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Punt Assists

Punt FT% is the most famous punting strategy, but punt assists is arguably the most reliable and straight forward team building approach. Do not mistake its relative simplicity for lack of effectiveness. Due to the average fantasy player’s undying love for dimes, the punt assists build allows managers to obtain value elsewhere while their opponents are overpaying for point guards. The key to this build is replacing the other categories that point guards generally provide while maintaining a respectable FG%. Punt assists teams, when executed properly, should be dominant in turnovers. In fact, with this build, it’s easy to be too strong in turnovers and miss out on value elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to take two or three high turnover players as the rest of your roster will more than make up for their shortcomings.

Points, threes, steals, FT%, and FG% are the categories managers want to pay the most attention to during the draft. Wings can provide most of the required stats, but you’ll want to pay close attention to your FG%. Many of the high-scoring targets struggle to put the ball in the hoop efficiently. If you’re targeting players such as Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, or DeMar DeRozan, it is essential that your big men targets are very strong from the field. This can turn into an unintentional double-punt very quickly if owners aren’t careful. Speaking of double-punts, punting both assists and FT% is very reasonable strategy. If you’re interested in that build, just add players such DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, and Nerlens Noel to the names listed below. The decision to punt FT% in addition to assists is very dependent on who your first-round pick is. You don’t want to waste Kevin Durant’s massive FT% impact, but the rest of the first-round targets are reasonable starting points for the double-punt.

You’ll notice that there are a handful on point guards on this list. While most point guards lose too much value when discounting assists to be useful, some still provide enough elsewhere, and are available at a decent enough price, that they shouldn’t be ignored. Managers will also want to have two-to-three players on their roster with point guard eligibility to protect against potential scheduling issues.

If this is your first time attempting to punt a category, or you are new to fantasy basketball, I strongly suggest at least trying the punt assists strategy in a mock. It’s one of the builds where the benefit of punting is very clear and the players to avoid are very obvious. Even if you don’t decide to use this strategy, practicing with it will greatly help your understanding of the theory behind punting.

Note: The round that I recommend taking each player 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 draft. All punting guides are for standard, 9-category leagues. 

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

First-round targets:  Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler

R2) Serge Ibaka – Ibaka is coming off of a down year, but still managed a top-10 finish in this build in 2014-2015. When a player has that kind of floor, he needs to be near the top of every manager’s draft board. While Serge’s transition to a stretch four has been a net negative for his value, his newfound out-of-position threes are ideal for this build (1.2 3PG). Ibaka continues to improve at the line (83.6 FT%) and as always, is a candidate to lead the league in blocks (2.4 BPG). In the 11 games that he played alongside Enes Kanter, Ibaka was a top-4 player without assists.

R2) Klay Thompson – A top-7 option in this build in 2014-2015. Klay has become a much more well-rounded fantasy option with his only current weaknesses being his lack of dimes (2.9 APG) and boards (3.2 RPG). Klay is a monster everywhere else and his production in this build’s targeted categories are especially impressive (21.7 PPG, 3.1 3PG, 1.1 SPG, 87.9 FT% on 3.3 FTA). As an added bonus, Thompson blocks more shots than half the league’s big men (0.8 BPG).

R2) Carmelo Anthony – Melo has top-5 upside in this build and can likely be had at a second-round price. Anthony finished fourth in this build in 2014-2015 and is the best source of points available after the first eight picks of the draft (24.2 PPG). Expect Melo’s FT% to be much better than it was in 2014-2015. His 79.7% conversion rate was his lowest mark since the 2008-2009 season. Anthony is also a very good rebounder (6.6 RPG) who should flirt with 2.0 3PM.

R2) Paul Millsap – The Hawks’ All-Star is one of better second-round targets in this build due to his out-of-position steals (1.8 SPG) and threes (1.1 3PG). Millsap’s line contains no glaring holes (16.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.9 BPG), but his ten-game playoff schedule makes him someone who should be sold at the trade deadline. Only the Lakers have a worse playoff schedule than the Hawks this seson.

R2) Paul George – George’s FG% (42.4% on 17.0 FGA in 2013-2014) is a major issue and for that reason, the Pacers’ star is best paired with one of the first-round bigs. Other than his efficiency, George is a perfect fit for this build as he derives very little of his value from dimes (3.5 APG), scores a ton (21.7 PPG), hits from deep (2.3 3PG), rebounds extremely well for his position (6.8 RPG), averages close to two steals a night (1.9 SPG), and is accurate from the line (86.4%) on high volume (5.8 FTA). In short, PG is an excellent fantasy asset who fits especially well in the punt assists build. His relatively high turnovers (2.8 TOPG) are not an issue as punt assists teams are naturally dominant in that category.

R2) Rudy Gobert – Gobert is a good, but not great, fit for this build as his 62.3% shooting from the line makes him a tricky fit with most of this build’s first-round options. Kevin Durant, due to his massive FT% impact, should be your first-round pick if you are set on punting assists and want to target Rudy. Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan are the only players who are locks to give you more combined value in FG% (60.4 FG%), rebounds (9.5 RPG), and blocks (2.3 BPG) than Gobert.

R3) Brook Lopez – Lopez hasn’t put back-to-back healthy season together since 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, but owners shouldn’t shy away from the Nets’ center due to his first-round upside. Over the last two months of 2014-2015, Lopez was a top-5 asset without assists. His 17.2 PPG are scored very efficiently (51.3 FG%, 81.4 FT%) and Brook has improved his previously embarrassing rebounding rate (7.4 RPG). Make steals a priority in the middle-rounds if you target Lopez in the third. The seven-footer is a bigger drag on your swipes (0.6 SPG) than most big men.

R3) Pau Gasol – Like all of the Bulls’ starters, Pau will see his minutes cut slightly (34.4 MPG). The hope is that Fred Hoiberg will improve the offense to a point that there is an increase in efficiency that makes up for the minutes drop. That is a reasonable expectation and his numbers should look similar to his 2014-2015 averages (18.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 49.4 FG%, 80.3 FT%). The two biggest issues with Pau are that he missed significant time in two of the past three seasons and that he is a major drain on your steals (0.3 SPG).

R3) Victor Oladipo – I’m not a huge fan of Oladipo’s current price as I see his current borderline top-30 ADP as his ceiling. However, even at that inflated price, the Magic’s starting shooting guard is one of the better guard targets for this build. Oladipo has point guard eligibility and should provide owners with plenty of points (17.9 PPG), threes (1.2 3PG), and steals (1.7 SPG). He is best paired with efficient big men as his poor FG% (43.6%) comes on high volume (15.1 FGA). He turns the ball over at a high rate (2.8 TOPG), but that number is not big enough to eliminate this build’s advantage in that category.

R4) Chris Bosh – Due to his scary bout with blood clots in 2014-2015, Bosh is one of the riskier fourth-round picks. It’s unlikely he sees the 35.4 MPG that he averaged last season in 2015-2016. A minutes drop will hurt his counting stats, but Bosh should somewhat offset the dip in volume with an increase in efficiency. Bosh struggled with his expanded offensive role in 2014-2015 and saw his FG% (46.0%) and FT% (77.2%) drop to their lowest rates in years. The Heat’s improved roster will take pressure off Bosh and owners can expect his scoring and rebounding to look more like they did in 2013-2014 (16.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG). Chris is a good source of out-of-position threes (1.4 3PG) but his block rate (0.5 BPG) is extremely volatile. Bosh has averaged between 0.5 BPG and 1.4 BPG over the past three years.

R4) Rudy Gay – Lost in all the nonsense surrounding the Kings over the past two seasons is Gay’s very strong all-around play. Rudy provides very solid contributions in all categories expect FG% (45.5%) where his impact is neutral, and turnovers (2.7 TOPG), a category that punt assists teams generally don’t have to worry about. Gay is an excellent scorer (21.1 PPG) who gets it done both from deep (1.2 3PG) and at the line (85.8 FT% on 5.8 FTA). His underrated defensive contributions (1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG) add to his appeal.

R4) Marcin Gortat – Gortat is one of fantasy basketball’s most underrated players and is an excellent fourth-round pick for those choosing to forgo assists (1.2 APG). Over the last two months of 2014-2015, The Polish Hammer was a top-8 asset to this build with averages that included 13.4 PPG on 61.8 FG%, 9.9 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. Like most big men, Gortat doesn’t steal the ball (0.6 SPG) and struggles at the line (70.3 FT%). That free-throw percentage isn’t ideal, but is easily manageable.

R4) Tobias Harris – The last time Tobias was coached by Scott Skiles things didn’t go so well. Despite clearly being one of the most promising players on the Bucks, Skiles glued Harris to the bench which eventually lead to Harris being traded for a two-month rental of J.J. Redick. That shouldn’t happen this time around as Harris has established himself, but Skiles’ hiring should make owners feel a bit uneasy. If Tobias does avoid the ire of Skiles, he’ll again be a very good source of points (17.1 PPG), threes (1.3 3PG), rebounds (6.3 RPG), and defensive stats (1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG).

R5) Tim Duncan – The Big Fundemental has apparently drank from the Holy Grail and is coming off of a top-20 finish without dimes (3.0 APG). Due to his age, he can be grabbed in the fifth, and despite the upside, that seems like a fair price. Duncan is at risk of being rested down the stretch of the season as the Spurs project to return to their dominant ways. The presence of LaMarcus Aldridge should hurt Duncan, and the long-time Spur should see his rebounding average drop (9.2 RPG). Expect a small decrease in Timmy’s counting stats, but he should continue to be a very good source of boards and blocks (1.9 BPG) who comes with decent percentages (51.2 FG%, 74.0 FT%).

R5) Danilo Gallinari – Gallo was phenomenal over the last two months of the season, returning top-10 value despite only averaging 1.9 APG. Upside that doesn’t depend on dimes is exactly what you should be looking for in the middle rounds. His FG% is going to be a major issue (40.1 FG%), but his counting stats (18.6 PPG, 2.8 3PG, 1.3 SPG), and 89.1% shooting from the line over the last two months of the season, are exactly what is needed for this build. That upside is tantalizing, but owners need to assume that they will be without Gallo’s services for at least ten games this season.

R5) Danny Green – The Spurs’ sharpshooter was a top-20 asset in this build in 2014-2015 and can be had at a discount due to most managers’ overrating of points (11.7 PPG). Last season, Green tied with K.J. McDaniels for the league lead in blocks per game from guard eligible players (1.1 BPG). He will also help you win threes (2.4 3PG) and steals (1.2 SPG) every week. Danny is elite from the line (87.4%), but doesn’t get there enough to have more than a marginal impact on the category (1.6 FTA).

R5) Jonas Valanciunas – Dwane Casey has stated that he’d like to get Valanciunas more minutes down the stretch of games, but owners should remain highly skeptical of this claim. Even if Jonas doesn’t see a bump in his criminally low 26.2 MPG, he should still be a top-40 asset in this build due to his nonexistent assists (0.5 APG) and supreme efficiency (57.2 FG%, 78.6 FT%). Valanciunas is a major drag on swipes (0.4 SPG), but makes up for the lack of steals with his rebounding (8.7 RPG) and swats (1.2 BPG).

R5) Nikola Mirotic – Everyone’s favorite breakout candidate is a potentially devastating weapon for those punting assists (2.1 AP36). Mirotic posted top-20 per minute numbers in this build in his rookie year and will be an early-round asset in this strategy if given close to 30 MPG. Expect Mirotic to be a major contributor in points (18.2 PP36) and threes (2.2 3PG) while posting respectable numbers elsewhere (8.8 RP36, 1.2 SP36, 1.2 BP36). Watch out for his lack of efficiency from the field (40.5 FG%).

R6) Monta Ellis – Monta is much better value in the sixth than Oladipo is the third and is one of the best guard targets for this build due to his scoring (18.9 PPG), threes (1.0 3PG), and steals (1.9 SPG). Ellis was only a top-80 asset in this build in 2014-2015, but building a strong punt assists team is not just about value, it is also about fit. If you pass on Monta, George Hill, and Isaiah Thomas in the sixth and seventh, I recommend waiting until the last rounds of the draft to fill out your point guard spot.

R6) DeMar DeRozan – DeRozan is your guy if you didn’t do enough to lock up points (20.1 PPG) and FT% (83.2% on 7.2 FTA) early in the draft. He’s not a must-grab as he still hasn’t figured out how the three-point shot works (0.4 3PG), but the Raptor has improved his once lackluster steals rate (1.2 SPG). He is another player who gives you the guard stats you need while hurting you from the floor (41.2 FG%).

R6) George Hill – One of last season’s most exciting and frustrating players to own was a stellar source of assists (5.1 APG) in 2014-2015. It’s unlikely that he’ll continue to rack up the dimes at such a proficient rate due to the return of Paul George and the signing of Monta Ellis. In 2013-2014, when he played beside George and usage hog Lance Stephenson, Hill only averaged 3.5 APG. He’ll derive less of his value from assists than most point guards and will provide the threes (1.6 3PG) and steals (1.0 SPG) that you need from your lead guard. Hill is also very efficient from the field (47.7 FG%), a rare trait among point guards.

R6) Tyson Chandler – The Suns’ prize free agent is coming off a season where he posted second-round value without assists. That finish is not repeatable due to the presence of Alex Len. However, Chandler should continue to be a nightly double-double threat (10.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG) and a boon to your blocks (1.2 BPG). Tyson is also one of the most efficient players in the league (66.6 FG%) and is a good target for managers who picked up one of the gunners recommended earlier in this guide.

R7) Isaiah Thomas – Despite his size, Thomas plays like a combo guard, and unsurprisingly, doesn’t heavily depend on assists to boost his value (4.2 APG). Thomas’ primary fantasy contributions are his points (16.4 PPG), threes (1.9 3PG), and free-throw impact (86.8 FT% on 5.2 FTA). You’ll have to find your steals elsewhere (0.9 SPG), and he’ll damage your FG% (42.1 FG%), but this is a nice price for a player who could provide close to top-50 value if given 30 MPG.

R7) Thaddeus Young – Thad is a poor man’s version of Paul Millsap. Young contributes in similar categories, but is slightly worse across-the-board. Thad’s main selling point is his out-of-position steals (1.6 SPG) and he gives you enough elsewhere (14.1 PPG, 0.5 3PG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 TOPG) to more than justify a seventh-round investment. The Net has upside that usually isn’t available this late in drafts. Without assists, Young posted second-round value in both 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

R7) J.J. Redick – Redick, like George Hill, is part of a rare breed of guards who actually help you from the field (47.7 FG%). That number is even more impressive when you consider that he takes enough threes to hit 2.6 triples per night. J.J. gives you next to nothing outside of threes and points (16.4 PPG), but the former Blue Devil is a sneaky source of FT% impact. Redick is so good from the line (90.1%) that in 2014-2015 he managed to have a top-25 impact on FT% despite only averaging 2.6 FTA. Last season, Redick was a top-50 asset to the punt assists build.

R8) Terrence Jones – Jones is similar to Rudy Gobert in that his FT% isn’t ideal (60.6 FT%) and that his FG% impact (52.8 FG%) can bail managers out of a hole. Houston’s likely starting power forward provides decent value in every category except FT% and assists (1.1 APG). His big man stats are his most obvious contributions (6.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG), but Jones is also a useful source of out-of-position threes (0.4 3PG). Despite his FT% woes, Jones has been a top-55 option in this build for the past three seasons.

R8) Gorgui Dieng – Dieng is coming off of a top-45 finish in this build and is easy value at this point in the draft. He doesn’t hurt you from the line (78.3 FT%), helps you from the floor (50.6 FG%) and on the boards (8.4 RPG), and contributes heavily on the defensive end (1.0 SPG, 1.7 BPG). Don’t worry about the big names in the Wolves’ frontcourt. Only Karl-Anthony Towns will see more minutes at the four and the five than Dieng this season.

R9) Robin Lopez – The Knicks’ new starting center is another very good option for those who went a little too heavy on gunners early. Lopez is very efficient both from the field (53.5 FG%) and the line (77.2 FT%). He is a black hole on offense (0.9 APG) who was a top-25 option in this build in 2013-2014. There’s talk of Knicks expanding his role so a return to his 2013-2014 excellence is not out of the question. Make sure you have plenty of steals on your roster before selecting Lopez. Of the 338 players who averaged at least 15 MPG in 2014-2015, only 14 of those players averaged less steals per minute than Robin (0.3 SPG).

R9) Markieff Morris – The disgruntled Sun is a very good fit for this build due to his all-around contributions and out-of-position offerings. Markieff hits an unusual amount threes for a power forward (0.7 3PG) and steals the ball like a guard (1.2 SPG). His big man stats are useful as well (6.2 RPG, 0.5 BPG), and while his percentages won’t win you your week, they won’t lose it either (46.5 FG%, 76.3 FT%).

R10) Timofey Mozgov – The big Russian is no more than a late-round flier due to the depth of the Cavaliers’ frontcourt, but is a cheap source of the FG% impact that this build desperately needs (55.5 FG%). After his trade to Cleveland, only eight players had a greater positive impact on FG% than Mozgov. The Cavaliers’ starting center also provides owners with decent rebounding (6.7 RPG) and shot blocking (1.2 BPG). After the trade to the Cavs, Timofey was a top-65 player without assists.

R10) Roy Hibbert – The Lakers terrible playoff schedule limits Hibbert’s appeal, but bigs that shoot as well as Hibbert does from the line (82.4 FT%) are a huge help to this build. The former Pacer has been a top-50 asset without assists in the past, and gives you the usual big man stats (7.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG), albeit on low efficiency (44.6 FG%).

R10) J.R. Smith – Unless Yahoo moves up Smith once again, he should be aggressively targeted in just about every build. Punt assists is an especially good fit for Smith as his lack of sharing (2.8 APG) doesn’t drag down the value created by his scoring (12.1 PPG), threes (2.3 3PG), and steals (1.2 SPG). Watch out for his poor percentages (41.7 FG%, 75.0 FT%).

R10) Kevin Martin – K-Mart is apparently losing his battle with Zach LaVine for the Wolves’ starting shooting guard spot. Even if he comes off the bench, Martin will once again be an excellent target for those in need of points (20.0 PPG), threes (1.9 3PG), and FT% impact (88.1 FT% on 4.9 FTA). If the Wolves fall out of playoff contention, and they likely will, try to see what you can get for the scorer. The Wolves have not been shy about shutting down their veterans for the sake of the tank in the past.

R11) C.J. McCollum – The Blazer is a popular late-round sleeper and for good reason. That doesn’t mean he is devoid of warts. Despite being a strong three-point shooter (2.0 3P36), C.J. is shaky at the line (68.9 FT%). Like most gunners, McCollum will also drag down your FG% (43.6%). The sophomore should be targeted aggressively, but know that his scoring (15.7 PP36) and threes come at a price.

R11) Darren Collison – Collison is already pushing Rondo for the starting job, and at this price, should be targeted despite his playmaking abilities (5.6 APG). Collison only shot 78.8% from the line last season but has converted his freebies at an 85.0% rate for his career. Not only does Collison give you exactly what you need for this build (1.3 3PG, 1.5 RPG), unlike many of the point guard eligible players available late, he actually helps you from the floor (47.3 FG%).

R11) Avery Bradley – I prefer Bradley to Marcus Smart in this build due to Bradley’s superior scoring (13.9 PPG), threes (1.6 3PG), and free-throw shooting (79.0 FT%). Bradley’s stat line only includes 1.8 APG which allowed the Celtic to post top-105 value in this build in 2014-2015. There’s higher upside options available at this point in the draft, but you could do worse than Bradley late.

R12) P.J. Tucker – T.J. Warren is pushing Tucker for the Suns’ starting small forward spot, but Tucker’s steady production shouldn’t be ignored. Tucker is coming off of a top-70 finish in this build, is a strong rebounder for his position (6.4 RPG), hits from deep (1.1 3PG), and contributes on the defensive end (1.4 SPG). He’s not the sexiest pick in the world, but top-70 potential this late in the draft is hard to find.

R12) Jamal Crawford – Crawford, for the past three seasons, has been the ideal punt assists point guard. Crawford’s point guard eligibility comes with reliable scoring (15.8 PPG), threes (1.9 3PG), and FT% impact (90.1 FT% on 3.9 FTA). Jamal won’t repeat those averages in 2015-2016 due to the acquisition of Lance Stephenson, but he doesn’t need to in order to be good value at this spot.

R12) Lou Williams – The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is another no-brainer pick for those waiting until the end of the draft to fill their point guard spot. His award winning numbers (15.5 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 1.1 SPG, and 86.1 FT% on 4.9 FTA) came in only 25.2 MPG and that minutes average is repeatable in 2015-2016. What isn’t repeatable is his massive usage rate (27.0%). Lou’s shot attempts will drop due to Kobe and friends, but a top-100 finish is still possible.

R13) Patty Mills – The Aussie posted top-15 per minute numbers in 2013-2014 despite only averaging 3.9 AP36. He did that by producing 19.5 PP36, 3.2 3P36, and 1.6 SP36 on 46.4% shooting from the floor and 89.0% from the line. Mills was made for this build and should be rosterable even if he doesn’t overtake the declining Parker for the starting job.

R13) Zaza Pachulia – The Mavericks’ new starting center is actually a pretty good playmaker (3.7 AP36), but as is the case with most of the better playmaking bigs, doesn’t lose too much value in this build. Zaza is a better thief than most bigs (1.1 SPG), is a positive at the charity stripe (78.8 FT%), and it’s hard to find more rebounds (6.8 RPG) this late. He doesn’t block shots (0.3 BPG) so make sure you’ve locked up swats early.

R13) Myles Tuner – The full extent of Turner’s role is still to be determined, but the rookie does look like he’ll contribute plenty of blocks (2.2 BPG) and out-of-position threes (0.5 3PG). Myles won’t hurt you from the line (83.9 FT%), but likely will from field (45.5 FG%) given how often he’ll be playing on the perimeter.

R13) Mo Williams – Mo does derive a good amount of his value from assists (6.2 APG), but his contributions elsewhere and his bargain bin price make him worth a flier in the final round. Until Kyrie returns, Williams’ is going to be a very valuable source of points (14.2 PPG), threes (1.8 3PM), and FT% impact (87.2 FT% on 2.8 FTA). His FG% (39.7%) is concerning, but should improve now that he’s back beside LeBron.

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