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Punt Steals

Punting steals is very similar to punting threes. Almost all fantasy-relevant guards steal the ball at a decent rate. The average amount of steals for a rostered player in a 12-team, standard league in 2014-2015 was 1.0 SPG. Punting steals is not about avoiding all guards who average slightly more swipes than the league average. It’s fine to take on players who produce a fair amount of steals if they contribute in the other categories that you are looking for. What makes punting steals difficult to pull off is that most of the elite sources of steals are point guards. You still want to be competitive in assists with this build, so you’ll have to choose your point guards wisely. The impact of punting steals on point guard value can be enormous. Last season, John Wall wasn’t a top-50 asset in this build. Eric Bledsoe barely cracked the top 70.

Most of the players currently being drafted in the first round are very strong in steals, so your first-round options are limited. Kevin Durant is a natural fit for this build as he was a below-average thief (0.9 SPG) in his injury-riddle 2014-2015 campaign. Anthony Davis averaged 1.5 SPG last season, but he provides so much elsewhere that he is still a very viable building block for this strategy. My preferred punting strategy with both Durant and Davis is punt assists, but you may find this strategy easier to pull off.

Most big men receive a massive boost when steals are ignored and your goal should be to dominate the big man categories while being competitive in the traditional guard categories. Out-of-position assists, especially from your big men, are something you will want to pay quite a bit of attention to. Grabbing players like Marc Gasol or Blake Griffin can turn your punt steals team into a powerhouse.

Note: 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 draft. All punting guides are for standard, 9-category leagues. 

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

First-round targets: Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Al Horford

R2) Carmelo Anthony – There’s still first-round upside here, but his floor is lower than ever. The Knicks have improved, but not to the point where they are a lock to be fielding their best team in late March. Carmelo’s knees are also a huge issue and no early-round player, including Paul George, has as many question marks surrounding him as Anthony. When he is on the court, continue to expect elite scoring (24.2 PPG), close to two threes a night (1.5 3PG), and very strong rebounding (6.6 RPG). Melo was mediocre from the line in 2014-2015 (79.7 FT%), but is generally a very good source of FT% impact. In 2013-2014, he shot 84.8% from the charity stripe on 7.0 FTA.

R2) Klay Thompson – While the sharpshooter has expanded his game, he continues to only steal the ball at a league-average rate (1.1 SPG). He’ll also drag down your boards (3.2 RPG) and assists (2.9 APG), but his strengths greatly outweigh his weaknesses these days. Klay was the league’s 13th-leading scorer in 2014-2015 (21.7 PPG) and only teammate Steph Curry was nastier from beyond the arc (3.1 3PG). Thompson also provides owners with very useful out-of-position blocks (0.8 BPG) and is excellent from the line (87.9 FT%), albeit on low volume (3.3 FTA).

R2) LaMarcus Aldridge – The newest Spur was a top-7 player without steals in 2014-2015 (0.7 SPG) and his improvements from deep (0.5 3PG) make him a very strong fit for this build. His upside is capped by his new surroundings, but Aldridge should still be able to flirt with 20 points and 9 rebounds every night (23.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG) and will continue to be one of the league’s best sources of out-of-position FT% impact (84.5 FT%). LaMarcus is only an average shot blocker (1.0 BPG), so owners will want to take another big man early if they land Aldridge in the second or third.

R2) Serge Ibaka – Ibaka takes care of any potential issues with blocks (2.4 BPG) and is an elite asset in this build. Last season, despite struggling with injuries and being forced into a role he wasn’t prepared for, Serge was still a top-10 option without steals (0.5 SPG). His lack of dimes remain an issue (0.9 APG), and he’s not going to be mistaken for Dennis Rodman anytime soon (7.8 RPG), but the Thunder’s defensive anchor looks like he’s going to continue to provide owners with out-of-position triples (1.2 3PG) and FT% impact (83.6 FT%). After the arrival of Enes Kanter, Ibaka was the fourth-ranked player without steals.

R2) Damian Lillard – Assists are extremely hard to come by in this build as most point guards steal the ball at an above-average rate. Lillard is an exception and is easily your top point guard target. The Blazers’ lone returning starter was improved on the defensive end in 2014-2015 (1.2 SPG), but there were signs that his improvement may be temporary. Over the last two months of the season, Lillard only averaged 0.6 SPG. Damian should see most of his counting stats rise this season (21.0 PPG, 2.4 3PG, 6.2 APG) as his usage is about to go through the roof. He needs to be paired with a major FG% anchor as his FG% (43.4%) could drop into the thirties with so much defensive attention headed his way.

R2) Blake Griffin – Griffin’s legendary out-of-position assists (5.3 APG) make this build much easier to pull off. He isn’t a perfect fit  due to his lack of blocks (0.5 BPG) and his mediocre, high volume free-throw shooting (72.8 FT% on 6.4 FTA), but the flashy power forward will also give your points (21.9 PPG) and FG% (50.2 FG% on 17.1 FGA) a serious boost. He’s trending downwards as a rebounder (7.6 RPG) and that’s unlikely to change now that DeAndre Jordan has re-signed with Clippers.

R3) Pau Gasol – Only five players provided more value than Pau in 2014-2015 when steals are ignored. The move to Chicago revived his career and with the Bulls intent on upping the pace, Gasol should be able to come close to matching last season’s popcorn stats (18.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG). He will also be a very good source of both FG% impact (49.4 FG%) and FT% impact (80.3 FT%). What makes Pau extra enticing to managers looking to punt steals are his always useful dimes (2.7 APG).

R3) Kevin Love – The stretch four looks like he’ll be ready to start the season and could see an increased role this year with Tristan Thompson in the midst of a holdout and Kyrie Irving still ailing. Love produced second-round value without steals in 2014-2015 (0.7 SPG) and could see both his scoring (16.4 PPG) and rebounding improve (9.7 RPG). Last season, the only player with center eligibility who averaged more threes than Love (1.9 3PG) was Ryan Anderson. His lack of blocks (0.5 BPG) and poor FG% (43.4%) need to be offset as those are two categories that you are looking to dominate when punting steals.

R3) Marc Gasol – The other Gasol isn’t quite the asset his brother is in this build, but he was still a top-15 player without steals in 2014-2015 (0.9 SPG). Like Pau, he is a very good passer for his position (3.8 APG) and provides owners with above-average big man stats (7.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 49.4 FG%). Marc has really improved as a scorer (17.4 PPG) and continues to be rock solid at the line (79.5 FT%). One of my favorite ways to start this build is taking Kevin Durant in the first and pairing him with the Gasol brothers.

R3) Brook Lopez – If you miss out on the Gasol brothers, Brook is a fine consolation prize. He provided first-round value without steals last season (0.6 SPG) and is one of the league’s best post players (17.2 PPG on 51.3 FG%). Lopez was elite down the stretch of 2014-2015, returning top-5 value in this build over the last two months of the season. His injury history is what keeps him behind both Gasol brothers. Lopez has missed over 60 games in two of his last four seasons.

R3) Kyrie Irving – The brittle point guard is an above-average thief (1.5 SPG), but provides enough elsewhere, and is available at a cheap enough price, that he’s worth considering in the third. Irving’s timetable to return is still very murky. He could come back early in the season or not until January. If you’re feeling lucky, Irving can provide owners with exceptional scoring (21.7 PPG) on very good percentages (46.8 FG%, 86.3 FT%), elite threes (2.1 3PG), and decent dimes (5.2 APG).

R3) Mike Conley – It feels strange mentioning Conley in a punt steals guide, but the point guard’s defense has slipped as he has taken on a larger role on offense. Conley only average 1.3 SPG in 2014-2015 and is now scoring more (15.8 PPG) and hitting more often from deep (1.5 3PG). He scoring is reasonable efficient (44.6 FG%, 85.9 FT%) and he provides good, but not great, assists (5.4 APG).

R4) Rudy Gay – Rudy’s reputation as a chucker is overblown. He is much more than just a scorer. Last season, he set a career high in assists (3.7 APG). Gay provides across-the-board production and doesn’t lose much value when steals are ignored (1.0 3PG). Rudy is a very good scorer (21.1 PPG on 45.5 FG%) who lives at the line (85.8 FT% on 5.8 FTA). His only weakness is in this build is his high turnover rate (2.7 TOPG).

R4) Gordon Hayward – To build a successful punt steals team, you need to focus on finding out-of-position assists. The Jazz’s leading scorer is one of the best options for managers in search of those elusive dimes (4.1 APG). Hayward’s value takes a small hit in this build (1.4 SPG), but punting is all about building the best team, not just targeting players who perform poorly in the punted category. Gordon gives you a little bit of everything including points (19.3 PPG), threes (1.6 3PG), boards (4.9 RPG), and blocks (0.4 BPG).

R4) Tim Duncan – If the Spurs had a better playoff schedule, I’d be all over Duncan this season. His age, and the arrival of LaMarcus Aldridge deflate his price, and The Big Fundamental is a lock to return value at his current fourth-round ADP. Last season, Timmy was a top-15 player without steals (0.8 SPG) and was as steady as ever in the big man categories (9.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG). What makes Duncan a better target than most of the big men available in this range is his neutral impact on FT% (74.0%) and his sneaky out-of-position assists (3.0 APG).

R4) Marcin Gortat – The Polish Hammer was phenomenal down the stretch of 2014-2015 and posted top-7 value without steals over the last two months of the season (0.6 SPG). Gortat’s consistency is underrated. He has posted top-45 value three of the past four seasons and since becoming a full-time player in 2010-2011, he has never finished outside of the top-75. His floor is very high and with the Wizards looking to push the pace this season, we may not have seen his ceiling. Gortat’s impressive traditional big man stats (8.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 56.6 FG%) do not come with a notable FT% hit (70.3 FT%).

R5) Danny Green – Green has the potential to be an early-round asset in almost any build and punt steals is no exception. In 2014-2015, when his league average steals (1.2 SPG) were ignored, Green was a top-35 player. No guard averaged more blocks than Green last season (1.1 BPG) and only ten players average more threes (2.4 3PG). Green is a safer pick than most of teammates as Popovich rarely rests the three-point bomber late in the season.

R5) Kyle Korver – The league’s most efficient scorer is coming off of a season in which he posted second-round value without steals (0.7 SPG). Don’t be scared off by his perceived shortcomings (12.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG). He doesn’t kill you in any category and only Steph Curry and Klay Thompson connected more often from deep in 2014-2015 (2.9 3PG). Don’t fall victim to PPG bias. His floor is very high.

R5) Jonas Valanciunas – Despite Dwane Casey’s best efforts to limit his budding star, Valanciunas was able to return third-round value in this build in 2014-2015. His lack of dimes hurt (0.5 APG), but it’s rare that you find such strong big man stats (8.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG) in the middle rounds that aren’t accompanied by a FT% hit (78.6 FT%). Jonas is also a very efficient scorer (57.2 FG%) and should see his attempts rise in 2015-2016 (12.0 PPG).

R6) Goran Dragic – The Heat’s new starting point only steals the ball at an average-rate (1.0 SPG), which makes him one of the few point guards who doesn’t lose value in this build. He is only a middle-round asset whenever Wade is in the lineup, but has top-30 potential anytime his teammate is sidelined. After the trade, Dragic averaged a very useful 16.6 PPG on 50.1 FG%, 0.9 3PG, and 5.3 APG. Expect his threes to rise this season as Goran has traditionally been a much better three-pointer shooter (1.6 3PG in 2013-2014).

R6) Nicolas Batum – Another must-grab for those punting steals. I’m extremely high on Batum this season, especially in this build. In 2013-2014, his last healthy season, Batum was a top-30 player without steals (0.9 SPG). He is going to be the primary creator in the Hornets’ offense and could average close to six apples a night (5.1 APG in 2013-2014). Expect his scoring to remain relatively low, but as always, he’ll be a very good source of threes (1.4 3PG), boards (5.9 RPG), and out-of-position blocks (0.6 BPG). Target him aggressively.

R6) DeMar DeRozan – DeRozan has improved his swipes, but not to the point where he loses much value in this build (1.2 SPG). He is a volume scorer (20.1 PPG on 41.3 FG%) who does most of his damage inside the three-point line (0.4 3PG). Those threes are not ideal, but his FT% impact is (83.2 FT% on 7.2 FTA). Last season, only thirteen players had a greater impact on FT% and most of them are going to go much earlier than the sixth round in your draft.

R6) George Hill – The Pacer was outstanding in 2014-2015 in his 43 appearances. He provided top-35 numbers to owners despite only averaging 1.0 SPG. The signing of Monta Ellis makes a repeat performance unlikely, but Hill should still be good enough from deep (1.6 3PG) and in assists (5.1 APG) to be worth a pick in the sixth round. Hill was extremely efficient last year (47.7 FG%) and the increase in Indiana’s talent level will help him maintain that gaudy shooting percentage.

R7) Tyson Chandler – The Suns’ prize free-agent was a second-round asset without steals (0.6 SPG) in 2014-2015. He provides the big man stats that you will be looking to win each week (11.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 66.6 FG%) and doesn’t hurt you at the line (72.0 FT%). Alex Len limits his upside, but the Suns should be competitive enough that they don’t turn to the youngster while Tyson is healthy.

R7) Reggie Jackson – Lillard is your primary point guard target in the early rounds and Jackson is your primary point guard target in the middle rounds. Jackson doesn’t steal the ball (0.8 SPG) and as long as Brandon Jennings is out, he should be a great source of the points, assists, and FT% impact that you need in this build. After the trade to the Pistons, Jackson averaged 17.6 PPG, 9.2 APG, and got to the line 3.8 times per night. He only shot 79.6% from the charity stripe after the trade, but should be much better from the line in 2015-2016. Over the course of his career, Jackson has connected on 85.6% of his free-throws.

R7) Isaiah Thomas – Thomas’ size limits him on the defensive end (0.9 SPG) and makes the undersized lead guard an excellent target in the seventh. He’ll be the Celtics’ top option once again and Brad Stevens is considering starting Thomas over Marcus Smart. Regardless of where he starts the game, IT will be an excellent bet for above-average points (16.4 PPG), threes (1.9 3PG), and assists (4.2 APG). He is also an underrated source of FT% impact (85.8 FT% on 5.2 FTA).

R7) Deron Williams – We’ll find out very quickly if Deron has anything left in the tank. He’s joining one of the league’s best offenses and could produce top-60 value in this build if everything goes right. Williams’ defense has fallen off (0.9 SPG), but he remains a threat from deep (1.3 3PG) and is still a very good playmaker (6.6 APG) who takes good care of the ball (2.3 TOPG). His lack of efficiency is the biggest problem with his line (38.7 FG%) and as always, he’ll be a risk to miss extended time.

R8) J.J. Redick – The former Blue Devil is a very good option for those who passed on Kyle Korver and Danny Green earlier in the draft. Last season, Redick was a top-40 option without steals (0.5 SPG) and brings the heat in points (16.4 PPG) and triples (2.6 3PG). He also has a fairly large positive impact on FT% (90.1%) despite only averaging 2.6 FTA. I’m not overly concerned by the addition of Lance Stephenson. Stephenson is an overrated player who could very easily find himself glued to the bench by December.

R8) Terrence Jones – Jones isn’t a perfect fit for this build due to his issues at the line (60.6 FT%), but like Darren Collison and Mo Williams, he needs to be targeted in just about every build until his price is adjusted. Terrence was a top-45 player without steals in both 2014-2015 and 2013-2014. He should be a major source of blocks (1.8 BPG) and FG% impact (52.8 FG%) this season. He’ll also boost your threes (0.4 3PG) and chip in a fair amount of boards (6.7 RPG).

R9) Derrick Rose – It’s too bad Rose can’t stay healthy and is a shell of his former self, because the former MVP was made for this build. Rose is a sieve on the defensive end and that is reflected in his defensive stats (0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG). He does somewhat make up for it on the other end as he continues to score at high rate (17.7 PPG), albeit on terrible efficiency (40.5 FG%). He also attempts enough threes to provide useful value from deep (1.5 3PG) and drops dimes at a respectable rate (4.9 APG). He gets a boost in 8-category leagues as he struggles to take good care of the ball (3.2 TOPG).

R9) Robin Lopez – Like many of the big men available this late, Lopez drags down both your steals (0.3 SPG) and assists (0.9 APG). Despite the lack dimes, Lopez’s upside is massive in this build. In 2013-2014, he was a top-20 player without steals. That kind of upside this late is hard to ignore. That season he averaged 11.1 PPG on 55.1 FG%, 8.5 RPG, and 1.7 BPG. He could approach those averages in his first season with the Knicks as he is ticketed for a much larger role than he had in Portland. As a bonus, Robin is very strong at the line (81.8 FT% in 2013-2014).

R9) Meyers Leonard – Leonard is one of this season’s more interesting breakout candidates and has one of his greatest weaknesses (0.4 SP36) nullified by this strategy. His lack of blocks will still be an issue (0.6 BP36), but this build makes it much easier to gamble on Leonard’s upside in points (13.9 PP36), threes (2.0 3P36), boards (10.6 RP36), and percentages (51.0 FG%, 93.8 FT%).

R9) Ryan Anderson – I’m becoming increasingly bullish on Anderson and the sharpshooter receives a major boost in this build (0.5 SPG). He could average close to 3.0 3PG in Alvin Gentry’s offense and will, once again, be a sneaky source of out-of-position FT% impact (85.4 FT%). It’s not out of the question that Anderson comes close to matching his 2012-2013 numbers. That season, in 30.9 MPG, he averaged a very healthy 16.2 PPG, 2.6 3PG, and 6.4 RPG. Like most stretch fours, his FG% needs to be offset (42.4 FG% in 2012-2013).

R10) David Lee – Boston’s frontcourt is stacked with mediocre players and Lee looks like the best of the underwhelming bunch. Lee didn’t see much run last season (18.5 MPG), but his per minute numbers suggest he still has something left in the tank. Last season he produced 15.4 PP36, 10.2 RP36, and 3.4 AP36. Lee has top-70 upside when steals are ignored (1.2 SP36).

R10) Jarrett Jack – Jack is a poor man’s Reggie Jackson. Like Jackson, he doesn’t steal the ball (0.9 SPG) and is disappointing from deep (0.5 3PG), but he should be a great source of the other guard stats that you are looking for. As a starter last season, he averaged 15.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, and got to the line 3.4 times a night, connecting on 87.0% of his attempts. His increased role means more turnovers (3.3 TOPG as a starter), so Jack is a better fit for 8-category leagues than 9-category leagues.

R11) Darren Collison – Until the Kings’ current backup point guard’s price is adjusted, he needs to be targeted in every build. As long as Rajon Rondo is in the lineup, Collison won’t average much more than a steal a night. He should be able to provide over four dimes a night to owners even if he sees most of his minutes at the shooting guard position. He is a steal at this point in the draft not only due to his point guard stats, but his unusual efficiency (47.3 FG%, 85.0 career FT%).

R11) Jordan Clarkson – Early in the season, owners will need to keep their expectations of Clarkson in check. Last season’s breakout stud will likely struggle to adapt to playing beside Kobe Bryant and rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell. I expect Clarkson to produce more as the year goes on and he could be very good in the fantasy playoffs. In 2014-2015, over the last month of the season, the young Laker averaged 18.6 PPG, 0.9 3PG, 4.7 RPG, and 6.3 APG.

R12) Jose Calderon – There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Calderon was terrible last season. In 2014-2015, without steals, a category Jose has traditionally struggled in, the Knicks’ point guard still was only a top-170 player. What makes him worth a flier is that he was a top-55 asset without steals in 2013-2014. Calderon could be done, but it’s difficult to call gambling on someone who is only a year removed from mid-round value a bad move. In 2013-2014, Jose averaged 4.7 APG and 2.4 3PG.

R12) Jamal Crawford – Crawford will likely lose some minutes to Lance Stephenson, but has room to fall as the Clipper was a top-95 asset without steals in 2014-2015 (0.9 SPG). Even if he only sees 24 MPG this season, Crawford will still be rosterable due to this impact on points (15.8 PPG), threes (1.9 3PG), and FT% (90.1 FT% on 3.9 FTA). Watch out for his complete inability to grab rebounds (1.9 RPG) and poor shooting from the field (39.6 FG%).

R13) Lou Williams – The Laker was able to win his Sixth Man of the Year award without contributing much on the defensive end (1.1 SPG). He won’t have the same freedom he had with the Raptors, but there’s no reason why Lou won’t continue to be a very good bet for great scoring (15.5 PPG) and shooting (1.9 3PG) off the bench. Anyone who has seen Williams play knows that he doesn’t like to pass (2.1 APG) and that he has one of the league’s best pump fakes. That nasty fake helped Lou provide top-12 FT% impact to owners in 2014-2015 (86.1 FT% on 4.9 FTA).

R13) Mo Williams – Next to Collison, Mo is the best late-round point guard target for those punting steals. Mo has never been much of thief (0.7 SPG) and he should post some very big numbers whenever Kyrie is out of the lineup. In 2014-2015, in only 29.1 MPG, Williams managed to average 14.2 PPG, 1.8 3PG, and 6.2 APG. Those apples make Mo extremely appealing and even when Kyrie does return, he should be good for one-and-half threes a game and over four assists.

R13) Myles Turner – If you missed out on blocks early and don’t mind rostering a big man who hurts you from the field, Turner should be your last-round pick. Myles is not expected to start for the Pacers, but he should play enough to help out owners from deep (0.5 BPG), at the line (83.9 FT%), and in blocks (2.6 BPG). Despite his preseason struggles, Turner is still my second ranked rookie in re-draft leagues.

R13) Gerald Green – Green is worth a flier in the final round due to his top-75 upside and Dwyane Wade’s quickly deteriorating body. In 2013-2014, Green was a top-50 asset without steals (0.9 SPG) thanks to his elite threes (2.5 3PG) and above-average scoring (15.8 PPG). He managed that impressive finish in only 28.4 MPG. With Wade likely to miss major chunks of the season, the former Sun could see close to 25 MPG which would make him worth a spot on your bench.