to snag him. There will still be weeks where he produces blocks and steals even if he doesn’t find his way into big minutes.
- Mohamed Bamba – Another guy to keep on your watchlist and probably stay away from until he proves he can do it. 1.4 blocks per game and he’s never seen the floor for more than 16 minutes. There’s potential there, especially if something happens to Nikola Vucevic, like a trade or an injury.
- Wendell Carter Jr. – Wendell has a lot to prove still, appearing in just 87 games in his career thus far. The Bulls will look to have him back in full health this season, in a year they should turn heavily towards their youth. He only managed 0.8 blocks per game last season, but he’s still very young and he’ll provide a near double-double in points and rebounds as well. I’d pull the trigger on Wendell in the 8th or 9th round and hope he doesn’t get supplanted by Daniel Gafford.
Early Round Targets
- Giannis Antetokounmpo – Hard to say much about him that hasn’t been said. Take him anywhere 1-5 and enjoy the ride, including his insane 13.6 rebounds per game from the forward position.
- Andre Drummond – Drummond is on the Cavs now, which is pretty silly to think about. The league’s leading rebounder the past three seasons just picked up his player option, and I do have concern he’ll give less than his full effort on some nights. It’s frustrating to watch, but he did it in Detroit too. I’m a little hesitant to reach for him myself but, if you’re building a team that punts free throws, he’s a must have in the second round.
- Karl-Anthony Towns – Another guy that should go top 3 in your drafts without question. Towns actually had a down year in rebounding at just 10.8 per game, but he should bounce back to the 12 rebound range this season without problems. He’s a multi-stat beast of course, so he’s not just a great selection for rebounds.
Mid Round Targets
- Jonas Valanciunas – Jonas brother, as I call him, is a very solid 5th or 6th round target. He’ll start in Memphis and has a nice rapport with budding star Ja Morant. Look for that trend to continue, though he doesn’t have a lot of upside with his limited minutes. He’s averaged double digit rebounds the past two seasons.
- Domantas Sabonis – Easy to forget how beastly Domantas was playing before he went down to with a plantar fasciitis injury. He’s an easy choice in the 5th round and I wouldn’t fault you for reaching for him in the 4th either. He averaged 12.4 rebounds per game last season in big minutes and should be able to duplicate that effort.
- Christian Wood – Houston is admittedly in a bit of turmoil, but taking Wood in the 5th round of your fantasy draft is a smart low-risk gamble. He has virtually no competition for minutes at the center position and has excellent per-36 numbers of 22 points and 10.6 rebounds to go with 1.5 blocks.
- Marvin Bagley – After managing just 13 games last season, Bagley is a very nice high upside pick towards the end of your drafts. He’s only going to be 21 next season and he has already averaged over 14 points and 7 rebounds in the NBA over multiple seasons.
- Ivica Zubac – Serge Ibaka has entered the fold, but should come off the bench. Zubac should continue to improve on his 7.5 rebounds per game last season when he averaged just 18.4 minutes per game. He was leaned on heavily in the playoffs when Montrezl Harrell was hurt and he’s only going to be 23 years old. Pull the trigger in the closing rounds of your draft if you’re in need of a decent center.
- Cody Zeller – Zeller had some nice games for Charlotte and is someone to keep on your watchlist to see what happens. He’s in a contract year and depending on the situation, he may find his way into starter minutes. He managed 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in a shade over 23 minutes last season.
Early Round Targets
- Luka Doncic – My favorite player to watch, a potential top 3 pick, and an all-around fantasy dynamo. If you manage to snag him, you’re in a good spot. That includes his 8.8 assists per game, which he’ll hopefully increase yet again from season to season as the Mavs look to surround the young star with worthy talent.
- Trae Young – Everyone look out, Ice Trae has weapons now. It wouldn’t be crazy to see him improve on his 9.3 assists from last season, and if he does he’ll be a steal in the second round as he can win that category for you week to week. He’ll put up crazy stat lines mixed in with some duds here and there.
- LeBron James – It’s logical to think that LBJ will be less dominant than he was earlier in his career, but he just has a knack for playing the best basketball in the world. Look out for the Lakers to win another championship, and enjoy his league leading 10.2 assist per game while you’re at it. He’ll be off the board towards the end of the first round, but he’s a better target at the start of the second round.
Mid Round Targets
- Ricky Rubio – Say what you will about the point guard, but he throws dimes. That won’t be any different no matter what team he’s on, so expect him to sit around 7-8 assists per game, which is pretty much where he’s been every season in his career. He’s a nice statistical target in the 5th or 6th rounds.
- Ja Morant – To reach or not to reach? I can’t fault you for being in on this kid and reaching for him somewhere in the third round, but he’s a better selection in the 4th or 5th rounds, especially with 7.3 assists per game. He’ll be the man in Memphis until further notice.
- Malcolm Brogdon – No reason to think Brogdon can’t duplicate his 7.1 assists per game in Indiana again this season. He has the potential to be even better, as he’s in his prime basketball-playing years. Look to snag him somewhere in the 6th round or reach for him in the 5th round. I’d suggest the latter considering the statistical scarcity of assists.
- LaMelo Ball – He’ll have a learning curve just like any rookie, but the assists should be there. If you’re going to draft him, you’ll probably need to target him around the 7th or 8th rounds, as someone is guaranteed to be a fan. It’s a risky choice, but it might pay off.
- Derrick Rose – The youngest MVP ever is likely near the end of his career with all the injuries he has had. It’s a sad story, but it’s true. He averaged 5.6 assists per game last season and, even though the Pistons drafted Killian Hayes, he should be the starter at the beginning of the season until the rookie gets his own legs under him. Rose can obviously score in bunches as well. He’s a nice selection at the end of your draft, but be on the lookout for chances to dump in before he loses the starting gig or has another injury.
- Markelle Fultz – He averaged 5.1 assists per game last season and he has no competition for the starting gig worth mentioning. He’ll duplicate that effort easily and is still young with a lot of potential. He’s a nicer upside pick than Rose at the end of your draft.