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Punt FT%

If you asked the average fantasy player to name a punting strategy, almost all would answer punt FT%. Fantasy basketball’s most famous strategy is effective as ever, with loads of talented young big men available early in the draft to pair with the first-round guards. Big men generally get a boost in this build, but it’s the guards who will determine the quality of the team. Steph Curry is the best building block for this strategy. Those fortunate enough to land a top-2 pick will want to pair the MVP with two of shot blockers available at the end of the second and beginning of the third. This strategy is quite effective with any of the first-round guards or LeBron James. DeAndre Jordan is also a very viable pick late in the first round. In 2014-2015, DeAndre was only player not named Davis, Curry, Harden, Paul, or Durant to finish within in the top-3 in any punting scenario.

Teams that punt FT% are going to be very strong in rebounds, blocks, and usually FG%. Point guards, preferably ones who are efficient from the floor as inefficient guards can erase a team’s advantage in FG% quickly, need to be targeted aggressively. They are the best source of the guard stats that determine this strategy’s success. I try to have at least three point guards on my roster by the end of the sixth round when punting FT%. The quality of lead guards drops off sharply after this point in the draft and going light on assists early will lead to an unintentional double punt. Blindly choosing point guards in the early rounds can lead to a strong assists and steals team. However, points, threes, and low turnovers can be more difficult to find, so choose your point guards wisely and make sure that any wings picked early are deadly from deep. Points is arguably the most difficult category to be strong in when punting FT% and because of that, I highly recommend the punt FT%/punt points strategy, especially if DeAndre Jordan is your first-round pick. I will delve deeper into that strategy as part of my punt points guide.

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, Assists, Steals, Turnovers

First-round targets: Steph Curry, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook

R2) DeAndre Jordan – A legitimate option in the first round and a no-brainer pick in the second. No player, including Anthony Davis, provides managers with more combined value in FG% (71.0%), boards (15.0 RPG), and blocks (2.2 BPG) than Jordan. He is as reliable as they come, having not missed a single game since 2010-2011. In the era of scheduled rests and players sitting out with a sore toenail, that kind of durability is very welcomed. Steph Curry in the first and DeAndre Jordan in the second is the dream start for this strategy.

R2) John Wall – Wall brings some very good things to this build and some very bad things. Only Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul contributed more combined value in assists (10.0 APG) and steals (1.7 SPG) in 2014-2015. The All-Star is also a very good source of points (17.5 PPG) and out-of-position blocks (0.6 BPG). However, he does have some warts that limit his effectiveness in this build. Wall still can’t shoot threes (0.8 RPG), isn’t great from the floor (44.5 FG%), and is a turnover waiting to happen (3.8 TOPG). The talented lead guard is a double-edged sword and only an option for managers picking DeAndre Jordan in the first round. If you chose LeBron or one of the guards, wait until at least the third round for your next point guard.

R2) Andre Drummond – Drummond is currently ranked in the fourth round on Yahoo but is an excellent pick starting in the second round. Andre was a top-6 option without FT% in 2013-2014 and a top-10 option in 2014-2015. DeAndre Jordan needs to be your primary target in the second, but if he is gone, you should turn your attention to Drummond. I prefer the Piston to Rudy Gobert in this build due to Drummond’s scoring upside (16.1 PPG on 53.5 FG% over the last two months of 2014-2015) and his dominant rebounding (13.5 RPG).

R2) Blake Griffin – Blake isn’t good a fit for teams starting their draft with a guard due to his lack of blocks (0.5 BPG) and mediocre rebounding (7.2 RPG), but is a great option for those starting their draft with his teammate DeAndre Jordan. Griffin gives you point guard-level assists (5.3 APG) without the usual FG% hit (50.2 FG%). Loading up on the Clippers’ starting frontcourt does put you well behind the curve in triples, which makes targeting players like Chandler Parsons and J.R. Smith later in the draft essential.

R2) Rudy Gobert – You’re looking at the favorite for the 2015-2016 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Gobert’s massive on court impact should have a similar influence on the fantasy world. After being inserted into the starting lineup for good on February 20th, Gobert posted first-round value in this build with averages of 13.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG and 2.6 BPG on 57.6% shooting. DeAndre Jordan needs to go ahead of Gobert in this build, but Rudy is a fine consolation prize if someone beats you to the Clipper.

R3) Nerlens Noel – The sophomore power forward couldn’t be in a better spot. Noel is currently being drafted in the late-second to early-third round and pairing one of the elite guards with Nerlens is both very possible and very advisable. Curry and Harden cover Noel’s scoring weakness (9.9 PPG) and pairing the guards with the Sixer ensures a strong start in every category but FG%. Noel’s poor FG% (46.2%) is what keeps him behind Drummond and Gobert in this build.

R3) Draymond Green – Dray is better fit for the double-punt (11.7 PPG) but is still a top-20 option when only punting freebies. His FG% (44.3%) isn’t ideal, but the rest of his line is spectacular. It’s not often that a player gives you out-of-position production in three different categories, but that’s the case with Green. Draymond’s 1.4 3PG, 3.7 APG, and 1.6 SPG are all well above his position’s averages. We may not have seen his ceiling yet. Those incredible 2014-2015 numbers came in only 31.5 MPG.

R3) Kyle Lowry – Don’t be scared off by point guards who shoots well at the charity stripe (80.8 FT%) if they bring the heat elsewhere. Lowry is in the best shape of his life and provides the points (17.9 PPG), threes (1.9 3PG), assists (6.8 APG), and steals (1.6 SPG) that this build demands. His FG% is a major issues (41.2 FG%) so Lowry is a better fit for teams that started with two big men.

R3) Kyrie Irving – The injured Cavalier is great from line and is coming off a season where he hit 86.3% of his 4.9 FTA. His value does take a hit in this strategy, but building the best team is not just about finding the best value, fit is extremely important as well. Irving is one of the few point guards who doesn’t drag down your FG% (46.8%) and provides the points (21.7 PPG), threes (2.1 3PG), assists (5.2 APG), and steals (1.5 SPG) that you need.

R3) Hassan Whiteside – Whiteside finished the 2014-2015 season ranked 9th without FT%, ahead of Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, and Draymond Green. The Heat’s center is a wildcard, but Whiteside being in a contract year lowers the risk of a complete combustion. Hassan got better as the year went on, especially on the offensive end, and averaged 14.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and 3.1 BPG on 63.2% shooting from the field over the last month of the season. Starting your draft with Steph Curry, Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan, and Whiteside will make you a heavy favorite to win any league.

R3) Eric Bledsoe – The Suns’ point guard has very little of his value tied up in FT% (80%) and continues to improve his game. Bledsoe provides all the usual goodies that you would expect from a point guard (17.0 PPG, 1.1 3PG, 6.1 APG) and is also an above-average rebounder (5.2 RPG) and shot blocker (0.6 BPG) for his position. While Bledsoe is an excellent fit for this build, his turnovers (3.4 TOPG) need to cancelled out later in the draft.

R4) Derrick Favors – Gobert gets all the hype, but Favors is still an excellent target for almost all team building strategies. Favors has improved every year and is now a very effective offensive player (16.0 PPG, 52.5 FG%). Expect that scoring number to continue to rise as more will be expected of Favors in 2015-2016. Derrick also provides you with very strong traditional big man stats (8.2 RPG, 1.7 BPG) and saw no drop in production after Gobert’s emergence.

R4) Jeff Teague – Teague is coming off of an up-and-down 2014-2015, rightly earning an All-Star selection before falling off a cliff late in the season. The Hawk is actually an excellent free-throw shooter (86.2 FT%) but is good enough elsewhere (15.9 PPG, 1.0 3PG, 7.0 APG, 1.7 SPG) that he is worth considering, even at his current fourth-round price. What makes Teague especially attractive is his neutral impact on FG% (46.0%). As mentioned in the opener, managers need to be careful not to damage their FG% too much with their point guard selections.

R4) Marcin Gortat – None of the Polish Hammer’s contributions jump off the page, but few players in this range are as consistent as Gortat. The Hammer has cracked the top 50 three of the past four seasons, and barring something unusual, is a lock to do it again. Gortat was outstanding after the All-Star break in 2014-2015, providing owners with first-round value with averages that included 13.4 PPG on 61.8 FG%, 9.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG, and 0.9 TOPG. The Wizards’ big man has a high floor and a high ceiling. That is exactly what you want in the middle rounds.

R4) Trevor Ariza – Expect Ariza’s ugly FG% (40.3%) to be much easier to look at in 2015-2016. Ariza was in a horrible shooting slump to start the season but got better and better as the year went on and he became more accustom to his new teammates. Over the last two months of the season, he shot 45.2% from the field. Steals are essential for this build and threes are not a category that this build is naturally strong in. That makes Ariza one of the few wings worth consideration in the first four rounds (2.4 3PG, 1.9 SPG).

R5) Chandler Parsons – Parsons has finished within the top 35 two of the past three seasons but can currently be had in the fifth or even sixth round. That is an excellent price for a player whose upside is enhanced by the lack of FT% (72.9%). Many of the early-round point guards are average or below-average options from deep, and Chandler can make any disadvantage in triples disappear quickly (2.0 PPG). The Mavericks’ salesman is also an above-average source of points (15.5 PPG), rebounds (5.3 RPG), and FG% (48.6%). He is also a solid playmaker (4.0 APG in 2013-2014) who will be asked to create more in 2015-2016.

R5) Goran Dragic – The former Sun lacks the upside he had in Phoenix due to Dwyane Wade’s ball dominance, but is an ideal fit for the punt FT% build (77.4 FT%). Dragic provides managers with the usual point guard stats (1.2 3PG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 SPG) but it is his elite FG% (50.1%) that makes him stand out from his peers in this range. He has the potential to post top-30 numbers if/when Wade misses time.

R5) Greg Monroe – If you went heavy on blocks early (0.5 BPG) or plan on aggressively target blocks late, Monroe is a decent mid-round pick. Monroe was on fire down the stretch of the season, averaging 16.9 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 1.5 SPG over the last three months of the campaign. His move to Milwaukee does bring with it some uncertainty, but those excellent out-of-position steals are a great addition to a team that will be aiming to win swipes every week.

R6) Monta Ellis – Being strong is points is often the difference between a good punt FT% team and a great one. Monta brings scoring that usually isn’t available in the mid-rounds (18.9 PPG) and contributes enough elsewhere (1.0 3PG, 4.1 APG, 1.9 SPG) that he’s worth a look over some of the point guards in this range. His FG% is a drag (44.5%), but the undersized two-guard actually gains value in this build as he is a below-average free-throw shooter (75.2 FT%).

R6) George Hill – Hill’s top-40 finish in this build in 2014-2015 isn’t repeatable due to the addition of Monta Ellis and the return of Paul George, but doesn’t have to be for Hill to be good value in the sixth round. The Pacers’ point guard is only an average free-throw shooter (79.0 FT%) and is an excellent target for those seeking assists (5.1 APG) that are not accompanied by high turnovers (1.6 TOPG). Give Hill a long look if your turnovers got out of control early.

R6) Dwight Howard – Even at this price, Howard doesn’t instill confidence. Dwight can’t stay on the floor these days and somehow managed to only be a top-35 per game asset in this build in 2014-2015. He still gives you the points (15.8 PPG) and big man stats that you need (10.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 59.3 FG%), but his averages have fallen enough that it’s hard to overlook his health issues and high turnovers (2.8 TOPG).

R7) Tyson Chandler – A repeat of 2014-2015’s top-30 finish without FT% isn’t repeatable due to the presence of Alex Len. The Suns will want to find minutes for their talented youngster and since neither Chandler nor Len can play extended minutes at the four, it’s unlikely Chandler comes close to the 30.5 MPG he averaged last season. However, Chandler is a productive enough per minute player that he can still be good value in the seventh even if his minutes are reduced. Last season, Chandler averaged a double-double (10.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG) to go along with 1.2 BPG on 66.6 FG%.

R7) Thaddeus Young – Elite out-of-position steals (1.6 SPG) and below-average big man stats (5.4 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 46.6 FG%) are what you get when you select Young. Thad produces an unusual line and is excellent value here in any build, but has early-round potential in punt FT% (65.5%). Young produced third-round value without FT% in 2013-2014 and first-round value in 2012-2013. He’s set for an increased role with the depleted Nets and should be at least a top-40 asset to this build.

R8) Terrence Jones – If you’re punting FT%, make sure you find a way to get Jones on your roster. Reach for him if necessary. The Rocket is early-round asset available at an eighth-round price. Jones posted top-20 value in this build in 2013-2014 and top-45 value in 2014-2015. He provides production across the board including 0.4 3PG, 6.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG, and 52.8 FG%. He should start at the four this season for the Rockets and if he manages to lock down 30 MPG, he could win you your league.

R8) Bradley Beal – I prefer J.R. Smith in the 10th to Beal in the 8th, but the Wizard is a solid mid-round investment due to his contributions in points (15.3 PPG), threes (1.7 3PG), and assists (3.1 APG). His shooting from the field needs to be offset (42.7 FG%) as it comes on fairly high volume (13.5 FGA). Unlike many wings, Beal derives almost no value from his FT% (78.3%) as his average shooting comes on low volume (2.6 FTA).

R9) Al-Farouq Aminu – Portland’s starting small forward has a chance to return early-round value in the punt FT%/points build (71.2 FT%, 10.9 PP36), but the swingman should still be very valuable in the regular punt FT% build as well. Aminu projects to be a defensive stat machine (1.8 SP36, 1.6 BP36) who will also provide very useful out-of-position boards (9.0 RP36). The Aminu hype train will continue to gain speed as the season approaches, so don’t be afraid to reach for him.

R9) Ty Lawson – Lawson’s line will look very different in 2015-2016. James Harden usage rate is through the roof and Ty will be expected to play off the ball much more than he ever has this coming season. Expect Lawson’s threes (0.9 3PG) and FG% (43.6%) to rise and his turnovers (2.5 TOPG) to improve, but that improvement could be more than offset by an inevitable drop in points (15.2 PPG) and assists (9.2 APG). The newest Rocket is a risky investment.

R9) Michael Carter-Williams – MCW’s current ADP is in the seventh round, but managers shouldn’t consider him until at least the ninth. Even without FT% (69.4%), the Buck was only top-140 asset in 2014-2015. MCW did improve after the trade, but was only a top-100 option for those punting FT%. His lack of threes (0.5 3PG), inefficient shooting (39.6 FG%), and high turnovers (3.8 TOPG) make MCW no more than a desperation play for those who missed out on point guards early.

R10) Jusuf Nurkic – Nurk is an awesome per minute player who should be consider in most builds but is an especially good fit here (63.6 FT%). The second-year player will be a very good source of out-of-position steals (1.7 SP36) and will provide owners with the rebounds (12.5 RP36) and blocks (2.2 BP36) that they expect from their big men. Nurk’s one issue in this build is his FG% (44.6%). Poor FG% from your big men can derail this strategy quickly.

R10) J.R. Smith – A must-grab at this point in this draft which makes managing your FG% all the more important. Smith is poor shooter from the line (career 73.7% shooter) and was top-40 asset in this build after the trade to Cavaliers. J.R. averaged 2.9 3PG and 1.4 SPG after the trade and helps you make up ground in turnovers (1.4 TOPG).

R11) Ed Davis – Ed has massive upside in this build. Despite only playing 22.5 MPG over the last three months of the season, Davis provided top-45 numbers to mangers punting FT%. His per minute numbers over the stretch, excluding FT%, were good for 12th best in the league. Ed should start, see upwards of 28 MPG, and could post early-round value in this build. He is terrible from the line (48.7 FT%) but provides excellent big man stats (11.7 RP36, 1.9 BP36, 60.1 FG%).

R11) C.J. McCollum – Your late-round guard targets, assuming you went heavy on point guards early, should be very good sources of points and threes and McCollum projects to be exactly that. The second-year player struggles from the line (68.9 FT%) and is expected to see an increased role with Wes Matthews in Dallas. McCollum is the favorite to start at shooting guard for the Blazers and will provide a consistent flow of points (15.7 PP36) and triples (2.0 3PG36). It’s a small sample size, but McCollum averaged 16.0 PPG, 1.1 3PG, and 1.4 BPG in 29.2 MPG over the last two weeks of the season.

R11) Jahlil Okafor – The third-overall pick is a natural fit for this build (51.0 FT%), but it’s hard to get too excited over a rookie who projects to have quite a few holes in his line. Okafor contributed next to nothing in assists (1.3 APG) and steals (0.8 SPG) while at Duke and will likely struggle with turnovers (2.5 TOPG) as the centerpiece of the Sixers’ offense. Foul trouble will also be an issue for Jahlil as he’s not the quickest player in the league and struggled mightily on defense in college. Expect the rookie to be targeted in pick-and-rolls at the pro level. Don’t expect more than serviceable scoring, rebounding, and maybe a block a night from Okafor.

R12) Otto Porter – The Wizard is a popular sleeper and is an especially good fit this build (73.4 FT%). The playoffs gave us a good indication of what to expect from Porter in 2015-2016. During the Wizards 10-game playoff run, Otto played 33.1 MPG and averaged 1.2 3PG and 8.0 RPG. Porter only averaged 0.2 BPG in the playoffs but did average 0.8 BP36 during the regular season. Otto is a better fit for the punt FT%/points build than he is for the regular punt FT% build as he doesn’t project to be much of a scorer (11.2 PP36).

R12) Mason Plumlee – Plumlee is close to untouchable outside of the punt FT% build as his terrible free-throw shooting (49.5 FT%) comes on relatively high volume (3.9 FTA in only 21.3 MPG). Within the punt FT% build, he’s a little more interesting. In 2014-2015, in only 21.3 MPG, the former Net was able to average 6.2 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.8 BPG on 57.3% shooting. If you need a FG% top up late and missed out on Davis, Plumlee is your man.

R13) James Johnson – Johnson isn’t a lock to even crack the rotation in Toronto, but his upside, and fit for this build (65.7 FT%), make him one of the best final-round fliers available. His defensive contributions are commendable (1.4 SPG36, 1.9 BP36), and the volatile swingman is a surprisingly great source of out-of-position FG% impact (58.9 FG%). Despite only playing 19.6 MPG and taking 5.8 shots a night in 2014-2015, only 16 players had a greater positive impact on FG%.

R13) John Henson – The Bucks just gave Henson a very reasonable contract extension and hopefully that means more minutes (18.3 MPG) for the rim protector. Without a bump in minutes, Henson is no more than a blocks specialist (2.0 BPG) who gives you a decent bump in FG% (56.6% on 5.2 FGA). The big man is more of a flier than a must-target due to the uncertainty surrounding his role. The good news is that Henson provides exactly what the Bucks need. It’s hard to see a frontcourt of Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe being anything other than a disaster defensively.

R13) Gerald Green – Dwyane Wade is a lock to miss large chunks of the season and Green will be the primary benefactor when the former superstar is in a suit. Green is a good free-throw shooter (82.5 FT%) but doesn’t get to the line enough to lose much value in this build (1.6 FTA). The athletic freak is only a year removed from posting top-70 value and managed to do so in only 28.4 MPG. He won’t see that kind of run when Wade is healthy, but even 25 MPG would make him relevant to standard league owners. Green is a potentially major source of points (22.0 PP36) and threes (3.4 3PG) available for next to nothing. Just watch out for his poor FG% (41.6%).

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