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17/18 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

R3) Kevin Love – Do whatever you can to get either Love or Blake Griffin on your roster. The two third-round bigs are essential to this build’s success. Love is one of the best rebounders in the league (11.1 RPG) and the former first-round asset provides excellent out-of-position threes (2.4 3PG) and FT% impact (87.1 FT% on 4.9 FTA). The only big man who hit more often from deep last season was Ryan Anderson and no big helped you more at the line. Expect his scoring (19.0 PPG) and assists (2.0 APG) to improve. The Cavaliers have stated that they plan on running more of the offense though Love this season.

R3) Blake Griffin – Griffin is a major key to this build. He brings the boards (8.1 RPG) and FG% impact (49.3 FG%) that we are looking for and is one of the few big men that actually gain value when blocks are ignored (0.4 BPG). Kevin Love has more upside, but he does put you in a FG% hole. Blake offers elite out-of-position dimes (4.9 APG) and should see his scoring increase with Chris Paul in Houston (21.6 PPG). If Griffin can stay healthy, he’ll likely be one of the most valuable players in the league during the fantasy playoffs. The Clippers are the only team with a 12-game playoff schedule this season.

R3) C.J. McCollum – The punt blocks build loves guards who score efficiently and there are only a handful of guards who do that better than McCollum. Last season, the Blazer was a huge help both from the field (48.0 FG%) and at the line (91.2 FT%). His FG% impact was enhanced by his high volume (23.0 FG%) and that impressive FG% didn’t come at the expense of his triples (2.3 3PG). If McCollum can improve his mediocre steals rate (0.9 SPG), a top-15 finish in this build is possible. Before taking on a larger role on offense, McCollum was more than solid in the steals category. In 2015-2016, he produced 1.3 SP36 and in 2014-2015 he produced 1.6 SP36.

Other Round 3 Options: Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Eric Bledsoe, Gordon Hayward