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17/18 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

R3) DeAndre Jordan – Jordan is pretty close to mandatory for this build. If you don’t plan on targeting Jordan or don’t think he’ll be available when you pick in the third round, then I highly recommend grabbing one of Gobert or Whiteside in the second round. These three are FG% and blocks monsters and no comparable player can be found once Jordan is off the board. DeAndre is the best target of the three due to his price. Starting with two assist-heavy players and picking Jordan in the third is the foundation for a punt FT% team. The drop in point guard quality from the second to third round is much larger than the drop from Gobert and Whiteside to Jordan. DeAndre brings plenty of boards (13.8 RPG), blocks (1.7 BPG), and FG% (71.4 FG%) and is one of the sturdiest players in the league. The Clipper has only missed a total of six games over the past five seasons.

R3) Blake Griffin – If you start your draft with Steph Curry, consider pairing the three-point bomber with both Jordan and Griffin. The Clippers play 12 games during the fantasy playoffs which gives owners of Jordan and Griffin a sizable advantage over their opponents when it matters the most. I mention Curry because he’s the best fit the with the Clipper big men. If you match Giannis with the Clippers you’re going to be in a huge hole in threes. LeBron works as well, but you’ll be still find yourself behind the eight ball from deep. Blake offers elite out-of-position dimes (4.9 APG) and should see his scoring increase with Chris Paul in Houston (21.6 PPG). He also offers above-average rebounds (8.1 RPG) and FG% impact (49.3 FG%).

R3) Mike Conley – Conley is a strong third-round option for those going big in the second round. His game has changed quite a bit over the years. Conley used to be a top-30 player because of his steals. Steals is now only his fifth-best category thanks to some significant growth on the offensive end. The point guard is now a very good source of points (20.5 PPG) and threes (2.5 3PG) and the increase in his scoring numbers has not come at the expense of his FG% (46.0 FG%). Conley also gets you the assists that you need from your early-round point guards (6.3 APG) and does it while taking good care of the ball (2.3 TOPG).

Other Round 3 Options: Myles Turner, Bradley Beal, Joel Embiid