Whether or not you follow baseball, I am sure you’ve heard of them new-fangled Sabermetrics that have revolutionized the evaluation of players on the diamond. Statistics such as BABIP, FIP, xFIP, WAR, GWAR (oh wait, that last one wasn’t right) allow owners to look past the traditional statistics in order to find value in players who may not look so pretty on the outside. While not every Sabermetric stat is particularly useful, a select few can really help fantasy owners (Grey does a great job of picking and choosing these stats over on the baseball side of things).

Now you may be asking yourself, “Hey Jash, why are you talking about baseball? I like my balls big, bouncy, and orange!” Slow your roll loyal reader, I was eventually getting there. So while there is a plethora of extra baseball stats to scour, we unfortunately don’t have that luxury on the hardwood. However, there are a select few stats that I like to look at when trying to evaluate a certain player. I could break down the complicated equations that are behind these stats, but we all know that you play fantasy sports to escape math and general brain use, so I will just explain what each statistic shows you.

PER (Player Efficiency Rating) basically takes all of the good things a player does, subtracts all those nasty things, and then gives a rating based on minutes played. A rating of 15.0 is equivalent to an average starter in the NBA. A rating of 20+ is getting into All-Star territory. And anything over 25 should be considered MVP-caliber talent (i.e. LeBron James led all players with a 30.7 PER this past season). Most guys who reside above 20 are usually already owned and properly valued, but a guy like Nikola Pekovic who had a rating of 21.4 (20th in NBA) is the type of player PER can help identify as a value pick on draft day.

USG% (Usage Percentage) calculates how often an offensive play is run through a certain player in relation to the total amount of plays run while he was on the court. Kobe Bryant was obviously the leader of this category this past season, and it’s the reason why he was able to improve his points-per-game despite shooting at a lower clip. But those who utilize this stat probably could have predicted Louis Williams (27.4 USG%) big season once it became apparent that he was receiving more playing time than he did last season.

Per-36 (Stats per 36 minute averages) is by far my favorite statistic to look at. Why? Because it’s simple to understand but also very effective, just like the missionary position. Per-36 stats are great because they simply project what a player would give you if he was receiving 36 minutes a game, or in other words, if he was starting. This is a useful stat for looking at bench players who produce on the court but receive less than 20 MPG. For example, Kenneth Faried’s Per-36 averages of 16.4/12.2/1.6 were a great indicator that he could be a solid fantasy contributor if/when he received minutes. So when Faried started getting court time in the second half of the season, he quickly became a valuable fantasy asset. And if you followed his per-36 numbers prior to him starting, you would have been savvy enough to grab him the minute news broke about a spot opening up in the rotation instead of sitting around holding yourself like the rest of your league mates. Look at you being all smart and stuff.

The main point I am trying to make is that whenever an NBA player starts logging big minutes, he will immediately have value (Spencer Hawes anybody?) and begin producing stats (Disclaimer: Derek Fisher and Shane Battier do not apply to this general statement). So it is imperative that fantasy owners monitor these stats in order to recognize just exactly how valuable a player will become once he gets significant minutes.

  1. Fenris-77 says:

    I prefer pace adjusted Per-36 to the out-of-the-box version. I like taking out the pace bias, especially from those fast teams. Pace adjusted metrics are also a lot more useful more comparing players from different teams.

    • JashFath

      JashFath says:

      @Fenris-77, Very true, pace plays a large role when comparing players. This post was more wired towards the evaluation of bench players and undervalued starters. When targeting players to trade for, you definitely want to consider pace. A player on the run-n-gun Suns will have better looking projections than a player on the half-court Celtics, which could be misleading if you don’t account for the different types of offenses.

  2. Fenris-77 says:

    For player movement analysis it’s invaluable. (for those of us geeky enough to look it up).

    I used it pretty much all the time though. What that does is give me a firmer baseline to fall back on mentally, since the numbers are consistent from player to player across teams. It makes it easier to look at stat X and locate it in the matrix of other players in a given tier or in general. Player eval at more-of-a-glance is what I’m pointing too I suppose. Obviously I look at the straight per-36 too, but the pace adjusted metrics are useful beyond just inter-team comparison shopping.

    Another point I thought I’d make, since you’re pointing at USG% anway, is that looking at Offensive Rating (ORat) set next to USG% is even more useful. ORat (for those of you following along at home) is a player efficiency metric (like PER kinda, but offense only). Being able to set efficiency next to USG% gives us a really good picture of where a player might have room for growth.

    Guys with high ORats can more often sustain an increase in USG% without crapping the bed. Not everyone obviously, as there are lots of players who’s game and skill set is specifically high efficiency/low USG%. Even those guys tbhough, often bigs , have a more predictable transition to starting roles in many cases. Gortat is the poster boy there, but there are lots of examples.

    The best part is that Basketball Reference lists ORat right next to USG%, so it’s an easy once glance thing either way.

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