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17/18 Punt Threes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R3) DeMar DeRozan – This is your primary third-round target. It can be very difficult to find enough FT% impact when punting threes. Most of the top free-throw shooters have a lot of value tied up in threes. That’s not the case with DeRozan (0.4 3PG). What makes DeMar an All-Star is his ability to get to the line. Last season, he averaged 8.7 trips to the line per game and almost always made the most of his opportunities (84.2 FT%). He is also an elite source of points (27.3 PPG) and an underrated creator (3.9 APG). Those in need of defensive numbers will have to look elsewhere (1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG).

R3) Marc Gasol – Marc is now a legitimate threat from deep (1.4 3PG), but like most big men, he shoots up the rankings when threes are ignored. He was a second-round player in this build last season and brings the assists (4.6 APG) and FT% impact (83.7 FT%) that this build is looking for. The big man has also stepped up his scoring (19.5 PPG) and provides good, but not great, shot blocking numbers (1.3 BPG). If you plan to draft Gasol, try to pair him with either an elite FG% anchor or a handful of efficient guards. His expanded range has led to a drop in his FG% (46.7 FG%).

R3) Eric Bledsoe – The new NBA rules regarding how often teams can rest players makes drafting Bledsoe much easier. Last season, the Suns shutdown Bledsoe at the beginning of March and likely won’t be able to get away with that kind of blatant tanking in 2017-2018. If Bledsoe can stay healthy, he should worth a pick in the third or fourth round. The Sun is only a slightly above-average three-point shooter (1.6 3PG) and can put up some flashy point guard numbers. He is a very good scorer (21.1 PPG), passer (6.3 APG), and thief (1.4 SPG). Bledsoe is also a sneaky source of rebounds (4.9 RPG) and blocks (0.5 BPG) but struggles from the floor (43.3 FG%) and with turnovers (3,4 TOPG).

Other Round 3 Options: Blake Griffin, Myles Turner