17/18 Punting Guides Part 1: Punt Assists

If you play in H2H leagues, and you’re not punting, you’re not doing it right. Trying to build a team that is competitive in every category might seem like a swell idea on the surface. We all dream about finding that fantasy basketball nirvana. That team that is strong in all nine categories that doesn’t give our opponents an inch. Unfortunately, unless your leaguemates are severely lacking in talent, that’s not a realistic dream. Winning all nine categories isn’t realistic, so why waste our time trying.

The idea behind punting is to sacrifice a category in order to be stronger in the other eight categories than you would have been if you tried to be competitive in all nine categories. The same logic applies to punting multiple categories. If you sacrifice multiple categories and build your team correctly, then you should be stronger in the remaining categories than you would have been if you only punted a single category. The biggest downside to punting more than one category is that it limits your flexibility. Changing strategies mid-season, or close to the fantasy playoffs, is very common and often, the right move. Quality free-agent pickups can change your team’s makeup and sometimes the build that you have chosen doesn’t matchup well with a likely playoff opponent. As a rule, unless I play in a league with more than nine categories, I try not to punt more than two categories at the beginning of the season. That often changes as the fantasy playoffs get closer, but at the beginning of the season, I like to have plenty of flexibility.

One strategy that you should definitely stay away from is punting four categories. I know some are tempted by the thought of locking up five categories every week and squeezing out 5-4 victories all the way through the fantasy playoffs. That strategy is better in theory than it is in reality. You have zero room for error if you try to pull off the quadruple-punt. If you don’t draft properly or an injury puts one of your chosen five categories at risk, you can sink to bottom of the standings fast. Even if you do pull off this strategy relatively well, you can still find yourself in trouble. I played in a league a few years back where a team employing this strategy finished in the top-3 in terms of matchup victories and missed the playoffs. Margin of victory does matter in the regular season, especially if you play in a league where you need to be more than a few games over .500 to make the playoffs.

Let’s start with what I consider the most reliable and simplistic of the punt strategies: Punt Assists. This is a high-floor, high-ceiling strategy that is usually easier to pull off than some of its more famous cousins. If you’re new to punting, this is where you want to start. If you’re a veteran of the art, there’s still a pretty good chance that this is where you’ll end up.

Punting assists is effective for a whole host of reasons. We’ll start with the most obvious. The fantasy basketball community loves point guards. Its obsession with point guards is only surpassed by its obsession with points. Punt assists takes advantage of this love affair. Now don’t get me wrong, point guards are usually very useful fantasy assets. Last season, ten of the top-20 players in fantasy were point guards. If you played in an 8-category league, that number was even higher. But assists is only one category. If we ignore assists, then the value of most point guards drops dramatically. To figure out just how much value they do lose, I took all the point guard eligible players who were ranked within the top-70 last season, as well as the late-round point guards who will be relevant to this year’s drafts, and compared their value with and without assists.

 

Player Ranking with Assists Ranking without Assists Difference Notes
Steph Curry 3 5 -2
Giannis Antetokounmpo 5 6 -1
James Harden 7 24 -17
Russell Westbrook 8 22 -14
Chris Paul 9 15 -6
Isaiah Thomas 11 13 -2
Kyle Lowry 12 17 -5
Damian Lillard 16 20 -4
Kyrie Irving 17 23 -6
John Wall 18 61 -43
Mike Conley 23 33 -10
Kemba Walker 26 38 -12
C.J. McCollum 27 25 2 Punt Assists Target
Eric Bledsoe 38 69 -31
Jeff Teague 44 102 -58
Ricky Rubio 47 132 -85
Jrue Holiday 52 109 -57
Goran Dragic 56 92 -36
Avery Bradley 57 46 11 Punt Assists Target
Patrick Beverley 58 73 -15 Punt Assists Target
George Hill 61 74 -13
Zach LaVine 62 62 0 Punt Assists Target
Lou Williams 71 80 -9 Punt Assists Target
Seth Curry 79 81 -2 Punt Assists Target
Jeremy Lin 80 122 -42
Tyler Johnson 82 91 -9 Punt Assists Target
Victor Oladipo 86 89 -3 Punt Assists Target
Elfrid Payton 95 184 -89
Darren Collison 96 133 -37
D’Angelo Russell 103 150 -47
Dennis Schroder 108 197 -89
Rajon Rondo 127 230 -103
Mean Ranking 50 76 -26

On average, point guards lose about two-and-a-half rounds of value when assists are ignored. This means that if you’re punting assists, and playing against a squad with 3-to-5 point guards on it, you’re playing against a team that has 3-to-5 players who aren’t as effective against your team as their draft position suggests they should be. If you’re not punting assists, then John Wall is an extremely scary player to go up against. If you are punting assists, then Wall is just another mid-round player. Punting assists is a great way to protect yourself against some of your opponents’ best players.

Punt assists is also attractive because it almost always locks up turnovers for its user. Assists are strongly correlated with turnovers so it’s no surprise that this build usually dominates in that category. In fact, managers punting assists will need to be wary of being too strong in turnovers. As is the case with every punting strategy, punting assists is about more than just sorting the rankings without the punted category and picking the players who receive the largest bump. If you just follow the rankings you’ll come away from your draft stronger than you need to be in turnovers and weaker than you should be everywhere else. Don’t be afraid to take a couple of high-turnover players as the rest of your roster will more than make up for their shortcomings.

Another quirk that this build has that separates it from its competition is that it is not naturally weak in a second category. If you punt FG%, you’ll usually struggle with turnovers. If you punt FT%, points are often hard to come by. If you’re punting points, threes can be very tricky to find. Those punting blocks need to watch their rebounds and FG% very close. More than any other build, punt assists makes it possible to strong in the eight non-punted categories.

If you do want to slide punt assists into a double-punt, then it is best matched with the punt FT% build. Ignoring assists and FT% can turn some of the mid-round big men into first-round assets. It’s a great way to lock up FG%, rebounds, and blocks each week. However, bringing the punt FT% big men into the equation does complicate things. Most of these big men struggle in the points and steals columns and don’t hit threes so you’ll need to pay more attention to these categories than you would if you were just punting assists. The double-punt also limits your first-round options. Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant lose a lot of value if you throw out their FT% impact. The double-punt is best paired with Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, or DeMarcus Cousins.

Another reason why the punt assists build can be so deadly is that it is one of the few strategies where it is possible to be very strong in both percentages. Many fantasy players focus on stacking their counting stats at the expense of their team’s percentages. I strongly disagree with this approach. Being strong in the percentages gives your team a higher floor and a higher ceiling. If your team is near the top of the league in both percentages, your team is less likely to struggle during weeks in which the schedule is unfriendly. It also gives your team a higher ceiling because it makes running up the score in weeks where the schedule is in your favor more likely. A team that is strong in counting stats but weak in percentages, won’t benefit as much from a friendly schedule since having more games won’t boost your percentages. Being strong in the percentages in a week in which you have a games advantage is more likely to lead to a blowout win because you’ll be winning the percentages while your slightly weaker counting stats will be receiving a boost from the friendly schedule.

Your first-round targets for this build are familiar ones. Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kawhi Leonard we’re the four most-valuable players in this build last season. DeMarcus Cousins is another option, but he is much trickier to build around. The Pelican comes with absurd counting stats (27.0 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 11.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG) that are somewhat offset by his poor percentages (45.2 FG%, 77.2 FT%). Cousins can still work in the build, but you’ll need to focus more on the percentages in the middle rounds than you would if you took one of the other first-round options. He also can put turnovers in play (3.7 TOPG) if you’re not careful.

Don’t completely ignore your point guard spot when punting assists. Make sure that you have at least two point guard eligible players on your team. I used to suggest three, but with the adjustments the NBA has made to their schedule, you can likely get away with only two now. Any less than two and you run the risk of not being able to field a full roster at certain points of the season.

Finally, don’t stress if you are low on threes and steals after the first three or four rounds. That is going to be a pretty common outcome given who the early-round targets are.  The middle rounds are full of 3-and-D players who can bring both categories back in a hurry. It’s better to focus on points and the percentages early as those are harder to find than threes and steals in the middle rounds.

Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players who fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. 

Categories to target: Points, Threes, Steals, FG%, FT%

First-round targets: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins

R2) Paul George – George’s counting stats are a lock to decrease this season now that he’ll be sharing the court, and occasionally the ball, with Russell Westbrook. Don’t fret too much over George’s upcoming drop in usage. He has plenty of room to fall. The move to OKC will only bring George back to the second-round pack. In his final season with the Pacers, the swingman was a top-10 option in the punt assists build. He is easily the best non-big man option in the second round thanks to his scoring ability (23.7 PPG), elite threes (2.6 3PG), very useful boards (6.6 RPG), and well above-average swipes (1.6 SPG). He’s best paired with one of efficient first-round bigs as his FG% does have the potential to get ugly. Last season, he shot a very respectable 46.1% from the floor, but the former Pacer’s career average is only 43.2%. Expect Westbrook’s presence to lead to small dips in his scoring and FT% impact (89.9 FT% on 5.0 FTA).

R2) Rudy Gobert

Gobert is one of the reason why the double punt with FT% is an interesting option. Last season, Gobert was a top-8 player without assists. If you discard FT% as well, the only players more valuable than Gobert were Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant. Getting a potential top-3 player in your build in the second round may be worth jettisoning the second category. He can fit into the regular punt assists build, but you’ll be fighting an uphill battle at the line for rest of the draft. Only four players had a larger negative impact on the category in 2016-2017. Gobert provides elite production in three categories (12.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 66.3 FG%) and we should see his scoring (14.0 PPG), as well as his minutes (33.9 MPG), increase now that Gordon Hayward has skipped town. Hayward’s move to the Celtics shouldn’t worry prospective owners. Gobert had both a higher usage rate and a higher FG% when Hayward was off the court in 2016-2017.

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Nov 06

Week 4 Preview

The flow of interesting free agents has started to slow down, as it always does around this time each season, but there’s still more than a few fresh faces who are worth our consideration. The below list of players does not include many of the players that I recommended last week. That does not mean that I don’t think that those players are worth a look. I just like to highlight different players each week and I assume that many of the players recommended in previous previews have already been scooped up. Use this list in combination with last week’s list when looking for quality free-agent pickups.

 

  ATL BKN BOS CHA CHI CLE DAL DEN DET GSW HOU IND LAC LAL MEM
Week 4 3 4 4 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2
MIA MIL MIN NOR NYK OKC ORL PHI PHO POR SAC SAS TOR UTA WAS
Week 4 4 3 2 3 3 4 3 3 4 2 3 3 3 3 3
  • Week 4 is one of this season’s least busy weeks with only five teams having four games and four teams having two games. This makes the players on the teams with four games extremely valuable. Borderline plays like Alex Len and Marcus Smart become strong starts this week. Players like Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson could be top-50 plays due to their schedule.
  • The lack of teams with four games makes the two-game players more viable than usual this week, but only a handful are must-starts. Karl-Anthony Towns should be in your lineup, but I’d sit Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is doing his usual points and not much else routine and only Dwight Howard is having a larger negative impact on the category. Jimmy Butler would probably be a sit in a busier week, but the quiet schedule makes him a reasonable start. He’s a good buy-low target and it’s hard to see his value ever getting lower than it is now. Send out some offers. Joel Embiid is also going to sit a game this week, but he’ll still likely outperform some of your three-game players.

Week 4 Pickups:

Zach LaVine – He should already be owned in 100% of leagues with IR spots and now is the time to stash him if you aren’t fortunate enough to play in a league an IR slot. The Bulls have an excellent playoff schedule and LaVine has top-50 upside once his limitations are lifted. That may not be until the New Year, but the Bulls’ future first-option will be worth the wait. LaVine should eventually be a major boon to your points (18.9 PPG) and threes (2.6 3PG) and could help you in those categories without dragging down your FG% (46.0 FG).

Donovan Mitchell – Mitchell has badly outplayed Rodney Hood over the Jazz’s last three games and the rookie’s strong play has led to more minutes. He’s played over 30 minutes in two of the past three games and has scored at least 17 points and hit at least three threes in all three games. He won’t provide much in the non-scoring categories, but Hood’s development has stalled and Mitchell could eventually pass Hood in the Jazz’s rotation.

Kyle Kuzma – Larry Nance Jr. is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks and that opens up a lot of minutes for both Kumza and teammate Julius Randle. Randle is only a deep-league player, but Kuzma is worth a look in standard leagues. Not only is Kuzma currently starting over Randle, his game is much more fantasy friendly. While Randle won’t give you much outside of low-end points and solid boards, Kuzma can help you in the points, threes, rebounds, and FG% categories. Over the Lakers’ last four games, the rookie is averaging a very impressive 18.0 PPG on 64.4% shooting from the field, 1.8 3PG, and 8.5 RPG. He won’t continue to shoot this well, but a strong performance over the next month could lead to Kuzma keeping his starting job and staying relevant in fantasy circles.

Seth Curry – While he doesn’t yet have a clear return date, Curry is doing some pre-game work and seems to be getting close. With the Mavericks’ season already over and the team extremely thin on the wing, Curry should see plenty of run once he does return and could produce top-80 numbers. Curry was even better than that last season after the All-Star Break. Over the last two months of the 2016-2017 season, Curry was a top-50 player and averaged 15.7 PPG, 2.4 3PG, and 1.1 SPG while shooting 50.9% from the field and 92.5% from the line. He’s a must-grab for those punting assists due to his efficiency and point guard eligibility.

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Oct 30

Week 3 Preview

The waiver wire isn’t quite as bountiful as it was in Week 1 and 2, but there’s still some very intriguing options out there who could become long-term impact players. If your team is struggling, especially your early-round players, you shouldn’t panic. Studs usually end up producing around their career averages. If your late-round picks that you thought would hit haven’t, then it’s probably time to say goodbye. Usually, by this point, it’s at least somewhat evident that a player is going to breakout. This is also the best time to send out buy-low offers. There’s usually at least one manager in your league who doesn’t understand the concept of patience. Take advantage of that.

Week 3 Schedule and Notes:

 

  ATL BKN BOS CHA CHI CLE DAL DEN DET GSW HOU IND LAC LAL MEM
Week 3 3 2 4 4 3 3 4 4 3 3 4 4 4 4 4
MIA MIL MIN NOR NYK OKC ORL PHI PHO POR SAC SAS TOR UTA WAS
Week 3 4 3 4 4 4 3 4 3 4 4 3 4 4 4 3
  • The Nets are this week’s biggest loser and that takes all their players off the menu in weekly leagues. DeMarre Carroll should still be held and Spencer Dinwiddie is an excellent pickup. However, Caris LeVert can be jettisoned for a hot free agent. His role, and the Nets’ pace and system, makes him an attractive player in theory, but he just isn’t very good at the moment. He was a forgettable per-minute player in his rookie year and despite his obvious talent and above-average athleticism, he hasn’t found a way to score efficiently. Percentages and turnovers matter just as much as any other category, and unless you are punting at least one of those categories, you can almost certainly do better than LeVert.
  • There should be plenty of quality streaming options this week with 19 teams playing four games. Of those 19 teams, the Grizzlies have the easiest schedule. I don’t love James Ennis and Jarell Martin as pickups, but the Western Conference leaders should have a very nice week with the Hornets, Magic, and Lakers on the schedule.

Week 3 Pickups:

Marco Belinelli – Belinelli continues to light it up as the Hawks’ second-best option on offense and is producing fifth-round numbers on the year. The shooting guard has managed this feat by posting elite three-point shooting numbers (3.1 3PG) without dragging down his owners’ FG% (45.3 FG%). He won’t offer much on the defensive end (1.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG), but the veteran is one of the league’s best free-throw shooters and is yet to miss from the charity stripe this season.

Spencer Dinwiddie – Dinwiddie has slid into Jeremy Lin’s old role and the early returns of the move have been fantastic. Over the Nets’ last three games, the guard has produced 13.5 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 6.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG while shooting 48.4% from the field and 89.5% from the line on 4.8 FTA. He won’t continue to be this good, but he’s a great option for those short on point guard numbers due to Lin’s injury. The Nets play at a breakneck pace and as long as Dinwiddie continues to see minutes in the mid-20s, he should be relevant to standard-league managers.

Markieff Morris – This is just a friendly reminder to pick up Morris if he’s still floating around on your wire. The Wizard is still only owned in 52% of leagues and could return later this week. Unless you play in a very shallow league, Morris likely has more upside than anyone else on your wire. Over the last three months of the 2016-2017 season, Markieff was a top-55 option in 9-category leagues and averaged 14.7 PPG, 1.2 3PG, 6.9 RPG, and 0.9 SPG. He is a must-grab in all formats and a dream pickup for those punting FG%.

Ryan Anderson – Anderson started the season very slowly, but exploded in Week 2 to the tune of 19.0 PPG, 5.7 3PG, and a very surprisingly 1.3 BPG. Now obviously none of that is sustainable, but he needs to be owned as long as he is hot. At worst, Anderson will be an elite source of threes who can help you win points. His upside is capped by his lack of defensive stats. Anderson is currently averaging a meager 0.7 SPG and 0.4 BPG. While those numbers are not impressive, they are actually a huge improvement on last season’s averages of 0.4 SPG and 0.2 BPG.

T.J. McConnell – Markelle Fultz is out indefinitely and that means big minutes for McConnell. As we saw last year, he’s not the most well-rounded fantasy asset, but he can contribute big numbers in the assists and steals columns. In 2016-2017 McConnell managed 6.6 APG and 1.7 SPG in 26.3 MPG. Since Fultz was shutdown, McConnell has played 29.8 MPG and has 17 assists and 7 steals in two games. He’s worth a look in standard leagues.

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Oct 23

Week 2 Preview

The best advice that I can give you after Week 1 is to not panic. A two or three game sample size does not mean much regardless of how good or bad a player has looked. That’s not to say that we should completely ignore the first week of the season. Rotations are becoming much more clear and quite a few players are looking at roles either much larger or smaller than anticipated. Below are some of the players whose starts warrant attention from fantasy owners. Many of the below players will turn out to be nothing more than a flash in the pan, but there’s also likely some gems in the group. I’ve also attached Week 2’s schedule and added a few notes on that schedule.

Week 2 Schedule and Notes:

 

ATL BKN BOS CHA CHI CLE DAL DEN DET GSW HOU IND LAC LAL MEM
Week 2 4 4 3 4 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 4
MIA MIL MIN NOR NYK OKC ORL PHI PHO POR SAC SAS TOR UTA WAS
Week 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 3 3 4
  • Expect most weekly schedules to look like Week 2’s. The NBA adjusted their schedule to minimize back-to-back sets and four game weeks won’t be as common as they were in the past. There will also be more two game weeks which means more difficult decisions for managers playing in weekly leagues.
  • Denver has this week’s easiest schedule with the Wizards, Hornets, Hawks, and Nets on the docket. Expect a nice bounce back week from Nikola Jokic. If you own Jokic, hold tight. The minutes have been there and he’s too good of a player to continue playing this poorly. If you don’t own Jokic, then float some buy-low offers to his likely frustrated owner.
  • The Lakers have a brutal schedule this week. Washington and Toronto will be visiting the Staples Center and the Lakers will travel to Utah to play against what could be the best defense in the league. I’d still add Larry Nance Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope if they are available, but expect most of the Lakers to have an ugly week.

 

Week 2 Pickups:

Will Barton – The Nuggets didn’t find a wing replacement for Danilo Gallinari this offseason and that has opened up more minutes for Barton. He’s averaging just a hair under 30 MPG and the additional playing time could lead to a top-100 finish. He was a top-85 player in 2015-2016 and should have a large enough role to approach that season’s numbers. In 2015-2016, the wing produced 14.4 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 5.8 RPG, and 2.5 APG. He is an excellent fit for the punt assists build and also gains value if you are punting FG% (44.2 FG% in 2016-2017).

Dejounte Murray – Murray has badly outplayed Patty Mills and looks like the point guard to own in San Antonio. His upside is capped as it looks like the timeshare with Mills will continue, but he has done enough in the minutes he’s been given (25.9 MPG) to be worth a look in standard leagues. Thus far, Murray has been a monster on the boards (7.5 RPG) and has brought the heat on the defensive end (2.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG). Murray is a very strong short-term play, but his long-term outlook isn’t as rosy. Tony Parker is already participating in contact drills and Murray could be stuck in an ugly, three-way timeshare once the veteran does return.

Al-Farouq Aminu – Aminu has teased us in the past, so I am hesitant to give him a full-throated endorsement, but he should be owned, at least for now. With Noah Vonleh still recovering from a right shoulder injury, Aminu has been spending all of his time at the four and that has led to some impressive rebounding numbers. Through three games, Aminu is averaging a whopping 11.3 RPG. Playing as a full-time power forward has also helped the Blazer’s blocks (1.0 BPG). I don’t expect Aminu to be more than a top-120 player this season, but he’ll be worth a roster spot until Vonleh returns.

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17/18 Punting Guides Part 6: Punt Threes

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or have only watched Timberwolves games lately, you’ve probably noticed that the league is now in love with the three-ball. As it should be. It’s simple math. Three is greater than two and the attempts are only going to go up from here. The league’s increased attention to the three-ball doesn’t have a major impact on this strategy. The theory behind the build remains the same. The only change is that you’ll have more threes on your roster than you did in the past. However, the distance between you and your competitors in the threes category is going to be about the same.

If you take a look at the league’s top three-point shooters, you’ll notice that most of the time, their contributions are limited to triples and maybe two or three more categories. Because of this, ignoring threes, and focusing on players whose contributions are more varied makes a lot of sense. Big men receive a huge bump in this build and you will be looking to win rebounds, blocks, and FG% each week. As is the case with every punting strategy, the success of the build is not only determined by the easy to find categories, in this case the big man categories. A strong punt threes team must also be competitive in the categories that usually accompany the punted category. When you punt threes, you will want to pay extra close attention to points, FT%, assists, and steals. FT% is the category that will give you the most headaches. You’re going to want to make finding FT% impact a priority in the early and middle rounds. It is extremely hard to find FT% impact late in any build and punting threes complicates things even further.

Last season, 1.3 3PG was roughly where a player needed to be in order to be an average producer in the category. This build is not just about targeting players like Elfrid Payton who almost never hit from deep. These days, almost all guards have a reliable three-ball and any guard that hits around the league average is fair game. In fact, due to how difficult it can be to find FT% impact, you may find yourself drafting a couple of players who hit close to two triples a night.

This strategy works with any of the first-round big men. They are all competent from beyond the three-point line, but none of the bigs lose much value when threes are ignored. Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Wall are the best perimeter starting points for this build. Both gain value when threes are ignored and provide plenty of production in the other guard categories. This is also an interesting option for those starting their draft with LeBron James. The King matched his career high for deep last season (1.7 3PG), but threes were only his sixth-best category in 2016-2017.

Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players who fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. 

Categories to target: Points, FT%, Assists, Steals

First-round targets: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, John Wall

R2) Jimmy Butler – Jimmy is the only viable second-round guard option for this build. All of the other second-round guards have quite a bit of their value tied up in threes. If you plan on targeting Jimmy, he’s a reasonable pick at any point in the second round. In his final season with the Bulls, Butler was a top-6 player in this build. Even if his numbers slip in Minnesota, he still has a very good chance of returning first-round value in this build, something that is not easy for guards to do. Last season, Butler averaged an outstanding 23.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.9 SPG. He also had the fourth-largest positive impact on the FT% category (86.5 FT% on 8.9 FTA) and shot a respectable percentage from the field (45.5 FG%).

R2) Draymond Green – Drafting Green is one of the best ways to ensure that your team is competitive in both assists and steals. He provides historic production in both categories (7.0 APG, 2.0 SPG). The now two-time NBA champion is also more than solid on the boards (7.9 RPG) and in the blocks column (1.4 BPG). Draymond obviously brings a lot of good things to this build, but the rest of his line is less than ideal. He’ll put you in a major hole in points (10.2 PPG) and will hurt your chances of being a strong FG% team (41.7 FG%).

R2) Hassan Whiteside – Whiteside is a lock to return value if he’s paired with the punt threes build. Last season, Whiteside was a top-10 option without threes and the big man was a top-5 player the season before. Drafting Whiteside allows you to forget about FG% (55.8 FG%) and blocks (2.1 BPG) for a couple rounds and ensures that you end up as one of your league’s top rebounding teams (14.2 RPG). The Heat’s center could either be a huge drag on your FT% or just a minor one. It’s very hard to predict what his FT% is going to look like. In 2016-2017, Whiteside shot just 62.8% from the free-throw line. However, he was much more successful over the second half of the season. Over the last three months of the year, Whiteside shot 71.5% from the line.

Other Round 2 Options: Rudy Gobert but he could make it very difficult to be competitive in FT%

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17/18 Punting Guides Part 5: Punt Blocks

You can’t always get what you want in fantasy, especially if you play in a league with a snake draft. Often you’ll land your preferred first-round pick only to see your best second- and third-round options come off the board before you get a chance to pick again. The unpredictability of fantasy basketball drafts makes flexibility one of the most important traits that a manager can have. When I say flexibility, I’m not just talking about having a list of three or four acceptable players in each round. Sometimes your best option is to completely change your team building strategy while the draft is taking place. For example, say you draft Steph Curry 3rd-overall and want to punt FT%. You plan on taking another point guard in the second round and then DeAndre Jordan in third. Your second-round pick works out, but then the manager who took Giannis Antetokounmpo 2nd-overall scoops up Jordan before you have the chance to select the big man. At this point, you need to decide whether it is best to force the punt FT% build with less than ideal players or pivot to another build where the top players are still available.

If you’re looking for a great backup build, then you’ve come to the right place. The punt blocks strategy doesn’t quite have the upside that other builds do, but you can still build a championship contender by ignoring swats. Punting blocks works for the same reason that punting assists does. Like assists, blocks are hard to find and are often reached for in drafts. In 2016-2017, only six players averaged at least 2.0 BPG. Of those six players, two are major drags on your FT% (Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside) and one has only played 31 games over the past three seasons (Joel Embiid).

All punting strategies require more than just sorting the rankings without the punted category and picking the players who receive the largest boost. This is especially true when punting blocks. If you just follow the punt blocks rankings, you’ll end up dominant in the guard categories and terrible everywhere else. Guards usually receive a massive bump in this build and most big men lose a decent chunk of their value. Last season, only four of the top-25 players in the punt blocks build were big men. This build is naturally weak in both FG% and rebounds and those categories will need special attention throughout the draft. You will need to aggressively target the handful of big men who don’t lose much value when blocks are ignored and who are dominant on the boards. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for guards who score their points efficiently. You won’t be getting as much FG% impact from your bigs as you would in the punt assists or punt FT% builds and you’ll need to turn to your guards and wings to make up the difference. Turnovers and steals can also be an issue in this build, but you don’t need to pay nearly as much attention to either category as you do to FG% and rebounds.

If you want to punt an additional category alongside blocks, punting FG% is your best bet. Punting rebounds in addition to blocks makes it almost impossible to be competitive in FG%. However, it is still possible to be strong on the boards if you are punting both blocks and FG%.

The punt blocks build works well with the majority of the first-round picks. Clearly, this is a friendly build for all the guards and wings. Nikola Jokic is also an excellent match for this strategy as he’s not much of a shot blocker and has the ability to produce elite numbers on the boards and in the FG% column. Karl-Anthony Towns could also work here as his sky-high FG% and excellent rebounding numbers are exactly what this build needs. The problem with pairing Towns with this build is that there’s really no reason to choose it over the punt assists build. Towns is a better fit for punt dimes strategy and no other build, including punt blocks, is easier to pull off than punt assists.

Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players who fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. 

Categories to target: FG%, Rebounds, Steals, Turnovers

First-round targets: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, John Wall, Chris Paul

R2) Kyrie Irving – You can’t go wrong with any of the second-round point guards, but Kyrie is a slightly better fit for this build than Lillard, Lowry, and Walker due to his higher FG% (47.3 FG%). Irving just missed posting first-round value without blocks in his final season in Cleveland and has top-10 upside now that he’ll be the main cog of the Celtics’ offense. Kyrie will come with elite FT% impact (90.5 FT% on 4.6 FTA), threes (2.5 3PG), and scoring (25.2 PPG). His previously excellent steals rate has slipped the past two seasons. He now only provides about average production in the category (1.2 SPG).

R2) DeMarcus Cousins – Cousins is a fairly good shot blocker (1.3 BPG), but this build isn’t about avoiding blocks at all costs. It’s about finding a way to maximize your success in the other eight categories and Cousins has the ability to be a major factor in most of the remaining categories. His outstanding boards (11.1 RPG) are a huge help to a build that usually struggles to collect enough rebounds and he is elite in every other counting stat category (27.0 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG). If you decide to grab Cousins in the second, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle in FG% the rest of the way. He shot 45.2% from the field in 2016-2017 and his FG% didn’t improve after the move to New Orleans.

R2) Jimmy Butler – The former Bull was a top-7 player in this build last season and should maintain most of his value in Minnesota. He’ll lose some shots (23.9 PPG) now that he’s playing with more offensive threats, but everything else in his line looks repeatable. Jimmy is one of the best rebounding two guards in the league (6.2 RPG) and won’t drag down your FG% (45.5 FG%) like some of the other second-round guards will. He is also an elite source of FT% impact (86.5 FT% on 8.9 FTA) and could lead the league in steals (1.9 SPG). What stops Butler from being an option around the turn is his inability to stay healthy. Jimmy has only played in more than 70 games in a season twice in his career.

Other Round 2 Options: Paul George, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley

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17/18 Punting Guides Part 4: Punt Points and Punt Points/FT%

The fantasy community has a very unhealthy relationship with points. It will do some truly sick things to get their fix. You’ll see Andrew Wiggins being drafted within the first 50 picks despite having never posted top-100 numbers. Devin Booker may go before pick 50 in your draft even though he provides little outside of the points category and hasn’t proven that he can be a useful fantasy asset when Eric Bledsoe is on the floor. Points is the reason why you’ll see the question “Should I draft Dion Waiters this season?” being thrown around. The answer is no. Do not draft Dion Waiters.

No build changes your draft board more than punt points does. Borderline first-round options become top-30 players and players struggling to crack the top-100 when points are included become mid-round assets. Last season, Patrick Beverley was a top-40 player without points while Eric Bledsoe failed to crack the top-50. Damian Lillard was about valuable as Robert Covington in this build. Larry Nance Jr., who often ends up going undrafted, was a top-55 asset to those ignoring points.

Punt points’ ability to turn the draft board upside down gives it, arguably, the highest ceiling out of any build. It is very possible to finish your draft with a handful of top-30 players and not have a single player who finished outside of the top-100 without points in 2016-2017. While this build does have a higher ceiling than most, it also comes with a lower floor. This can be a very difficult build to pull off. The main reason for this is that punting points makes your percentages very volatile. A poor shooting week from your first-round building block is going to hurt more here than it will in other builds. The lower volume and increased sensitivity means that we’re going to have to focus more on the percentages categories early in the draft. You can find players later in the draft who are very good either from the field or the line, but usually it is only one or the other, and they often come with some other major drawback. Fortunately, most of the first-round picks are elite in at least one of the percentages and some are excellent in both. Kevin Durant finished atop the punt points rankings last season and remains the top option for this build due to his percentages dominance. Giannis Antetokounmpo is not far behind and as we saw in 2015-2016, Steph Curry has the ability to dominate this build. All of the ideal punt assists starting points also fit very well into the punt points build due to their ability to boost both percentages categories. If you’re picking at the end of the first round, then pairing Nikola Jokic or Chris Paul (or both if you’re lucky) with the punt points build makes a ton of sense.

Later in the draft you’re going to want to stay away from mediocre players who are major drags on one of the efficiency categories even if they receive a two or three round boost when points are ignored. Mid-round players who turn into early-round assets in this build like Trevor Ariza or Covington are still great grabs, but players like Marcus Smart or Steven Adams (if you are not punting FT% in addition to points) are not going to be worth it.

Threes can also be an issue for this build as many of the top three-point shooters have a lot of their value tied up in points. The 3-and-D wings who hit plenty of threes, but aren’t top scoring options on their team, are going to be some of the best options in the middle rounds.

Since being strong in both percentages is difficult, it makes a lot of sense to punt one of the categories alongside points. Punting FG% isn’t ideal as many of the top punt FG% options depend on points to boost their value. Punting FT% and points is a much better option. The punt FT% big men receive a massive boost in the double-punt and it’s possible to come away with three first-round-level players if you are punting both points and FT%. Last season, Rudy Gobert finished second-overall in the double-punt and DeAndre Jordan has been a top-5 option in this build four seasons in a row. Your approach to the double-punt will be similar to that of the regular punt FT% build. You’re going to need plenty of point guards and threes could be a problem.

This guide is for both punt points and the double-punt. The players in italics are the players that you will want to target only if you are attempting the double-punt. There are a handful of players on this list who I haven’t identified as punt FT%-only players even though they struggle from the line. If you are only punting points, don’t pick more than one or two of these players. In this build, poor, but not terrible, free-throw shooters can tank your FT% in a hurry.

Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players who fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. 

Categories to target: FG%, FT% (if only punting points), Threes, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks

First-round targets: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic, Chris Paul

R2) Rudy Gobert – You should be thrilled if your second-round pick ends up returning first-round value in your chosen build. Having two first-round players on your roster is a huge advantage. A first-round finish is nice, but a first-overall finish is even better. That is the type of upside that Gobert offers if you pair him with the punt points/FT% strategy. Last season, Gobert finished second overall in the double-punt, finishing just behind Kevin Durant. With Gordon Hayward now in Boston, Gobert is likely going to see his usage increase. The big man’s usage, scoring, and efficiency all rose when Hayward was off the court last season. Gobert offers elite boards (12.8 RPG), blocks (2.6 BPG), and FG% impact (66.3 FG%). He is still a major drag on two important categories to this build (1.2 APG, 0.6 SPG) so he is best paired with an elite point guard, preferably Chris Paul. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fit Gobert into the regular punt points build. Only four players had a larger negative impact on the FT% category last season (65.3 FT% on 5.9 FTA) and it’s likely to get worse. The increase in usage will likely lead to more trips to the line. 

R2) Draymond Green – Green goes from a top-25 player to a top-8 option when points are ignored and has the ability to post top-5 numbers in the double-punt. A Jokic/Draymond start is one of the more interesting options available at the end of the first round. Jokic makes up for Green’s poor efficiency (41.7 FG%, 70.9 FT%) and Green covers Jokic’s weak defensive contributions (2.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG). It’s also an incredible start in the assists column considering neither player is a point guard. Draymond averaged 7.0 APG last season and also provides owners with a handful of out-of-position triples (1.1 3PG).

R2) Jimmy Butler – Butler’s scoring (23.9 PPG) is going to take a hit this season now that he’ll be sharing the ball with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jeff Teague. He’ll lose less value in this build this season and will produce a line that has no glaring weaknesses. Butler is going to be one of the best sources of boards (6.2 RPG) and assists (5.5 RPG) from the shooting guard position and is a candidate to lead the league in steals (1.9 SPG). What makes Jimmy especially valuable in this build is his FT% impact (86.5 FT% on 8.9 FTA). Only four players helped owners more at the line last season.

Other Round 2 Options: Kyle Lowry, Hassan Whiteside

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17/18 Punting Guides Part 3: Punt FG%

Punt FT% remains the most popular punting strategy, but the punt FG% build is nipping at its heels. There are two reasons for this rise in popularity. One plays in Oklahoma City and the other makes his home in Houston. If you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to draft either, don’t even think about trying to fit them into a different build. This will be your draft strategy. You have no choice. In fact, whether you like it or not, you’re likely going to be punting both FG% and turnovers. If you really wanted to, you could bring turnovers back from the brink, but I’m not sure what the point would be. At best, you’ll only be better than a couple other teams in your league in the category. Edging out a team or two in turnovers isn’t worth weakening yourself elsewhere.

Harden and Westbrook’s brilliance make it hard to completely botch this strategy, but that doesn’t mean that you can just pick one of the two and cruise to the top of the standings. The difference between a good and great punt FG% team comes down to how strong that team is on the boards and in the blocks column. It’s very common for a punt FG% team to be weak in one or both of these categories at the end of the draft. This is because rebounds and blocks are strongly correlated with FG% and discounting players who shoot well from the field limits our big man options. While this build does take some bigs off the boards, we’re still going to want to have a normal amount of big men on our roster. You’ll likely find yourself taking one or two strong FG% big men because you are going to be that desperate for blocks and boards. You should keep your eyes open for strong rebounding and shot blocking wings. Picking up wings who grab six boards a night or average 0.8 BPG is going to be necessary if you want to be competitive in both categories.

Last season’s top-2 MVP candidates are easily the best fits for this build, especially if you just accept the double-punt or play in 8-category leagues. However, they’re not the only viable first-round picks. One very strong first-round option that doesn’t get talked about enough when punt FG% is brought up is Anthony Davis. The Brow did shoot over 50% last season, but FG% was only his fourth-best category. He was still a top-5 player even when his stellar shooting was taken away. What makes Davis such a good fit for this build is that he solves your boards and blocks problem almost by himself. There will be plenty of great point guard options available throughout the first five rounds and finding stud guards to pair with Davis might be easier than finding stud big men to pair with Harden or Westbrook. Davis also adds a wrinkle to this build that the elite guards do not. He allows you to be competitive in turnovers.

There are plenty of great punt FG% options available at the top of draft, but that doesn’t mean that this build has forgotten about its unlucky friends stuck at the end of the snake. Just like last season, the very effective Damian Lillard/DeMarcus Cousins pairing will likely be available for those picking around the turn. Starting with this pair guarantees a strong start in all categories except FG% and turnovers. Lillard’s likely league-leading FT% impact more than cancels out Cousins’ mediocrity at the line and Cousins’ outstanding out-of-position steals makes up for Lillard’s struggles on the defensive end.

Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players who fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. 

Categories to target: Rebounds, Blocks, Turnovers

First-round targets: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall

R2) Damian Lillard – Lillard is a better fit for the punt FG% build than the other elite point guards currently being drafted around the turn. He’s posted first-round value in this build three seasons in a row and looked better than ever once Jusuf Nurkic joined the squad. In the 20 games that Nurkic played for the Blazers, Lillard averaged an unbelievable 28.7 PPG, 3.4 3PG, 4.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, and 1.4 SPG. Only four players were more valuable than Lillard over that period. The counting numbers are obviously extremely good, but what makes Lillard a truly elite fantasy option is his FT% impact (89.5 FT% on 7.3 FTA). Only Isaiah Thomas did more to help owners win that category in 2016-2017.

R2) Draymond Green – Draymond’s shooting fell off a cliff last year (41.7 FG%), but aside from a small drop in scoring (10.2 PPG), that had no effect on his value to this build. He was still a steady source of out-of-position threes (1.1 3PG) and provided the boards (7.9 RPG) and blocks (1.4 BPG) that this build needs. Green also functions as an elite point guard by gifting owners with historic out-of-position assists (7.0 APG) and league-leading swipes (2.0 SPG). His weaknesses in the scoring column and at the line (70.9 FT%) are not major concerns. This build is naturally strong in both of those categories and you shouldn’t have any issue making up for what Draymond lacks.

R2) Kristaps Porzingis – If you start your draft with Russell Westbrook or James Harden, you’re probably going to find yourself drafting either Porzingis or Myles Turner at the end of the second round or at the beginning of the third round. Both are excellent options with the Knick offering a little more on offense. Porzingis is already a very good scorer (18.1 PPG) and is very comfortable behind the three-point line (1.7 3PG). Those top-notch out-of-position threes are also accompanied by elite blocks numbers (2.0 BPG) and a respectable amount of boards (7.2 RPG).

Other Round 2 Options: Paul George, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving

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17/18 Punting Guides Part 2: Punt FT%

Fantasy basketball’s most famous punting strategy is making a comeback. Last season was a rough one for this build. Most of the classic big man targets were going extremely early in the draft, making it difficult to pair those big men with elite guards. If you wanted to acquire the services of Hassan Whiteside, DeAndre Jordan, or Andre Drummond, you we’re likely ponying up a first or second-round pick. Whiteside is still going to cost you a second rounder, but Jordan and Drummond can now be had for a more reasonable price. There’s also plenty of big man bargains in the middle rounds. Players like Clint Capela, Nerlens Noel, and Dwight Howard are all good bets to post early-round value in this build.

The big man side of this build is the easy part. The targets are obvious and are neatly distributed throughout the draft. The guard side of this build is much trickier. Most of the big man targets are very weak in the threes and assists columns. They also often don’t offer much in way of steals or points. You’re going to have to make your guard selections count.

At its core, the punt FT% build can be summed up as “big men + point guards”. Point guards are the only position that consistently contributes in all of the categories that the targeted big men are weak in. You’re going to want lots. Of the traditional point guard categories, steals is the only category that this build has a fairly easy time being strong in. Points, threes, and assist can all be a major issue. Assists is particularly hard to be competitive in as most of the big men you will be drafting are atrocious in this category. Because of this, it’s not unusual for a punt FT% team to have five point guards on it. Since it’s so hard to be strong in assists when punting FT%, you’re going to want to aggressively target out-of-position dimes. Players who can provide both big man stats and assists are extremely valuable to this build. I’m looking at you Draymond Green and Blake Griffin.

While the desired big men are in nice spots this season, the point guard situation is much hairier. A whopping 17 point guards are currently ranked within the top-50 on Yahoo. You’re going to have to target point guards early and often if you want to grab the ideal options for this build. Because the build needs its point guards early, I strongly suggest that you go small in the first round. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the favorite to finish atop the punt FT% rankings and is a very good fit for the build, but Steph Curry remains the ideal starting point. You’re going to be getting plenty of rebounds and blocks from the likes of Jordan and Drummond. You’re not going to have a problem there. Steph gets the edge on Antetokounmpo because what he brings is going to be harder to find later in the draft. His superior points, assists, and threes are worth more to this build than Giannis’ boards, blocks and FG%. LeBron is an outstanding starting point for this build for the same reasons Curry is. You really can’t go wrong with any of these three studs.

Points, threes, assists, and steals need to be your main focus when punting FT%, but you’re also going to want to keep an eye on your turnovers. Since about 40% of your lineup is likely to end up being point guards, a strong turnovers team is not a given. Try to avoid choosing more than a couple point guards who turn the ball over more than three times a night. FG% is also not locked in like rebound and blocks usually are. Because of this, efficient point guards are especially valuable to this build.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve talked a lot about assists and how hard it can be to be strong in the category when punting FT%. If only there was a way to get around this…

Punt FT% pairs very well with punt assists. The combo is one of the strongest double-punt options. If you’re interested in that build, mosey on over to my punt assists guide. Downgrade the wings who have a lot of their value tied up in FT% and replace some of the recommended big men with the punt FT% big men.

Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players who fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. 

Categories to target: Points, Threes, Assists, Steals, Turnovers

First-round targets: Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, John Wall, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins

R2) Rudy Gobert – Gobert and his elite big man numbers are just begging to be paired with LeBron James. That pairing will be difficult to pull of in 12-team leagues, but if it’s there, you should jump all over it. This is a very feasible combination in 10-teams leagues and is one of the best ways to survive picking late. It is a strong start in most categories, especially if Gobert’s increased usage leads to a bump in points. Gobert is elite in all of the big man categories (12.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 66.3 FG%) and showed improvement on the offensive end as the season went on. Over the last month of the season when the Jazz were fighting for home-court advantage, Gobert upped his scoring rate to 17.7 PPG. Gobert is one of the reasons why this build is so dependent on point guards. The center is a huge drag on your dimes (1.2 APG) and steals (0.6 SPG).

R2) Draymond Green – Green is an obvious target for this build, but his line does contain some weaknesses that will change the way you approach the middle rounds. The Defensive Player of the Year was the best source of defensive numbers in the league last season (2.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG) and continues to rack up assists at a historic pace (7.0 APG). He also does enough on the boards (7.9 RPG) and contributes more than most big men do from deep (1.1 3PG). What makes Draymond tricky to build around is his lack of scoring (10.2 PPG) and horrendous FG% (41.7 FG%). Picking Green puts you in a major hole in both categories coming out of the second round. Most second-round picks are significantly better than Green in both categories. The poor FG% can be offset by pairing him with LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but finding enough points after drafting Draymond can be very tricky. A lot of the top scorers lose a fair amount of value when FT% is ignored. If you do go with Green in the second round, I highly recommend just giving up on points and accepting the double-punt. It puts very valuable players like DeAndre Jordan and Clint Capela back in play and significantly boosts Draymond’s value. Last season, Green was a top-6 player without both points and FT%.

R2) Hassan Whiteside – Whiteside is usually still available in the second half of the second round which makes him one of the top targets for a Steph Curry or Giannis Antetokounmpo-led punt FT% team. Whiteside’s block rate fell off a cliff last season (2.1 BPG), but the big man still did enough elsewhere to finish as a top-10 player in this build. Whiteside gives you a little more scoring (17.0 PPG) and rebounding than Rudy Gobert and a little less in the blocks and FG% (55.8 FG%) columns. Like Rudy, you’ll need to pair him with plenty of quality guards. Whiteside rarely passes the ball (0.7 APG) and only occasionally comes up with a steal (0.7 SPG).

R2) Kyle Lowry – Any of the second-round point guards work with this build. Even Damian Lillard, who finished second in FT% impact last season, is a fine option due to his points, threes, and assists. Of all the second-round point guard options, Lowry is the best fit for this build. He’s loses the least amount of value when FT% is ignored (81.9 FT%) and provides more assists (7.0 APG) and threes (3.2 3PG) than any other point guard currently going in the second round. Lowry gives you everything you could ask for from a lead guard (22.4 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 46.5 FG%). He just needs to stay healthy.

Other Round 2 Options: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker

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