Free throws can make the man
Field goal and free throw percentages are one of the least discussed aspects of fantasy basketball. It is understandable why: Blake Griffin's dunks get people excited, not a player who happens to go 10-10 from the free throw line in a game. Percentages are also not as straightforward as the other counting categories since they have two components, the percentage at which a player makes his shots and the number of shots he attempts.
Looking at both of these components at once, it is possible to rank players by their percentages by creating a composite score using weighted averages and standard deviations. We've spared you the statistics behind the calculations, but here are the five players with the best combination of field goal and free throw percentage for fantasy purposes, along with the five worst through this point in the season.
63.8% from the field at 8.5 attempts per game
Nene lives off dunks, put backs and layups -- nearly two-third of his attempts this season have come at the basket where he's shooting 75 percent. Thanks to that type of shot selection, Nene leads the league in field goal percentage among all players who average six or more shots per game. His free throw percentage is just under the league average, but that actually puts him near the top of the league among centers.
52.1% from the field at 11.8 attempts per game
The 36-year-old Nash is still a fantasy force by continuing to be one of the most all-around efficient players in the league. While he does not take as many shots as some players on this list, his 52 percent shooting from the floor is currently tied with Rajon Rondo for tops among point guards, and his free throw percentage is in the top five among all qualified players.
47.6% from the field at 19.9 attempts per game
Durant is different from Nash in that his value in the percentage categories comes as much from volume as it does efficiency. He's in the top three in the league for both field goal and free throw attempts. Durant also has the highest degree of difficulty out of anyone on this list. Over half his shots come 16-plus feet away from the basket and he attempts over five threes a game, so his 48 percent from the field is much more than just drives and dunks.
56.8% from the field at 12.5 attempts per game
No center in the league provides the all-around shooting touch of Horford. He's a much different type of player than Nene in that he'll typically take 4-5 jump shots a game from around 16-20 feet. The long two is not necessarily a shot you want your center taking, but it's one that Horford is making 57 percent of the time this season. Although Horford doesn't get to the line often, he is also one of the few centers in the league who makes 80 percent of his free throws.
54.1% from the field at 16.1 attempts per game
The Mavs weren't the only ones hurting with Nowitzki out the past couple of weeks with a knee sprain. Fantasy owners were also missing the most efficient shooter in the league by far, someone who is making a career-high 54 percent of his shots from the floor this season (while still hitting a three a game) and nearly 9 out of every 10 free throws. Nowitzki is also shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and is over 50 percent from just about everywhere else on the court. When it comes to fantasy basketball and percentages, no one comes close to what Nowitzki is doing right now.
42.7% from the field at 11.7 attempts per game
Cousins' rookie season has been a mixed bag so far. He's currently starting for the Kings at center and is averaging nearly 13 points and 8 rebounds game. But his attitude on the court has been as bad as advertised and he's already clashing with coach Paul Westphal. Cousins is also having trouble making any shot that is not right around the rim -- he's a horrible 31 percent on shots that aren't dunks, layups or put backs, and his 66 percent from the line puts him near the bottom of the league in that category.
39.1% from the field at 15.8 attempts per game
Jennings is a high volume, low efficiency scorer whose jump shot can generously be called a work in progress. The one bright spot is that he hits threes with nearly the same consistency (37 percent) as he does the two-point shot. He's played only 25 games this season due to a broken foot, but the 39 percent he's currently shooting from the floor is an actually an improvement on his rookie season, in which Jennings shot 37 percent from the field. His free throw percentage is also slightly below league average.
39.3% from the field at 16.8 attempts per game
It's an indication of where the Kings' offense is right now that they have two players in the bottom of this list. But unlike Cousins, Evans' disappointing year a lot to do with the various injuries he's had, including a bout with plantar fasciitis. Evans has clearly been struggling while playing through those injuries, and as a result his field goal percentage has dipped from 46 percent last year to 39 percent this season. If Evans can get healthy again, his shooting numbers should jump back into the mid-40 range, but for now he's been huge drag on fantasy teams in these categories.
56.8% from the field at 13.3 attempts per game
While Howard's free throw percentage hasn't quite reached the levels of ineptitude of Shaquille O'Neal in his prime, it is still bad enough to single- handedly destroy a fantasy team's ability to compete in that category. There are two camps on Howard from a fantasy perspective. Either you don't want him anywhere near your team, or you're willing to live with his category destroying free-throw percentage because of all the other things he does well -- which this season includes averaging 21.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game. Howard is also near the top of the league in field goal percentage, which is the reason why he is not the worst player in the league for percentages.
48.2% from the field at 11.8 attempts per game
This season Bogut has been Dwight Howard without the efficiency from the field. While he takes less than half as many free throws as Howard per game, Bogut's 43 percent from the line is in a class by itself considering how many free throws he does attempt. Also his elbow injury to end last season is significantly affecting his ability to get his shot off consistently this year. Bogut's field-goal percentage has dropped from 58 percent in 2008 to 52 percent last season to 48 percent so far this year. It will be next season at the earliest before Bogut is healthy enough to get his shot back into form.