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16/17 Punt FT%

Punt FT% is fantasy basketball’s most famous punting strategy and can be one it’s most effective if approached correctly. It can also be a trap for owners who think punting FT% is simply about picking as many poor free-throw shooters as possible. This build is surprisingly easy to screw up. Managers will often run into issues with points and assists when punting FT% and turnovers can be a problem as well if you’re not careful.

The key to this strategy is not the big men that receive a boost when FT% is discarded. The key is the guards that you will pair them with. Steph Curry is the best building block for this build. He produces elite numbers in the categories that the build is traditionally weak in and remains arguably the top option in fantasy even when his historic free-throw shooting is ignored. LeBron is the next best first-round option for the build for the same reasons as Steph. He is a FG% monster who excels in all of the traditional point guard categories.

Punt FT% teams are going to be strong in rebounds and blocks. FG% needs to be a strength of this build, but a strong FG% team is not a given when punting FT%. Many of the guards who fit this build well struggle from the field. Make sure you monitor your FG% throughout the draft. Point guards, preferably those who are efficient, are the primary guard targets of this build. They tend to be the best source of guard stats and can determine the success of your draft. When punting FT%, I try to have at least three point guards on my roster by the end of the sixth round. The quality of lead guards falls off a cliff after the middle of the draft and it is very difficult to make up a disadvantage in assists late in the draft. 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 you are unable to land either Curry or James. I will discuss that strategy in more detail within my punt points guide.

I know this is everyone’s favorite build, but it shouldn’t be the only punting strategy that you consider. While punt FT% is a very strong option, punt assists, punt points, and punt FG% are all at least comparable in their potency. Mock with all the different strategies and find out which one works best for you. You may be surprised.

Note: I had to remove a few players due to Yahoo’s recent rankings update. For example, I originally had Myles Turner in this guide in the sixth round. He’s now ranked 38th on Yahoo, and while he is a good fit for the build, I can’t recommend him at that price. 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 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 9-category leagues. 

Categories to target: Points, Threes, Assists, Steals, Turnovers

First-round targets: Steph Curry, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Hassan Whiteside

R2) Giannis Antetokounmpo – Don’t go crazy and reach for Giannis in the middle of the first round, but if you are picking around the around the turn, Antetokounmpo is a viable option for those looking to punt FT%. The Greek Freak contributes in the traditional guard categories as well as the traditional big man categories while struggling at the line (72.4 FT%). Giannis’ production over the last two months of 2015-2016 was spectacular. The Buck averaged a otherworldly 18.8 PPG on 51.0 FG%, 8.7 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.9 BPG. Those defensive numbers likely aren’t sustainable, but everything else looks repeatable. Giannis will put you behind the eight ball in threes (0.4 3PG), so be prepared to aggressively target triples late.

R2) DeAndre Jordan – Last season, Jordan was the fourth-most valuable player when FT% was ignored and is one of the few players currently going outside of the first round that has the potential to be a top-5 player in any build. He is an elite H2H weapon and Yahoo’s current ranking is extremely misleading. DeAndre provides close to league-leading production in three categories (13.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 70.6 FG%) and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since the 2010-2011 season. You may be able to wait until the third round to nab him, but the center will still return solid value if taken in the second. Don’t start the punt FT% with two bigs. You’ll fall too far behind in points, threes, assists, and steals. Pair Jordan with one of the elite point guards.

R2) Kyle Lowry – Lowry is the best second-round point guard option for this build. Damian Lillard loses a massive amount of value when FT% is ignored and John Wall’s knees make him a scary pick at at his current price. Lowry’s counting stats are spectacular and come with a very manageable turnover rate (2.9 TOPG). The Raptor was the fourth-ranked point guard in this build in 2015-2016 and averaged a very impressive 21.2 PPG, 2.8 3PG, 4.7 RPG, 6.4 APG, and 2.1 SPG. Those elite threes and steals are extremely important to this build and more than offset the FG% hit that accompanies the point guard (42.7 FG%).

R2) John Wall – The Wizard is a very strong fit for this build due to his outstanding popcorn stats and the build’s ability to handle his glaring weaknesses. Wall’s poor shooting (42.4 FG%) and massive turnover rate (4.1 TOPG) can be offset by players like Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan. Both players dominate the FG% category and rarely turn the ball over. Wall gives you everything else that you need to pull off a successful FT% punt. He provides above-average production in every other counting stat (19.9 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 4.9 RPG, 10.3 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG) and doesn’t lose any value when FT% is ignored (79.1 FT%).

R2) DeMarcus Cousins – Cousins is a better fit for the punt FG% build, but can work here if you get creative and are able to snag DeAndre Jordan in the third. Like Wall, Cousins’ disappointing FG% (45.1 FG%) and absurd turnover rate (3.8 TOPG) needs to be offset and Jordan can do that. The Kings’ center is the best big man source of counting stats (26.9 PPG, 1.1 3PG, 11.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.4 BPG) in the league, but is fairly injury prone. Cousins has actually missed more time over the last three seasons than Anthony Davis.

R2) Draymond Green – Green’s numbers will take a hit now that he’ll be sharing the court with Kevin Durant, but the Warrior remains a solid option for this build due to his ability to provide owners with point guard numbers from the power forward spot. Don’t expect Draymond to come close to matching the 7.4 APG that he averaged last season. Durant is one of the league’s highest-usage players and Green won’t have as large a role on offense as he did in the Warriors’ record-breaking 2015-2016 season. However, even five assists per night from one of your forwards is a massive help in this build. Picking Green allows you to avoid overpaying for a point guard later in the draft, helps you from deep (1.2 3PG), and helps you on the defensive end (1.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG). Expect Draymond’s turnovers to drop now that Durant is in Oakland (3.2 TOPG).

R3) Blake Griffin – Griffin, like Green, is a great fit for this build, not only because of his strong contributions in the big man categories, but because of his always excellent out-of-position dimes (4.9 APG). Blake also provides the points that often elude managers punting FT% (21.4 PPG) and is a very good source of FG% impact (49.8 FG% on 17.3 FGA). While Griffin is an excellent fit for this strategy, ideally, he won’t be the best big man on your roster. The Clipper is a poor shot blocker (0.5 BPG) and is only a decent rebounder (8.4 RPG). You’ll be looking to dominate both categories.

R3) Andre Drummond – Drummond is your next best bet if you miss out on Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan earlier in the draft. The Piston isn’t quite on their level due to his solid, but not elite, FG% impact (52.0 FG%). You’ll likely have a number of guards on your roster who struggle from the floor and Drummond doesn’t do enough to offset their poor shooting. What he does do is dominate on the boards (14.8 RPG). The big man will likely lead the league in rebounding and should be a very good source of blocks (1.4 BPG). He is also an excellent bet for out-of-position steals (1.5 SPG) and scores more often than most of the punt FT% big man targets (16.2 PPG).

R3) Eric Bledsoe – Drafting point guards who score efficiently, or at least have a neutral impact on the FG% category, is one of the biggest keys to this build. Bledsoe won’t hurt or help you from the field (45.3 FG%) and provides elite counting stats (20.4 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 6.1 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG) to those taking the plunge in the third round. The only problem with Bledsoe is that he can’t seem to stay healthy. The point guard missed over 60% of the 2015-2016 season and missed nearly half the year in 2013-2014.

R3) Kyrie Irving – Kyrie is actually a very good source of FT% impact (88.5 FT% on 3.6 FTA). However, punting is not just about avoiding players who are strong in the punted category. It is also about finding players who are strong in the punt’s weaknesses and that’s where Kyrie comes in. Irving never fully got going after returning from a knee injury that he suffered in the 2015 finals, but his 2014-2015 season gives us an idea of what he is capable of. That season, he averaged 21.7 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 5.2 APG, and 1.5 SPG while shooting 46.8% from the floor. That scoring is especially important given how little most of the build’s big man targets score. The assists are not ideal though. Most of the bigs you will be targeting don’t pass the ball and ideally, you’ll want to target point guards who are in the 6.5+ APG range. If you target Kyrie, try to pair him with one of the league leaders in dimes.

R4) C.J. McCollum – McCollum won’t give you the assists you’re looking for, especially now that Evan Turner is on the roster, but he does contribute in most of the other categories that you will be targeting. He is a major boon to your points (20.8 PPG) and threes (2.5 3PG), and the FG% hit that accompanies the combo guard is manageable (44.8 FG%). McCollum’s 2015-2016 82.7% success rate at the line will likely come down this year, meaning that owners won’t be losing too much value when adding the Blazer to this build. McCollum didn’t crack 70% from the line in his first two seasons in the league and some regression is likely.

R4) Ricky Rubio – Paring Rubio with someone like Chris Paul or John Wall lets you forget about dimes for a while and allows you to focus on finding value elsewhere. Rubio is suddenly surrounded by an extremely talented supporting cast and should blow past his previous career high of 8.8 APG. His poor shooting (37.4 FG%) is actually easier to offset than his non-existent scoring (10.1 PPG). Rubio is much easier to fit into the double-punt and can cause an unintentional double-punt if owners aren’t careful. The Spaniard has only averaged less than 2.0 SPG once in his career and should, once again, be among the league leaders in that category in 2016-2017.

R4) Trevor Ariza – Ariza is an outstanding bet to return top-40 value and is the best source of threes and steals available in the middle rounds (2.3 3PG, 2.0 SPG). He has been a top-40 player in this build three seasons in a row and has more upside than he usually does now that Mike D’Antoni is coaching the Rockets. He is a high-floor, high-ceiling player. His FG% needs to be offset (41.6 FG%), but that shouldn’t be a problem if you nab one of the build’s preferred big men earlier in the draft. Ariza has also been very sturdy as of late. He has only missed a combined six games over the past three seasons.

R5) Rudy Gobert – If you miss out on Drummond and Jordan, Gobert is a must in the fifth. Gobert didn’t live up to the hype after a breakout 2014-2015 campaign, but still managed to post top-30 numbers when FT% is ignored. Even if the 2015-2016 version of Gobert turns out to be who he really is, you will still have an excellent source of boards (11.0 RPG), blocks (2.1 BPG), and FG% impact (55.9 FG%) on your hands. The big man gives you next to nothing in the remaining categories (9.1 PPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG).

R5) Goran Dragic – Dragic is my favorite mid-round point guard target for this build. Dwyane Wade is in Chicago and Chris Bosh is likely done with Heat, which leaves Dragic as the first-option in Miami. The last time he was a go-to player on a team he averaged 20.3 PPG, 1.6 3PG, 5.9 APG, and 1.4 SPG while shooting 50.5% from the field. Target him aggressively.

R5) Nicolas Batum – Batum is another no-brainer pick in the middle rounds. The versatile swingman can do it all and will be one of the league’s best sources of assists from the shooting guard spot (5.8 APG). He also contributes above-average production from the two in the big man categories (6.1 RPG, 0.6 BPG) and is deadly from deep (2.0 3PG). The only issue with Batum’s line is his below-average shooting (42.7 FG%). That number is not ideal, but does come on relatively low volume (12.5 FGA).

R6) Jeff Teague – I normally would stay far away from Teague at this price, but point guards who can average upwards of seven assists a night are needed to offset the low-assist big men who get a a bump in this build. Teague is going to be sharing the ball with Monta Ellis and Paul George and looks more like a top-80 player than the top-30 player that he was in 2014-2015. Expect very useful dimes, average scoring (15.7 PPG), and good, but not great, threes (1.4 3PG) and steals (1.2 SPG).

R6) Aaron Gordon – Gordon’s price has risen to a point where we are dangerously close to paying for his ceiling. There’s plenty of better options available in the fifth round, but Gordon is a reasonable pick in the sixth. He’ll provide across-the-board production and gets a boost when FT% is ignored (66.8 FT%). Gordon is especially useful in this build due to his ability to hit from deep (0.8 3P36) while providing adequate big man numbers (9.8 RP36, 1.1 BP36).

R6) Nerlens Noel – Noel is making some noise in training camp about the Sixers’ logjam at center and will hopefully be moved by the time the season starts. If he is, he could be a mid-round steal. Noel has top-20 potential in this build and is one of the league’s best sources of defensive stats (1.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG). He is still very raw on the offensive end, but showed improvement as the 2015-2016 season went on. Over the last three months of the season, Noel shot 54.0% from the floor. Noel is a high-risk, high-reward mid-round pick.

R6) Jae Crowder – Most “3-and-D” wings fit this build very well due to the threes, steals, and low turnover rate that they usually bring. Crowder contributes in all three of those categories (1.7 3PG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 TOPG) and chips in solid boards (5.1 RPG) and out-of-position blocks (0.5 BPG). Last season, Crowder was top-40 player in this build and loses very little value when FT% is ignored.