Since becoming a fantasy columnist, I've refined my own version of Fantasy CliffsNotes For Beginners. It's a two-minute pep talk, designed to get the listener excited about fantasy hoops while opening the door for me to share some more advanced theory.
My 120-second pep talk hits four main areas: Total Shooting Percentage, Usage Rate, Pace and ... out-of-position stats, which are associated with what I call "atypical producers."
My definition of an atypical producer? A player who produces in categories not normally associated with the position.
Think: a power forward or center who hits 3s, gets steals or has a high free throw percentage. A point or shooting guard who blocks shots, snares rebounds and has a high effective field goal percentage.
I find that hooking a neophyte onto the notion of targeting players who produce out-of-position stats gives them an instant leg up in fantasy. It teaches newbie managers to look at production from a different angle. It gives them an instant appreciation for team building that goes beyond the obvious.
(When it comes to achieving the mantle of atypical producer, threes need not apply. Small forwards offer such a wide and diverse range of production that calling one's stat line out as "atypical" would come off as an oxymoron. So, for the purposes of this column, any player who qualifies at SF is expunged.)
Hoarding players who major in atypical production gives a fantasy team hidden strength.
If you're rostering a big who averages four dimes a night? It's like having a hidden late-round point guard on your roster. If you're rostering a shooting guard who averages close to a block per tilt? You're stocking a closet rim protector.
When you think of atypical standouts, you have to approach categorical production relative to a player's given position. A point guard averaging 0.8 blocks per game is just as rare as a center averaging 2.5 blocks per game. A center shooting 83 percent from the free throw line is just as rare as a 3-point-producing guard shooting 50 percent from the field.
And trolling for atypical production isn't just a drafting philosophy. It's just as useful once a season begins.
Whether you're putting together a trade or scouring the wire, the principle of atypical production can give your team an in-season boost.
Look at it this way: if your team has a specific statistical shortcoming, looking to address it via unconventional means can be a heckuva lot easier to accomplish.
Let every other team lacking in assists chase big names like Westbrook and Lowry. Swapping out a 1.0-1.5 APG big (say, Andre Drummond or Clint Capela) for the likes of 3.0 APG Domantas Sabonis or 3.8 APG Al Horford gives you just as big a lift in assists as trading up from Trae Young to Lowry.
Conversely, if your team is way behind in field goal percentage, don't just cyberstalk Capela and Rudy Gobert. That's so obvious. Try targeting a Malcolm Brogdon or Buddy Hield: players who hit 3s without hitting your percentage's bottom line.
Let's take a quick jaunt through the four non-small forward positions, and take a look at some atypical producers. For quantification purposes, I've broken each position down into three tiers: Big Names, Gettable Names, and Up and Comers.
Big Names: Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving
Gettable Names: Jrue Holiday, Jamal Murray, Eric Bledsoe
Up and Comers: De'Aaron Fox, Kris Dunn, Lonzo Ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Out of the Big Names, Simmons is the most intriguing, because he has the highest amount of unexplored ceiling. He really should be in the Up and Comers, but he's already become atypically dominant enough to bypass the velvet rope into the top tier. His 9.1 rebounds place him only behind Westbrook for point guards. And with John Wall out, Simmons' 0.7 blocks per game ties him with Jrue Holiday for number one shot-blocking PG.
Holiday is my platonic ideal of atypical fantasy point guard. Due to early career injury problems, he always goes a round later than he should in drafts (but he played in 81 games last season). He blocks shots. He rebounds. He boosts your field goal percentage while producing 3s. He doesn't hurt you anywhere (he's a replacement level free throw shooter). He plays a ton of minutes. His usage rate is expanding.
In a lot of ways, I think of Fox as the next Jrue Holiday. His production for the year (18.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, .474 field goal percentage) is basically Holiday minus two rounds. I love Fox for the second half of the season and would definitely target him in a trade.
If you're looking for someone on the wire with second-half potential, keep an eye of Gilgeous-Alexander. I saw him block four shots in person Tuesday night against the Hornets. He also had three steals. Even though he only scored eight points, I'd say it was his best game to date.
(Oh, and I agree with everything Joe Kaiser said yesterday about Dunn.)
Beal is another obvious name to target in a trade. I doubt the Wizards tank. They'll probably play the heck out of Beal in the second half in desperate attempt to remain in the playoff picture. (And it won't take much more than .500 to remain in the Eastern Conference hunt.) Beal will have to carry the Wizards (though I'd target Otto Porter Jr. as well). Atypically speaking, Beal's done a good job emulating Wall's shot blocking acumen, and rebounds well for a two guard.
I love all of the Gettable Names on this list. I hate typical shooting guard production, and would welcome Brogdon, Hield, Bazemore or Harris on any of my imaginary teams. If I were looking to acquire one via trade, and needed blocks, I'd probably zero in Bazemore. It'll take less to get him, and he's the best shot blocking guard in basketball (with Wall on the shelf).
Good luck getting Doncic in a trade. He may be an inefficient shooter, but aside from dealing for a top-10 player, there's nothing harder to acquire in-season than a hot rookie. Satoransky is obviously primed for a big second half as Wall's replacement. Aside from 6-plus assists, he rebounds well and will boost your field goal percentage.
Big Names: Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Tobias Harris
Gettable Names: Domantas Sabonis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka, Larry Nance, Jr., Dario Saric, Al-Farouq Aminu
Up and Comers: Pascal Siakam, Noah Vonleh
Who would you rather have: Griffin or Harris? I could write a nice 2,000-word column debating that very question. Despite Griffin's flashier volume-based stats, it's a closer race than you'd think. Harris' secret sauce: free throw production. Relative to his position, Harris is top free throw producer, hitting 89 percent of his attempts. (Durant, with his SF/PF handle, doesn't apply to this discussion).
In terms of the Gettable Names, Gordon probably has the most second-half potential via trade. He's underwhelmed to this point, but still is averaging an atypical 1.5 3s and 3.3 assists. I love Sabonis, but his atypical production unfortunately has some negatives as well, as he only is averaging 1.2 steals+blocks per game. His scoring might make him overpriced in a trade, even if his manager doesn't value those 4.5 assists he's been chipping in during the past week.
If you're having trouble acquiring Siakam's services, may I suggest Vonleh? His numbers have been all over the statistical map this season. But if you look closely, he's starting to build some consistent momentum. He's already flashing elite rebounding potential (not atypical, I know), and is ratcheting up his assists, 3s and steals.
Big Names: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol
Gettable Names: Enes Kanter, Brook Lopez, Jusuf Nurkic, Julius Randle, Al Horford, Kelly Olynyk, Cody Zeller
Up and Comers: Deandre Ayton, Thomas Bryant, Dewayne Dedmon
In auction drafts, Towns and Jokic are always my two top targets. They play at fantasy's scarcest position while anchoring your team across the board ... and won't cost you quite as much as Davis. But in terms of atypical production, Jokic's top-10 overall assists ranking makes him truly special. He's like Russell Westbrook without the negatives.
My favorite of the Gettable Names here has to be Nurkic. He's very similar to De'Aaron Fox in that he gives you a nice mid-round approximation of elite big-man production. When it comes to bigs, I pay attention to steals+assists, and Nurkic is one of the best with a combined 3.9 per game.
Again, good luck getting Ayton in a trade. But if you're hitting the wire, Bryant and Dedmon are both nice second-half grabs. Dedmon has more atypical upside thanks to his 3-point production, but Bryant's free throw acumen makes him an underrated asset.