I will admit it. As a perpetual tinkerer, I’ve found something to savor in our current fantasy basketball climate. With most of my leagues adding extra IR slots, I get a bit of a buzz knowing that I may be auditioning 2-3 new players every few days. (I’m a serial monogamist in every area of my life except fantasy sports.)
I find it liberating. You can try new ideas and play intuitions with little to no fantastic regret. Our teams need a constant influx of new players. And if someone doesn’t practice, there are dozens of other players waiting for their shot at the big simulated moment. (In fantasy and reality… right now we all offer a ton of 10-day contracts.)
Take Stanley Johnson. I’ve been waiting for Johnson to hit his stride for years… as a point-big-sixth-man. Previously, Johnson had set out to set up the 3 and D mold – a role he couldn’t fill due to his average 3-point shot. But now, with positional flattening differentiation, gifted passers like Johnson can find a way to thrive. And with protocol in place, Johnson got the extra chance he needed.
Now when he shoots it’s either a dunk or a 3. Unlike Ben Simmons, Johnson can hit his free throws (84.6 FT%). Evidence of Johnson’s overall increase in offensive efficiency can be found in his new career-high 62.1 percent true shooting percentage.
When evaluating potential ads, I recommend using actual shot percentage (TS%) whenever possible. It’s a stat that confuses field goal and free throw percentage while accounting for the extra point generated by a successful 3-pointer. (The closest relative of TS% is Points Per Shot, another handy metric for building fantastic teams.)
If you want to try and calculate your own TS% at home, the formula is Total Points Scored / FGA + (.44 x FTA).
What does this coefficient of 0.44 correspond to? Good question! It is there to count free throws awarded in situations without possession (and-1, technical, etc.). (BTW, if all free throws came in pairs, the coefficient would be even 0.50)
As slugging percentage corresponds to batting average in baseball, TS% is a better indicator of a player’s actual shooting acumen than the more widely used FG% and FT%. And with the 3-point shot becoming so prevalent in all positions, in my opinion, the traditional FG% is obsolete. Effective field goal percentage is a slight improvement, but it only represents extra 3-point production, not free throw production. TS% puts the entire shot image into an easily understandable metric.
TS% is a fundamental foundation of my preliminary approach. It’s a built-in hack to identify hidden value that other managers might miss. However, he is equally valuable when evaluating potential additions or mid-season trades. A sudden in-season jump in TS% is a clear indicator that a young player gets it (see: Johnson, Stanley).
What is a good TS%? Well, the current league average is 55.7 TS%. As a team, the Utah Jazz dip over the rest of the NBA with a historic 59.4 TS% (the surprising Bulls are second at 57.8 TS%…again, the TS% jump from Chicago reflects the leap the franchise has made this season.) I’ll give you an idea of who the latest is. Yes, it’s the Thunder, with a 70s throwback at 51.6 TS%.
With individual players, 60.0% TS% is a benchmark for just fine. As of this writing, approximately 80 NBA players are at or above 60.0 TS%. A 63.0 TS% is All-Star caliber (around 40 players) and 65.0 TS% and above is Elite (around 25 players).
If you asked me why I was ahead of the curve in identifying Onyeka Okongwu as a fantastic asset, I would answer your question with a question of mine. Who is currently leading the NBA in True Shooting Percentage? He has only played 12 games this season, but Okongwu qualifies for the rankings with a screaming 76.5 TS%. What happens when Clint Capela returns? We are in 2022… who knows? (Don’t think too much. Take the production where you can find it.)
A quick glance at the rest of the TS% rankings reads like an NBA who’s-who. That is, if your NBA who’s who consists of centers John Cregan currently on his various fantasy teams (okay, except for Nick Richards… I’m not in any 30-team league this season).
I never met Gary Payton. But if I do, the second or third thing I’ll say is “congratulations on your son being the only non-center to be top 10 in true shooting percentage.” It’s a rare and beautiful event for a non-tall to rank so high.
I hear your next question ahead of time: “Hey, Cregan, you analytical quack…where’s that value in using TS% in team building? It seems to only reward big shots at low volume with a relatively low number of shot attempts per game.” (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been preyed upon by 7th grade bullies with this exact question.)
Before I dig into my locker, here’s the answer: shot volume. Like any percentage assessment, one must also consider the number of shots a player takes. We have to confuse a player’s TS% with their volume of shot attempts compared to other players.
Doing this drops Okongwu to just sixth overall. Jarrett Allen takes first place, followed by Gobert, Nikola Jokic, Holmes and Willams III.
Then you’ll start to see another classification of players: fantasy risers that should be busted with excitement. Okongwu, Brandon Clarke, Payton II.
These names are peppered with monomonous fantasy behemoths: Durant, LeBron, KAT, Giannis, LaVine, Embiid.
Finally, you will find understated pleasant surprises. Players who might be on the edge but more likely would be prospects in a trade. Eric Gordon, Seth Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Harrison Barnes, Nicolas Batum, Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, Desmond Bane.