Perhaps the most glorious attribute of the player rater is the manner in which it accounts for a player's percentages. Most fantasy value-measuring tools include percentages as numbers alone; Jameer Nelson and Corey Maggette's shared 80 percent from the line means the same to these feeble mechanisms. But not to the player rater. It takes into account the number of makes over number of attempts and reflects, for instance, the fact that Jimmy Chitwood shooting 85 percent from the floor on 10 attempts per game benefits your team more than Juwanna Mann shooting 90 percent on two shots per game. The key is efficiency and frequency.
Here's a range of standard deviations from the player rater. If you don't know what these standard deviations mean, click here and scroll to the bottom to see exactly how the player rater works. If you still don't understand after reading that, I cannot help you, my friend.
Best: Chauncey Billups (+1.94); Worst: Dwight Howard (-5.48)
With several of these players, I had to choose whether to have an upward-facing arrow in one category or a downward-facing one in the other, because being good at one seems to directly correspond with being awful at the other. For your sake, those players' names are bolded. And this week, the arrows don't necessarily indicate that the player has recently improved or declined in the category; it's simply a way to show he has a significant impact. Plus, I like the visual stimulation of the arrows; colors are awesome, and so are universally understood symbols.
Additionally, if a player hurts you in one of these categories, it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on your team, since his positive contributions might outweigh his faults. It just means you need to identify his weakness and compensate for it with other roster spots, the same way you would work around a point guard who doesn't shoot 3s or a center who doesn't block shots.
Field goal percentage
Erick Dampier, C, Mavericks: (+0.94 standard deviation) He is averaging 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game this month, and he regularly gets more than 25 minutes per game when he stays out of foul trouble. He stays around the basket on the offensive end, which has led to his career-best 67 percent mark from the floor. If you need rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage, Dampier is widely available and has been heating up.
Richard Hamilton, SG, Pistons: (+0.80) His scoring is down slightly, but his peripheral stats have improved significantly since last year (now 4.5 assists, one steal and one 3-pointer per game), and he's shooting 49.5 percent from the floor on 15 attempts per game, which is impressive for a shooting guard. He's a percentage champ, with a career 85 percent mark from the stripe, and the fact that he finally is attempting 3s signals a turning point in his fantasy career.
Chuck Hayes, SF/PF, Rockets: (+0.51) Hayes is an example of a player whose bad free-throw percentage should be basically ignored, since he has attempted 11 all season. Granted, he has made only three of them, but 3-of-11 is just one bad night for Dwight Howard, so focus more keenly upon Hayes' excellent field goal percentage. His 55.7 percent is dominant, yet below his career average of 56.8 percent, which leads me to believe he will continue to improve. Hayes' per-48 minute stats actually are pretty incredible (13.6 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 1.2 blocks), and when Hayes finally gets real starters' minutes, he will be a fantasy force. For now, add him if you need field goal percentage help in deep leagues.
Monta Ellis, PG/SG, Warriors: (+0.99) This phenom's efficiency from the floor is yet another petal off the dandelion that is Monta. I should have saved that sentence for my imaginary slam poetry blog, but I felt compelled to share. Thanks for listening.
Nick Collison, PF, SuperSonics: (+0.46) Chris Wilcox's recent injury and struggles on the floor have opened up an opportunity for Collison, who is averaging 32 minutes per game with 13 points, 14 rebounds and a 53 percent mark from the floor in January. Collison can score both with a midrange jumper and around the basket, as well as play power forward and center. His minutes always have been limited due to his propensity to get into quick foul trouble, and this year is no different. But his smart play and recent success have him in the good graces of P.J. Carlesimo. Although he won't average 14 boards for the rest of the season, a double-double is within reach.
Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, Knicks: (-1.41) He is enjoying the best season of his career, with 19.3 points, 1.9 3s, 1.1 steals, 4.5 assists and a meaty 86.8 free-throw percentage. Stephon Marbury's personal and injury woes have created an increased role for Crawford, as evidenced by his 35 points, eight assists and two steals Wednesday night. But he massacres your field goal percentage, so if he's on your roster, get over the fact that he's overperforming and compensate accordingly.
Hedo Turkoglu, SG/SF, Magic: (-1.13) I hate to rain on the parade that is his career year, but his field goal percentage is poor and always has been, and this season, it's on a career-high 15 attempts per game. Enjoy the ride, just balance it with other roster-related decisions.
Chauncey Billups, PG, Pistons: (+1.91) He's been the king of this category for years, and it's all because of the aforementioned combo of efficiency and frequency. It's difficult to view it this way, but he is to free throws what Dwight Howard is to rebounds, and if there is one guy to target in this category, Billups is still the man.
Kevin Durant, SG/SF, SuperSonics: (+1.24) If I could double-bold his name, I would; he's got efficiency and frequency from the stripe, along with unimaginable potential with regard to his combination of 3s, steals and blocks. For now, though, his free throws are his best category, and they'll only get better.
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Grizzlies: (+0.66) In the past, his name would have been a few inches down your computer screen, but Gasol's free throws suddenly are one of his strengths. The frequency always has been there, but now, Gasol seems to have figured something out. Even though his percentage likely will trend toward his average to some extent, he's sustained it long enough to prove his success isn't an aberration, especially since he showed marked improvement from the stripe last season as well. By the way, the rest of his numbers are coming around, too; January has been, by far, Gasol's best month this season (23.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 blocks, 53 percent from the floor).
Brandon Bass, PF, Mavericks: (+0.58) Keep an eye on this big guy. It might not be this year, but that size coupled with a soft touch is menacing. I can already envision casual fans across the globe watching him break out in a Mavs' playoff game, wondering who he is. The answer is: Brandon Bass.
Josh Childress, SF, Hawks: (+0.55) He and Kevin Martin are models of scoring efficiency. Childress' consistently solid overall ranking on the player rater (94th overall, by averages), coupled with the fact that he is owned in just 74 percent of ESPN leagues, demonstrates he is underrated. If you need help in either percentage category, Childress always warrants a start.
Emeka Okafor, PF/C, Bobcats: (-2.68) One of the biggest knocks on Okafor after his first two seasons was his low field goal percentage. Well, the past two seasons, he's been a huge contributor, shooting better than 50 percent while taking smarter shots. It was understood that he was a poor free-throw shooter when he was drafted, but that's one of those stats that is expected to improve with diligence. But Okafor's current 54.6 percent from the line is the lowest mark of his career, and it comes on nearly five attempts per game, meaning he has the third-most negative impact behind Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal. His percentage has improved in each month of the season so far, and he tends to be more accurate as the season progresses (his post-All-Star game numbers have been higher than his pre-All-Star game numbers each season). He's no Dwight or Shaq, and he should get better, but if you have Okafor on your team, you must surround him with several good free-throw shooters to offset his weakness.
Al Jefferson, PF/C, Timberwolves: (-0.97) His mark from the stripe has slowly improved since he jumped straight from high school, and his current 69.3 percent is a career high. Problem is, it comes on a career-high 4.8 attempts per game, and even though he could finish the season in the low 70s, Jefferson is another guy you have to plan around if you have him on your team.
Josh Whitling is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.