Looking for sleepers using advanced stats
I reviewed Wins Produced in detail last season, but the two-second summary is that Wins Produced is a measure of offensive and defensive efficiency that is calculated on a per-minute basis. The upshot is that it identifies players as productive that we don't always pay attention to. This year, Berri wrote an article on his top-15 most underrated players in the NBA based on the idea that most people overrate scoring, so these are guys that are good in other areas outside of scoring that float under the radar: Here are the 15 players that he names:
Jamario Moon SF, CLE
Dominic McGuire SF, WAS
Delonte West SG, CLE
Mike Miller SG/SF, WAS
Shane Battier SF, HOU
Marvin Williams SF, ATL
Anderson Varejao PF, CLE
James Posey SF, NOH
Anthony Parker SG/SF, CLE
Mike Conley PG, MEM
Ramon Sessions PG, MIN
Steve Blake PG, POR
Shawn Marion SF, DAL
Samuel Dalembert C, PHI
J.R. Smith SG, DEN
Now, let's apply what we know about these players.
Moon, West, Varejao and Parker all play for the Cavs and are likely to be splitting minutes with each other in support of LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and Mo Williams. That makes them undependable as fantasy staples, but worth keeping an eye on in case they carve out consistent minutes or in case of injury.
This same idea plays out to some extent with Miller and McGuire, who are also both efficient but likely to split time behind bigger name scorers in Washington.
Blake and Conley both could lose minutes because their teams brought in big name players at their position this offseason in Andre Miller and Allen Iverson. Meanwhile, Dalembert could lose time to a healthy Elton Brand in Philly. And Posey, though efficient, is a long-time NBA vet who has proven not to be fantasy relevant as a back-up swingman.
That leaves us with these five potential sleepers to consider:
Shawn Marion: Marion was a top-5 fantasy producer for years next to Steve Nash, but when he left Phoenix his numbers suffered in Miami and Toronto. Now he is back to his roots: as a do-it-all type who is not the focus of the offense, playing next to a great distributor. He could have a throwback year.
J.R. Smith: Smith burst onto the scene as a big scorer/3-point threat off the bench for the Nuggets. He may get the starting nod this year, and even if he doesn't he is in line to play starter's minutes and continue to produce this year.
Shane Battier: Battier is a known commodity at this point in his career, one of the founders of the NBA Garbagemen that contribute to lots of categories without dominating any. But this season he is set up to take more shots on a Rockets team without Yao Ming and with an injured Tracy McGrady, which likely means a lot of treys and perhaps a slight boost in value.
Marvin Williams: Williams was drafted #2 overall in 2005 based on potential, and though he has been solid he has not lived up to those expectations. But going into last year he had been steadily improving, and injuries derailed him last year. These stats indicate he may be ready to contribute on a larger level this year now that he is healthy.
Ramon Sessions: Sessions was everyone's favorite sleeper last year after finishing the 2008 season with a bang, but he never got the minutes in Milwaukee to live up to the hype. The good news is that he is on a bad Minnesota team that could use his production, but the bad news is that he will be splitting time with/backing up Minnesota's top draft pick Jonny Flynn. Same story as before: if he gets minutes, he should produce...the question is if he will get the minutes.