Sep 20

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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Sep 17

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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Sep 15

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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Sep 13

17/18 Busts/Overvalued Players

Avoiding players who bust, especially early in the draft, can be just as important as finding that late-round sleeper who vastly outperforms their draft position. Luckily, most non-injury related busts are somewhat easy to spot. The same group of players are overrated year-after-year and this season is no different. I might as well rename this column “The Annual Andrew Wiggins and Other Players You Should Avoid List”. I bring up Wiggins because he is a good example of the type of player that is usually taken far too early in drafts. Wiggins is a big name who lights up the points category. How well known a player is should obviously have no bearing on how you value a player. That may seem like common sense, but most leagues have that one guy who is walking away from their drafting thinking they hit the jackpot because they drafted Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Harrison Barnes. Lots of managers also struggle to understand that points is just one category. You don’t get bonus points for winning points instead of steals.

Y! – Current Yahoo Ranking

EFB – Current Elite Fantasy Basketball Ranking

Isaiah Thomas

Y! – 33 EFB – 71

Let’s start with an easy one. Thomas is a DND until, at least, the middle rounds. If he’s out until the All-Star then he becomes close to undraftable in leagues without an IR spot. If his timeline is that bleak, but you play in a league with an IR spot, you’ll likely have to spend a mid-round pick to acquire Thomas’ services. I’d likely still stay away in that situation as the Cavaliers will play it safe with their new star point guard and it will take some time for Thomas to get acquainted with his new teammates. If he’s only out until around January, I think a fifth-round pick would be fair if we assume third-round production once he is on the court. His usage rate with Boston was significantly higher than Kyrie’s usage rate was with the Cavaliers so another first-round finish is out of the question. Thomas was a top-40 player in 2015-2016 and a repeat of that season’s numbers is a more reasonable expectation (22.2 PPG, 2.0 3PG, 6.2 APG, 1.1 SPG).

Gordon Hayward

Y! – 25 EFB – 39

Yahoo’s ranking doesn’t make a lot of sense. Hayward had the best season of his career in 2016-2017 and finished as the 33rd-best per game player in 9-category leagues. He accomplished that as the Jazz’s first option. He’ll play second fiddle to Kyrie Irving in Boston and a drop in his scoring (21.9 PPG) and usage rate (27.6%) should be expected. It’s not just Hayward’s usage rate that you should make you uncomfortable with this ranking. Hayward is also coming off of a season in which his efficiency improved significantly (47.2 FG% in 2016-2017, 43.3 FG% in 2015-2016). He crushed his 2015-2016 shooting percentage both from both deep (39.8 3P% in 2016-2017, 34.9 3P% in 2015-2016) and at the rim (69.2% in 2016-2017, 62.2% in 2015-2016). Some regression is very possible especially from deep. Three-point shooting tends to take more than a season to stabilize and Hayward could be closer to his career average of 36.8% from three in 2016-2017.

Jeff Teague

Y! – 45 EFB – 75

Teague is another easy one. Don’t expect Teague to approach the 7.8 APG that he averaged in 2016-2017. Jimmy Butler often ran the Bulls’ offense and that will likely happen in Minnesota as well. His scoring numbers should drop too (15.3 PPG) as he will be be the clear fourth-option behind Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. You may be tempted to grab Teague when that inevitable point guard run takes place in the third and fourth round, but resist the temptation. There will be better point guards available a round or two later that won’t cost you a fourth-round pick.

Jusuf Nurkic

Y! – 47 EFB – 60

The fourth-round is way too high for one of the league’s most injury-prone players, especially when you consider that the hype surrounding Nurkic is built off of 20 games. Nurkic did produce top-45 numbers during his time with the Blazers, but only lasted 20 games before breaking his leg and missing the remainder of the season. This was the first time in Nurkic’s career that he consistently played close to 30 MPG and he only lasted 20 games. Not good. It’s also fair to wonder if his FG% is going to hold up. He shot 50.8% from the field in 2016-2017 after only shooting 41.7% from the field in 2015-2016. Everything else, excluding his FT% (57.1 FT%), should be very good (17.1 PP36, 12.1 RP36, 1.3 SP36, 1.9 BP36), but there’s no reason to take Nurkic at his current fourth-round price. There are plenty of players available in this range (i.e. Andre Drummond) who have even more upside than Nurkic and are much safer picks.

Carmelo Anthony

Y! – 48 EFB – 68

Everyone, excluding LeBron James, eventually declines and it appears that Carmelo has entered that phase of his career. Anthony played 34.3 MPG last season and sported a very high usage rate (29.0%), but that wasn’t enough to allow the Knick to post top-50 numbers. Melo’s scoring (22.4 PPG) and threes (2.0 3PG) were actually better than they were in 2015-2016. Unfortunately, he was worse in almost every other category. His rebounds dropped from 7.7 RPG to 5.9 RPG and his assists dropped from 4.2 APG to 2.9 APG. Things could get even worse if he was to move to Houston. His usage would take a major hit and there’s no guarantee that the likely increase in efficiency would offset the drop in counting numbers. Staying in New York isn’t a great option for Anthony either. The Knicks are going to be very bad this season and won’t have any reason to play Carmelo down the stretch.

Devin Booker

Y! – 51 EFB – 94

Booker has the potential to be very good, but don’t let the 70-point game fool you. He still has a long way to go before he becomes a mid-round fantasy asset. Booker is a three-category player (22.1 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 83.2 FT%) who struggles to contribute in any other category. He is a negative on defense (0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG) and really struggles with turnovers (3.2 TOPG). Booker is also yet to prove that he can be a top-100 player with Eric Bledsoe on the floor. Before Bledsoe was shutdown last season, Booker was only a top-140 option. He’s going to improve, but I don’t think he has a six-round improvement in him and that is what he’ll need to justify his current ADP.

Andrew Wiggins

Y! – 58 EFB – 102 

Wiggins can be considered a litmus test for fantasy basketball knowledge. The Canadian is an obvious trap to anyone who knows their stuff. He provides a lot of points (23.6 PPG) and not much else. In fact, he hasn’t provided above-average production in any non-points category over the past two seasons. Given Wiggins’ need to score to be relevant in fantasy, the arrival of Jimmy Butler is very bad news. Wiggins has yet to post top-100 numbers for a full season and there’s a good chance that his streak continues in 2017-2018. He is laughably overpriced at his current mid-round ADP.

Ben Simmons

Y! – 55 EFB – 120

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Simmons. He hasn’t played a competitive game of basketball since last summer league and we have no idea what he’s going to look like when the season tips off. Eventually he should be very valuable, his college stats and his potential on the court suggest that he will be, but there’s way too much uncertainty here to even consider Simmons in the fifth-round. It’s still unclear if Simmons will have any restrictions placed on him and he has some holes in his line that will limit his upside in his rookie year. At LSU, he was a poor free-throw shooter (67.0 FT%) who got to the line a ton (9.0 FTA). He could be very tough to roster outside of the punt FT% build. He also has a shaky jumper and didn’t block shots in college (0.8 BPG). Simmons could be interesting due to his rebounding (10.2 RPG), as well as his out-of-position steals (2.0 SPG) and dimes (4.8 APG), but he’s not interesting enough to blow a mid-round pick on.

Marcin Gortat

Y! – 69 EFB – 128 

Gortat won’t come close to providing mid-round value as long as Ian Mahinmi is healthy. After Mahinmi returned from his knee injury, Gortat only played 25.6 MPG and was barely a top-200 player. Even if Mahinmi was to miss time, Gortat likely wouldn’t be worth much. The Wizards’ center will turn 34 during the season and is coming off of a season in which his game clearly declined. Gortat was a top-50 per minute player in 2015-2016, but was only a top-180 per minute player in 2016-2017. His scoring, steals rate, and blocks rate, all dropped off significantly and got worse as the year went along. Father Time is undefeated and is coming for Gortat.

Dario Saric

Y! – 96 EFB – N/A

Saric, along with Bob Covington, carried the Sixers’ offense down the stretch of last season. He played 30.4 MPG over the last two months of season and averaged 17.5 PPG over that span. Despite the big scoring numbers and big minutes, that only equaled top-100 value for Saric. That is because he is the type of player that is almost never valuable in fantasy. He is a big man who doesn’t score efficiently (41.1 FG%) and doesn’t contribute on the defensive end (1.0 SP36 and 0.5 BP36). He is only 23-years-old and could eventually become a good fantasy option, but that likely won’t happen this year. He’s going to be stuck behind Ben Simmons, and with Embiid back and Markelle Fultz joining the squad, his role on offense won’t be nearly as big. He’s only a final-round flier in standard leagues.

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Sep 12

17/18 Sleepers/Undervalued Players: Part 2

Below are players that better fit the traditional definition of a “sleeper”. All are currently being drafted outside of the top-135 or not at all. Some are familiar faces, while others are exciting young players about to play major minutes for the first time in their careers. When the final rounds of your draft begin, your primary focus should be on upside. I don’t completely ignore fit in the final rounds, but it’s much less important than it is in the early rounds. If you hit on a late pick who doesn’t fit you’re build, you can always trade them for a player who does. I should note that I expect some of these players to receive major boosts the next time Yahoo updates their rankings. Yahoo usually gives the trendier sleeper picks bumps later in draft season.

You’ll be able to find players like Courtney Lee and Taj Gibson on the wire all season long. Don’t waste a draft pick on someone whose best case scenario is a top-130 finish. If you blow a late-round pick on a high-upside player who doesn’t work out, it’s not a big deal. Roster flexibility is key in the early stages of the season. I can think of worse things than having an open roster spot during the time of year when impactful free agents are plentiful.

Derrick Favors

Y! – 137 EFB – 116

Owning Favors last season was not a fun experience. He finished outside of the top-150 and only played in 50 games. If you exclude Chandler Parsons and whatever the heck his 2016-2017 season was suppose to be, Favors may have been the bust of the year. His knees are still a major concern, but at his current late-round price, there is zero risk in taking Favors. The reward is potentially massive. Favors was a top-30 player in 2015-2016. In 2014-2015, the big man was a top-45 player. The year before that he was a top-60 player. Favors has a track record of producing mid-round value and has only had one bad season. At 26-years-old, it should take more than one bad season for the fantasy community to give up on an early-round player. Favors has the potential to be an excellent source of defensive stats (1.2 SPG, 1.5 BPG in 2015-2016) and can contribute plenty in the other big man categories (8.1 RPG, 51.5 FG% in 2015-2016).

J.J. Redick

Y! – 138 EFB – 98

Redick is getting up there, but he should be able to maintain most of his value in Philadelphia. The Sixers’ offense should be much improved this season and with Joel Embiid manning the paint, Redick should see plenty of open looks. Most of the three-point bombers available this late only contribute in threes and points. Redick will be solid in both (15.0 PPG, 2.6 3PG) and will also offer underrated FT% impact (89.1 FT% on 2.6 FTA). Before last season’s top-100 finish, the former Clipper had posted top-70 value three seasons in row.

Tyler Johnson

Y! – 141 EFB – 109

I’m not as confident in Johnson’s inclusion on this list as I am in some of the other players. His minutes could be squeezed with the Heat getting healthy over the offseason. He’ll see all of the backup point guard minutes but will need to play about 12 MPG at shooting guard to have a shot at replicating last season’s top-85 numbers. With Dion Waiters and Josh Richardson expected to receive extended run, that isn’t a given. Johnson is a nice late-round target for those punting assists due to his point guard eligibility and lack of reliance on dimes (3.2 3PG). The combo guard can help owners win threes (1.3 3PG), steals (1.2 SPG), and blocks (0.6 BPG).

Jamal Murray

Y! – 144 EFB – 84

The Blue Arrow is going to start for the Nuggets and is on everyone’s sleeper list. For the most part, the hype is deserved. Murray was a top-100 player over the last month of the season and posted strong per minute numbers for a rookie. In his freshman year, Murray produced 16.5 PP36 and 2.3 3P36. Expect him to produce very good numbers in both of those categories. However, don’t get too aggressive when drafting Murray. He still has some holes in his game. Aside from his scoring and three-ball, he doesn’t project to post big numbers in any other category. He’s still learning the point guard position (3.5 AP36) and has a long way to go on the defensive end (1.1 SP36, 0.5 BP36). His efficiency could also be an issue (40.5 FG%) and he’s going to have to find a way to get to line more (2.4 FTA36), otherwise his excellent free-throw shooting is going to be wasted (88.3 FT%).

Terrence Ross

Y! – 145 EFB – 95

Ross’ Yahoo ranking would make sense if he was still on the Raptors. Now that he’s in a Magic uniform, he deserves to be drafted much earlier. Ross will start for the Magic and should flirt with 2.0 3PG in his first full season in Orlando. After the All-Star break, the swingman averaged 1.9 3PG. Ross also looked more active on the defensive end after the move (1.4 SPG in Orlando) and could be a sneaky source of out-of-position blocks (0.5 BPG in Orlando).

Richaun Holmes

Y! – 146 EFB – 115

Holmes might have more upside than anyone else available in the final rounds. He was a force of nature once Joel Embiid was shutdown. Holmes was a top-35 player over the last two months of the season in only 26.6 MPG. Over that span, he averaged 13.2 PPG, 0.7 3PG, 6.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.1 BPG while shooting 57.8% from the floor. He’s a must-grab if you draft Embiid and should be targeted aggressively by all owners regardless of their build of choice. This late in the draft, the name of the game is upside and Holmes has plenty. Jahlil Okafor and Amir Johnson could complicate things, so keep an eye on the Sixers’ rotation during preseason.

Joe Ingles 

Y! – 150 EFB – 103

Ingles is the biggest beneficiary of Gordon Hayward’s departure and needs to be on everyone’s sleeper list. If you are punting points, this man needs to find a way onto your team. Without points, Ingles has top-70 potential. His numbers as a starter last season were very good. The Australian produced 2.0 3PG, 1.5 SPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.4 APG in the games he started. As a bonus, Ingles is very sturdy. He’s only missed four games in his career.

Patty Mills

Y! – 165 EFB – 126

Mills likely won’t start, but don’t let that scare you away from taking a late-round gamble on the Australian. He’s going to see the bulk of the point guard minutes as long as Tony Parker is out and could continue to be the Spurs’ primary option at the one once the veteran does return. Mills has always been a very good per minute player and is going to be an excellent source of threes (2.6 3P36). He should also score a bit (15.6 PP36) and provide low-end dimes (5.7 AP36) and steals (1.4 SP36). Top-100 numbers as likely as long Parker remains on the sidelines.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Y! – 173 EFB – 106

Hollis-Jefferson has some nice post-hype sleeper appeal. He couldn’t quite put things together last season, but he did get better as the season went along and is slated to start for the rebuilding Nets. He still has quite a bit of potential on the defensive end. Over the last month of season, RHJ averaged 1.2 SPG and a very good 0.8 BPG. He is also very strong on the boards (9.3 RP36) and more time at the four could boost his already impressive rebounding rate even higher. Playing closer to the hoop should also help improve his poor FG% (43.4 FG%). He’s one of the best late-round options for those punting punting points (13.8 PP36) or threes (0.3 3P36).

Andre Iguodala

Y! – 178 EFB – 92

Iguodala is a prime example of why punting points can be so effective. He was a top-60 player without points last season and helped plenty of owners win championships by posting top-40 numbers during the fantasy playoffs. There aren’t many builds that have potential top-60 players available in the final round. If you’re punting points feel free to reach a round or two for Iguodala. He should still return value if he’s taken in the 12th or 13th round. The Warrior provides low-end assists (3.4 APG) and also helps a little bit in the threes (0.8 3PG), steals (1.0 SPG), and blocks (0.5 BPG) categories. Playing on the best offensive team of all-time also allows Iguodala to be a useful source of FG% impact (52.9 FG%).

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Sep 11

17/18 Sleepers/Undervalued Players: Part 1

You won’t see me write too much about sleepers. There’s two reason for that. First off, I don’t like the term. When you hear the term “sleeper”, final-round picks who become top-50 players and swing leagues are usually the first thing that comes to mind. Players like that pop up every year, and obviously drafting one of those players will be a huge boost to your championship aspirations, but it’s just as important to focus on finding value in the middle of the draft. These mid-round players usually won’t be accompanied by the sleeper tag. However, drafting a player in the seventh round who returns fourth-round value can win you your league too.

The second reason I don’t place too much focus on sleepers is that sleepers will differ from build to build (Note: This is for mid-round sleepers only. In the final rounds you should focus on upside first and fit second). For example, you’ll see Patrick Beverley on this list. He is definitely a sleeper for those punting points. He can likely be had for an eighth-round pick even though he was a top-40 player without points last season. Beverley looks poised for a big year, but if you’re punting threes or steals, then he shouldn’t be on your sleeper list. When compiling your own personal sleeper list or reading others’, make sure you keep team build in mind. Team build is everything in fantasy basketball.

Stay tuned for part 2. It will contain close to twenty players currently ranked outside of the top-135 on Yahoo that have a very good chance to be relevant to standard league owners.

Y! – Current Yahoo Fantasy Basketball Ranking

EFB – Current Elite Fantasy Basketball Ranking

Kevin Love

Y! – 41 EFB – 28

Last season, Love sported a healthy 26.4% usage rate, which was easily his highest rate since the move to Cleveland. The increase in usage led to a top-30 finish and increase in his scoring numbers (19.0 PPG, 2.4 3PG). Expect him to surpass that mark with Isaiah Thomas looking likely to miss a major chunk of the season. When Kyrie was off the court last season, Love’s usage rate jumped to 31.3%. A 20/10 season from Love is very doable, especially if Thomas’ timeline is measured in months and not weeks. A top-15 finish in the punt FG% build is not out of the question either considering he posted borderline top-20 numbers in that build in 2016-2017.

DeAndre Jordan

Y! – 49 EFB – 25

Yahoo is shortchanging most of the punt FT% bigs. Jordan’s ranking is the most unforgivable of the bunch given his his history. DeAndre has been a first-round player in the punt FT% build the past four seasons. Players who can produce first-round value in any single-category punt build shouldn’t be ranked as borderline top-50 players. Losing Chris Paul definitely hurts, but Jordan should still be the favorite to lead the league in FG% (71.4 FG%) and is a top contender for the rebounding crown (13.8 RPG). Those in competitive leagues should be prepared to jump on DeAndre in the third round. Even at that price tag, he’s an excellent bet to return at least a round of value.

Andre Drummond

Y! – 59 EFB – 37

Drummond’s failure to take the next step on the court hasn’t stopped him from continuing to be an early-round asset in the punt FT% build. He was a top-20 player in the build in 2016-2017 who finished second in the league in rebounds (13.8 RPG) and first in steals among players with center eligibility (1.5 SPG). Like Jordan, he’s ranked far too low. Drummond’s floor in the punt FT% build is the second round. I can assure you that no other player available after pick 50 has a second-round floor in any single-category punt build. When to take him depends on your league. He’s a fine pick in the third-round and will be a massive steal if he falls past the fourth. The punt FT% studs do lose some points for their lack of trade value. You will almost never get equal value back in return for either player as other owners are usually very hesitant to sacrifice their FT%.

Robert Covington

Y! – 65 EFB – 35

I don’t think the fantasy community appreciates just how good Covington was last season. Before Christmas, he wasn’t even a top-90 player in fantasy. His shooting bottomed out and he was hard to roster if you weren’t punting FG%. That all changed in the New Year. Over the last three months of the season, he was a top-20 player. In a punt FG% situation, only twelve players were more valuable than the Sixer. Over that stretch, he was more valuable than players like Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward, and C.J. McCollum. All of those players are going 30-40 picks ahead of Covington. I’m not suggesting that you take Covington in the third round. You don’t need to. You’ll likely be able to grab him in the fifth or sixth or maybe even later if you play in a questionable league. I have him ranked 35th because I think that’s about how valuable he’s going to be. He doesn’t even have to improve to reach that mark. He finished with third-round value last season and I think he can do it again.

Victor Oladipo

Y! – 66 EFB – 34

Managers should just ignore what happened to Oladipo in Oklahoma City. He didn’t stand a chance playing next to Westbrook and his record-breaking usage. Better players than Oladipo would have fell victim to Westbrook’s historic usage. To get a better idea of what Oladipo is capable of in a starring role, we should look at his final year with the Magic. That season, he was the first option on a lottery-bound team that was playing for ping pong balls. He’ll be in that exact same position this year with the Pacers. In 2015-2016, the shooting guard was a top-35 option and averaged 16.0 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 4.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. Those numbers do not represent his ceiling. Oladipo got even better as the season went on and was a top-10 player over the last two months of the year. He is potentially a league-swinging steal at his current sixth-round price.

Trevor Ariza

Y! – 68 EFB – 46

Ariza is now 32 and will drop off eventually. However, a sixth-round price is ridiculous for a player who has posted top-40 numbers four seasons in a row. His current late sixth-round price looks like floor. Ariza’s value is dependent on two things. How many threes he hits and how many steals he manages. With Chris Paul in town, I have a hard time believing that his threes are going to fall off (2.4 3PG). His advanced age should eventually slow him down on the defensive end, but he is coming off a season where his steals actually trended up as the season went along. You shouldn’t be worried about P.J. Tucker. Many of Tucker’s minutes will come beside Ariza as a small-ball four.

D’Angelo Russell

Y! -72 EFB – 55

If you’re playing Roto, then you shouldn’t have an issue with Russell’s Yahoo ranking. His FG% (40.5 FG%) and turnovers (2.8 TOPG) are going to be major problems for owners playing that format. In H2H, he’s worth looking at earlier. Assuming he’s matched with a friendly build, preferably the punt FG%/TO build and paired with Russell Westbrook or James Harden, Russell can be a deadly H2H weapon. He’ll be the clear-cut first option on a team that loved throwing up triples last season. In 2016-2017 only three teams attempted more shots from deep than the Nets. In his final year with Lakers, Russell averaged 15.6 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 4.8 APG, and 1.4 SPG in only 28.7 MPG. He should be north of 30 MPG this season and 20 PPG and 3.0 3PG is possible.

Patrick Beverley

Y! – 87 EFB – 61

Like Russell, Beverley has the chance to be very valuable this season if placed in the correct build. The best build for Beverley is clearly punt points. As I mentioned in the introduction, he was a top-40 player without points last season. The move to Los Angeles should help him maintain that value. He’ll be asked to create more for the Clippers (4.2 APG) and could see his shot attempts and threes jump (1.6 3PG) now that he’s not playing beside James Harden. Don’t feel the need to reach for Beverley even if you are punting points. Players like Beverley always go later than they should in drafts. Plenty of managers will take one look at his PPG and dismiss the point guard.

Nerlens Noel

Y! – 91 EFB – 49

Noel is an incredible per minute player who should see a major increase in playing time in his second (and possibly final) season with the Mavericks. Last season, Noel somehow managed to be a top-65 player despite only playing 20.5 MPG. If he plays close to 28 MPG this season, a very real possibility given the Mavericks’ lack of depth at center, a top-30 finish is possible. Even if his minutes are limited to around 25 MPG, he should still return plenty of value on his current eighth-round price. I’d reach for Noel a round early. His per minute defensive production gives him a high floor (2.2 SP36, 1.8 BP36) and Noel has turned himself into one of the better sources of FG% impact (59.4 FG%). He’s even improved enough at the line (69.4 FT%) to be a safe play outside of the punt FT% build.

Willy Hernangomez

Y! – 97 EFB – 87

Joakim Noah looks cooked and Coach Hornacek seems intent on limiting Kyle O’Quinn to under 20 MPG. That leaves plenty of minutes for Hernangomez, the likely starting center for the Knickerbockers. We got a taste of what Hernangomez can do over the last two months of his rookie campaign. The big man posted top-90 numbers in only 24.7 MPG. Over those two months, he averaged close to a double-double (11.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG) and did so fairly efficiently (52.6 FG%, 73.7 FT%). He could definitely outperform his current ADP, but his ceiling is likely outside of the top-50 due to his lack of defensive stats (1.1 SP36, 1.0 BP36).

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Sep 10

17/18 September Rankings: 126-150

126) Patty Mills (PG) – The Australian has always been a very intriguing player. He has always posted very good per minute numbers, but hasn’t taken off like his per minutes numbers would suggest when given extended run. With Tony Parker out at least another four months, Mills will have his best opportunity yet to establish himself as a starting-caliber player in the NBA. He should see minutes in the upper 20s and that should make him an excellent source of threes (3.0 3P36). He should also be able to provide owners with low-end assist numbers (5.7 AP36) to go along with average steals numbers (1.4 SP36). Don’t panic if Mills doesn’t start for the Spurs. Popovich likes Mills with the second unit and where Mills starts the game won’t have a major impact on playing time.

127) Danny Green (SG/SF) – Green’s value is very build-dependent. Last season, he was a borderline top-80 option in punt points. If you weren’t punting points, he was only a top-120 option. His threes (1.7 3PG), steals (1.1 SPG), and out-of-position blocks (0.8 BPG), keep his floor high, but his days of having a mid-round ceiling appear over. The Spurs didn’t add anything to their backcourt this season so Green’s minutes are safe.

128) Marcin Gortat (C) – Gortat is now 33-years-old and looked like it last season. His blocks rate fell off a cliff and the Polish Hammer only ended up averaging 0.8 BPG in 2016-2017. That number got worse as the season went on. After the All-Star break, the big man was only good for 0.4 blocks a night. That wasn’t the only red flag that was raised during Gortat’s 2016-2017 season. Once Ian Mahinmi returned from a knee injury, Gortat saw a significant drop in playing time. Over the last two months of the season, he only averaged 24.7 MPG. That destroyed his fantasy value and the center wasn’t even a top-200 player over that period. He’s still worth a late-round pick due to his history. However, he’ll need an injury to Mahinmi, a real possibility given what Mahinmi went through last season, to have any shot at, once again, being a mid-round player.

129) Kent Bazemore (SG/SF) – Bazemore didn’t come close to matching his 2015-2016 top-75 finish last season. He experienced a major drop in his rebounding rate (3.1 RPG) and saw his efficiency plummet (40.8 FG%, 70.8 FT%). His rebounding should improve with Dwight Howard in Charlotte, but his percentages are harder to predict. The Hawks will be lacking quality offensive options next season which will make it hard for Bazemore to score efficiently. He’s also only had one season in the league where he shot better than 71% from the charity stripe. Expect very good defensive stats from Bazemore (1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG) to go along with respectable triples (1.3 3PG).

130) Derrick Rose (PG) – The Isaiah Thomas situation is looking dire and Rose could end up starting a significant chunk of games for the Cavaliers. He should be roster worthy as long as Thomas is out, but don’t expect him to be able to replicate the top-90 numbers that he posted after the All-Star break. Rose won’t come close to matching his 2016-2017 25.7% usage rate playing beside LeBron James and Kevin Love. The drop in usage guarantees that almost all of his counting stats will fall. I wouldn’t expect Rose to provide owners with anything more than a decent scoring average (18.0 PPG) and low-end assists (4.4 APG). Once Thomas returns, Rose will be droppable.

131) Norman Powell (SG/SF) – It looks like this is the year that Powell finally gets the minutes that he’s long deserved. He’ll battle C.J. Miles for the Raptors’ starting small forward spot and should see plenty of run regardless of where he starts the game. Powell is already a very good player, but if he’s going to make an impact on the fantasy scene, he’s going to have to improve his per minute production. He was only a top-200 per minute player last season and produced mediocre numbers in the categories that he’s going to have to excel in in order to crack the top-100 (1.5 3P36, 1.3 SP36, 0.4 BP36). For now, he’s only a late-round flier.

132) Moe Harkless (SF) – Harkless made a major jump last season and looks like a solid rotation player. He’s still only 24-years-old and likely hasn’t reached his ceiling. Harkless cracked the top-100 last season, and with Allen Crabbe’s minutes up for grabs, a repeat performance is very possible. He’s an especially good option in punt assists build (1.2 APG). When punting assists, you’ll usually be looking to be strong from the field and in the defensive categories. Harkless provides decent value in all three categories (1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 50.2 FG%). He’s also improved from deep (0.9 3PG) and will help keep your turnovers (0.9 TOPG) low. Watch out for his poor free-throw shooting (62.1 FT%).

133) Eric Gordon (SG) – Gordon won the Sixth Man of the Year award because he had an exceptionally hot start. He was extremely mediocre in the New Year and didn’t even hold top-150 value over the last three months of the season. The arrival of Chris Paul doesn’t help matters and Gordon should see his role and minutes shrink. Gordon will be great from deep (3.3 3PG) and will score more than most players available after the middle rounds (16.2 PPG), but he’s not going to return value on his current eighth-round price.

134) Dewayne Dedmon (C) – The Hawks’ new starting center was a top-85 per minute player in 2016-2017 and should have a much bigger role in Atlanta than he did in San Antonio. He has the ability to provide very useful big man numbers (13.4 PP36, 1.8 BP36, 62.2 FG%) and a top-100 finish isn’t not out of the question. A top-80 finish is possible if you’re punting points (10.5 PP36).

135) Andre Roberson (SG/SF) – Roberson was probably on-and-off your waiver wire all season long last year. His lack of scoring (6.6 PPG) scares off managers who place too much value on the points category. He’s never going to be a scorer, but he can be a very effective asset in the right situation. If you ignored points last season, he was a top-100 player. If you punted both points and FT%, he was a top-60 option. I strongly prefer Roberson in the double-punt over just a regular punt points build. The FT% hit that accompanies Roberson is significant (42.3 FT%). Despite only averaging 1.4 FTA, only one wing player had a larger negative effect on the category. That was LeBron James who got to the line an average of 7.2 times a night. The arrival of Paul George shouldn’t have a significant impact on Roberson’s outlook as almost all of his value comes on the defensive end (1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG) and on the boards (5.1 RPG).

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Sep 09

17/18 September Rankings: 101-125

101) Dennis Smith Jr. (PG) – Smith was dynamite in summer league and should be a serious contender for the rookie of the year award. He doesn’t have the long-term upside that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball do, but he could be better as a rookie. He’s going to have a fairly large role for Mavericks. He’ll start, and if he can convince Coach Carlisle to play him 30 MPG, he has a shot at finishing in the top-80. He should be a good source of points (18.1 PPG), assists (6.2 APG), and steals (1.9 SPG) as soon as he steps on the court for his first NBA game. However, his college stats suggest that he could struggle with the efficiency (45.5 FG%) and turnovers (3.4 TOPG) like almost all rookie point guards do.

102) Andrew Wiggins (SG/SF) – Let’s take a look at Wiggins’ 2016-2017 line:

23.6 PPG, 1.3 3PG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 45.2 FG%, 76.0 FT%, 2.3 TOPG

Now take your hand and cover his scoring average. You’ll notice that there is almost nothing else to like in that line. His three-point shooting might look impressive, but 1.3 3PG is now very average. Wiggins hasn’t provided above-average value in any non-points category the past two years. That is an impressive feat for someone who is among the league leaders in minutes played. Given Wiggins’ need to score to be relevant in fantasy circles, the arrival of Jimmy Butler is a very bad thing. Wiggins has yet to post top-100 numbers for a season and there’s a good chance that his streak continues in 2017-2018. He is laughably overpriced at his current mid-round ADP.

103) Joe Ingles (SG/SF) – Ingles is the biggest beneficiary of Gordon Hayward’s departure and needs to be on everyone’s sleeper list. If you are punting points, this man needs to find a way onto your team. Without points, Ingles has top-70 potential. His numbers as a starter last season were very good. The Australian produced 2.0 3PG, 1.5 SPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.4 APG in the games he started. As a bonus, Ingles is very sturdy. He’s only missed four games in his career.

104) Evan Fournier (SG/SF) – You’ll notice that many of the upcoming players are players who have been very good fantasy options in the past but have fallen on hard times as of late. At this point in the draft, it doesn’t matter if the player that you pick busts. There will be plenty of quality free agents available early in the season to replace those players. So swing for the fences and don’t settle for a player with a top-135 floor and a top-110 ceiling. Fournier followed up his top-70 2015-2016 by falling on his face. He was only a top-125 player last season despite taking on a larger role on offense. The Magic signed Jonathon Simmons this offseason, but Fournier should still have a major role as the team is absolutely starved for scoring. Only the Sixers were worse than the Magic on offense last season. The swingman should be a quality source of points (16.9 PPG) and threes (1.9 3PG), and if his efficiency returns to 2015-2016 levels (46.2 FG%, 83.6 FT%), he’ll likely be a top-100 player.

105) Rudy Gay (SF/PF) – A torn Achilles has replaced the torn ACL as the most dreaded injury in basketball. We’re still waiting for a major player to have a successful return from a torn Achilles. When Kobe went down, it ended his ability to be a productive NBA player. Brandon Jennings went from being a starting point guard to a journeyman bench player. Wes Matthews looks like a shell of his former self in Dallas. If Gay comes back and an even approaches the level of play that he showed last season, he will be the exception, not the rule. Expect the Spurs to handle Gay with kid gloves and he won’t come close to repeating last season’s top-35 per game finish. He should continue to be useful on the defensive end (1.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG), but expect a major drop-off on offense.

106) Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (SF/PF) – Hollis-Jefferson has the ability to do what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did last year. Both players couldn’t hit a three if you doubled the size of the net. They are also both very good rebounders who can post some impressive defensive numbers. RHJ got better as the season went on and averaged 7.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.6 BPG over the last two months of the season. Despite not living up to the hype last season, there’s some serious upside here, especially in the punt points build (8.7 PPG). He’ll start at the four for the Nets which should keep his boards high and allow him to pick on the bigger, slower power forwards.

107) Rajon Rondo (PG) – The fifth-best player on the Pelicans’ roster may be Ian Clark. That is not ideal and it also means plenty of minutes for Rondo. Jrue Holiday is very comfortable playing off the ball and the two should share the Pelicans’ backcourt regularly. Rondo had an up-and-down 2016-2017 campaign, but did find some consistency after the break and posted top-60 numbers down the stretch. One of the big myths surrounding Rondo is that he’s a great fit for the punt FT% build because he struggles at the line (60.0 FT%). He’s not. Punting is about much more than just looking up which players receive the biggest boosts when a category is ignored. You want your punt FT% point guard targets to be strong in points, steals, assists, and threes, as those are the categories that the big men you will be targeting are weak in. Rondo only brings the goods in two of the categories. If you’re punting FT%, aim for guards who hit threes and score before you start eyeing Rondo.

108) Steven Adams (C) – Adams is a cheap big man option for those punt FT% teams that went heavy on guards early and missed out on the mid-round big men. Adams was very good from the line to start the season and started the season very strong in the steals department. The steals stayed, but the success at the free-throw line didn’t. By the end of the season, Adams was back to shooting below 60% from the line. His FT% hit is large and that makes him difficult to recommend outside of punt FT%. He can be a very good punt FT% weapon though due to his rebounding (7.7 RPG), steals (1.1 SPG), blocks (1.0 BPG), and FG% (57.2 FG%). He gets an even bigger bump if you’re punting points (11.3 PPG) alongside FT%.

109) Tyler Johnson (PG/SG) – Johnson is in the same position as the other Johnson on the Heat roster. He is coming off of a very good season, but with the Heat returning to full health, his role, and minutes, are up in the air. Justise Winslow’s return will move some of Josh Richardson’s minutes to the two and Dion Waiters will see plenty of minutes at shooting guard as well. How this will all shake out is yet to be determined and the Heat will have one of the more interesting training camps this year. Johnson is good defensive player (1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG) who is also proficient from deep (1.3 3PG). He is a good fit for the punt assists build due to his point guard eligibility and his lack of dependence on dimes to boost his value (3.2 APG).

110) Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG/SF) – How you value Hardaway depends on what you think the Knicks will do with Carmelo Anthony. Hardaway’s value is very dependent on his scoring numbers and obviously Carmelo’s presence is going to have a very large impact on Hardaway’s PPG. If Melo is moved, a top-100, even top-85 finish, is very possible. If he’s not, then Hardaway’s floor gets a little scary. He’s a risky player given his lack of statistical diversity. If you do draft Hardaway, you’ll be doing it for his scoring (17.5 PPG over the last two months of the season) and threes (2.1 3PG over the last two months of the season).

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Sep 08

17/18 September Rankings: 76-100

76) Lonzo Ball (PG) – Ball’s rookie season is probably going to be a circus. Luke Walton wasn’t afraid to bench D’Angelo Russell and you can guess what’s going to happen if he does the same to Ball. The off-court stuff could be messy, but the on-court stuff shouldn’t be. Ball has great vision and great size and should post at least a couple of triple-doubles this season (6.0 RPG and 7.6 APG at UCLA). He also has shown some signs of being a very strong contributor on the defensive end (1.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG) and has a chance to be very good from three (2.2 3PG). Lonzo fits best in the punt points build as he wasn’t much of a scorer in college (14.6 PPG). His should shoot something respectable from the field as he was very efficient in his only year at UCLA (55.1 FG%) and is not the type to throw up bad shots. The free-throw line will be another matter. His solid shooting from deep and the field didn’t translate to the charity stripe in his freshman year (67.3 FT%).

77) Jae Crowder (SF/PF) – Crowder’s role with his new team is unclear, but even if he does come off the bench behind LeBron James and Kevin Love, he should still play enough minutes to post mid-round value. If Isaiah Thomas was to miss an extended amount of time, which looks very possible right now, Crowder would be the third-best player on the Cavaliers’ roster. Tyronn Lue will find a fair amount of playing time for his third-best player. His ceiling is lower due to the move to Cleveland, but he should still be potent from deep (2.2 3PG) and help you out on the boards (5.8 RPG). There’s also a good chance that his steals rate jumps this season. Last season, he only averaged 1.0 SPG and produced 1.1 SP36. For his career, Crowder produces 1.6 SP36 and is only a year removed from averaging 1.7 SPG. Expect his steals to normalize, which should help offset any dip in his scoring average caused by his new role.

78) Malcolm Brogdon (PG/SG) – Brogdon became one of the most unlikely Rookie of the Year winners in 2016-2017 and his strong play translated to quite a bit of fantasy value. He improved as the season went on and was a top-65 player after the All-Star break. Giannis Antetokounmpo runs the Bucks’ offense, but that doesn’t stop Brogdon from being a steady source of assists (4.3 APG). He doesn’t light the world on fire in any category, but he doesn’t hurt you anywhere either. Unlike most rookie point guards, he didn’t struggle the field (45.8 FG%) or with turnovers (1.5 TOPG) in his maiden season.

79) Jeremy Lin (PG/SG) – Lin was very good when he was on the court last season, but that wasn’t very often. He managed to be a top-80 per game player last season despite only playing 24.5 MPG. He’ll share the Nets’ backcourt with D’Angelo Russell this season. The arrival of Russell shouldn’t hurt Lin’s value too much. Both players are comfortable playing off the ball and both should start for the Nets. Lin should be able to better the 14.5 PPG, 1.6 3PG, 5.1 APG, and 1.1 SPG that he produced last season and is a quality mid-round option for those who want to avoid the point guard rush that usually takes place earlier in the draft.

80) Markieff Morris (SF/PF) – Markieff is coming off a year that sums up his career well. He was god-awful until about halfway through January and then was a top-55 player after that. Morris gives you a little bit of everything and provides owners with some out-of-position threes (0.9 3PG) and steals (1.1 SPG). His FT% is hard to predict. Last season, Morris shot 83.7% from the line. That was over a 10% increase from his 2015-2016 connection rate (73.5%). Markieff is only a 77.4% shooter from the charity stripe for his career so it’s not a lock that he cracks the 80% mark in 2017-2018.

81) Willie Cauley-Stein (PF/C) – The DeMarcus Cousins trade is going to make Cauley-Stein a lot of money. He was barely in the rotation before the trade and wouldn’t have had a chance to show what he could do unless Cousins was moved. Cauley-Stein took full advantage of the opening and was a top-80 player over the last two months of the season. Over those two months, he put up 12.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.9 BPG. He should start for the Kings and will be a cheap source of big man stats on draft day. Don’t worry about his middling FT% (66.9 FT%). He improved as the 2016-2017 season went along and doesn’t get there enough (3.8 FTA36) to do much damage.

82) Marquese Chriss (PF) – Chriss has some tantalizing potential and is a great bet to join the one three, one steal, one block club in his sophomore year. He almost got there as a rookie (0.9 3PG, 0.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG) despite not seeing consistent run until after the All-Star break. The only thing holding Chriss back from a top-50 finish is his efficiency. He doesn’t get to the line enough to be a punt FT%-only player (3.7 FTA36), but Chriss can take a sizable chunk out of your FT% (62.4 FT%). He hasn’t yet figured out how to score efficiently either (44.9 FG%), and that poor shooting, along with his blocks, makes him a good fit for the punt FG% build. Another reason I like him in this build is that you are likely to draft players earlier in the draft that cover up Chriss’ weaknesses (1.2 AP36).

83) Marvin Williams (SF/PF) – Marvin was droppable for the first two months of the season, but turned it around in a big way after the New Year. He was a top-45 player over the last two months of the season and finished just outside of the second round over that time period if points were ignored. Dwight Howard’s arrival complicates things. Last season Frank Kaminsky saw time at both frontcourt positions. With Cody Zeller and Howard at center, he and Marvin will likely be stuck competing for the 48 minutes available at power forward. It’s possible that Williams sees a slight decrease in playing time this season which could hurt his always solid threes (1.6 3PG), boards (6.5 RPG), and blocks (0.7 BPG).

84) Jamal Murray (PG/SG) – Murray is going to start for the Nuggets this year and have a big season. The question is how big. We know he score (16.5 PP36) and we know he can shoot the three-ball (2.3 3P36). He should also be good for five or so apples now that he’ll be a full-time starter. What will ultimately determine Murray’s value this season is his steals and his FG%. He was extremely mediocre in both in his rookie season. He only produced 1.1 SP36 and shot 40.5% from the floor. The good news is that both of those numbers went up as the year went along. He’s being overhyped on some sites and underrated on others like Yahoo. Eighth-round feels about right for Murray. I like his prospects this year, but there are plenty of quality point guards in the league these days and you shouldn’t reach too far for any of them.

85) Markelle Fultz (PG) – Fultz remains a better long-term prospect than Lonzo Ball both on the court and in the fantasy realm, but the Laker will be in a much better position in his rookie season. Joel Embiid will be the focal point of the Sixers’ offense and the offense will run through Ben Simmons at times as well. Fultz likely won’t average more than 5 APG, but he can still be a very valuable fantasy asset, especially in the second half of the season. His game projects to be very fantasy-friendly. In his only year at Washington, this year’s first-overall pick averaged 23.2 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 5.9 APG, 5.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG, and a very intriguing 1.2 BPG. Expect some very tasty popcorn stats this season that is accompanied by some poor efficiency. He shot 47.6% from the field in college and is likely to be in the low 40s in his rookie season. He’s also surprisingly bad at line (64.9 FT%) and like most rookie point guards, he’s going to struggle with turnovers (3.2 TOPG).

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