Fantasy Hoops Strategy: 2016-17 Draft Targets When Punting Assists

Which players should you target at each position if you're punting assists in fantasy basketball?

One of the most common strategies in head-to-head fantasy basketball leagues is category punting. That is where you devalue or "punt" a category (or two) in order to focus on stacking your team in other areas.

You may choose to go into a draft with the intention of punting, but that strategy can leave you stuck if your top options get snagged before you get the chance to pick them. The best thing to do is evaluate your team after a few picks and see if a punt build emerges as a feasible option. If your team is growing strong in some categories but is already way behind your leaguemates in others, you may want to embrace the punt rather than reaching for players of lesser value just to fill in your missing stats.

That's where these punting guides will come in handy.

This is Part 4 of 9 in a series in which we are taking a look at punting in each of the nine standard-league stat categories (points, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and turnovers). In the end, these guides can serve as a useful reference on your draft day if the opportunity to punt arises (or as a buying guide of sorts for trades after your draft has finished).

In each guide, we discuss each punt's inherent challenges and best categories to stack and then give you an "All-Punt" team, where we highlight the best target at each position for the build in question (with a couple bonus targets for other rounds as well). When possible, we'll try to make sure the targets at each position don't overlap in terms of average draft position (ADP), so that you can conceivably grab all five of our main targets (or at least fill out a full lineup by using the additional options listed below each top target).

Always remember: punting doesn't mean you're actively trying to be bad in a category, just that you don't mind not being successful in it. The goal is always to target players that bring lots of value outside of the punting category in question, while avoiding guys that draw a large portion of their value from it.

All stats, rankings, and punt values come from

Punting Assists

The last two instalments in this series (punting three-pointers and punting rebounds) showed how certain punt strategies can create a clear divide in value between bigs and smalls. The reason that punting assists doesn't have the same effect is that it only downgrades one particular type of player and position: the pass-happy point guard.

It is a given that you will have a hard time filling your point guard slot in this build, but it is not as impossible as finding good wings and guards that can't shoot threes or bigs that don't derive at least some of their value from rebounds. You shouldn't be averse to grabbing a player who still gives you some assists to be your point guard, as long as he helps you a lot in other areas that point guards tend to be strong, such as steals, threes, and free throw percentage (which you can thankfully find on the wing as well). At the very least, there are plenty of combo guards who play shooting guard almost exclusively but are still eligible to play point guard in fantasy.

The best thing about this strategy is that it eliminates the need to start reaching for assists if you grab bigs or low-assist guys you like with your first few picks. If you've already established that your starting point guard will be one of the lowest rated in your league (the top 12 tend to go in the first 30-40 picks), you can easily stick a combo guard or late-round sleeper there and focus more on stacking in your strengths. You'll be pleasantly surprised by how much value you can find in the middle rounds while other people are frantically trying to make up ground in the assist department.

Point Guard - PG/SG Avery Bradley

Reg. 2015-16 Rank (Round): 64 (6)
Punting Assists Rank (Round): 56 (5)
Ranking Difference: +8
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 77
Current ESPN Projection: 83

There are very few point guards who get a legitimate value upgrade in an assist punt, but Avery Bradley and his mere 2.1 dimes per contest sure do. And because a fair number of guards see their value dip in this build, Bradley's 1.9 triples, 1.5 steals, and 78.0% shooting from the free throw line are all the more important. Topping it all off with decent scoring (15.2 points per contest), low turnovers (1.4), and a passable field goal percentage (44.8%), Bradley has so much category juice outside of assists that any assist-punter should make drafting him a top priority in the middle rounds.

Early-round targets: PG/SG Victor Oladipo, PG/SG C.J. McCollum
Mid-round targets: PG/SG Zach LaVine, PG/SG Avery Bradley, PG/SG Jordan Clarkson
Late-round targets: PG Marcus Smart, PG/SG Dwyane Wade, PG/SG Patrick Beverley

Shooting Guard - SG Gary Harris

Reg. 2015-16 Rank (Round): 89 (8)
Punting Assists Rank (Round): 73 (7)
Ranking Difference: +12
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 82
Current ESPN Projection: 103

Gary Harris had a bit of a fantasy breakout in his second season with the Denver Nuggets in 2015-16, finishing the year ranked 89th in nine-category leagues. It was in the last two months of the season, however, that he really hit his stride. During that period (28 games), he averaged 14.3 points, 1.5 triples, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, and a mere 1.2 turnovers per game, while shooting a highly efficient 48.0% from the field and 82.0% from the free throw line. Remove the dimes from that equation and he was the 60th-ranked player in nine-category leagues over that period. He may be overlooked in drafts this year, but people punting assists should be on him in the late rounds to take advantage of his help in points, threes, steals, turnovers, and both shooting percentages. At only 22 years of age, he could be on the verge of an even bigger breakout in 2016-17.

Early-round targets: SG/SF Kawhi Leonard, SG/SF Klay Thompson
Mid-round targets: SG/SF Evan Fournier, SG/SF Danny Green, SG/SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SG Gary Harris
Late-round targets: SG/SF Wesley Matthews, SG/SF Kent Bazemore, SG J.J. Redick, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Small Forward - SF/PF Marvin Williams

Reg. 2015-16 Rank (Round): 49 (5)
Punting Assists Rank (Round): 31 (3)
Ranking Difference: +18
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 92
Current ESPN Projection: 114

Marvin Williams is fresh off the best fantasy season of his career, ranking 49th in nine-category leagues in 2015-16, his 11th year in the Association. His current ADP suggests that people are expecting some regression, but if you're punting assists, you may want to give Marvin the benefit of the doubt. Remove his 1.4 assists per contest from last season's stat line, and Williams was a third-round value based on his 11.7 points, 1.9 threes, 6.4 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 1.0 block, and only 0.8 turnovers per contest, to go with a shooting split of 45.2% from the field and 83.3% from the charity stripe. Apart from assists, there are basically no major holes in that line, so you should absolutely buy into his early-round upside if you are punting dimes.

Early-round targets: SF/PF Tobias Harris, SG/SF Trevor Ariza, SG/SF Andrew Wiggins
Mid-round targets: SF/PF Jae Crowder, SF/PF Aaron Gordon, SF Otto Porter, SF/PF Thaddeus Young
Late-round targets: SF/PF Marvin Williams, SF/PF Robert Covington, SF/PF Al-Farouq Aminu, SF/PF Terrence Jones

Power Forward - PF/C Kristaps Porzingis

Reg. 2015-16 Rank (Round): 50 (5)
Punting Assists Rank (Round): 33 (3)
Ranking Difference: +17
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 24
Current ESPN Projection: 29

Kristaps Porzingis completely defied expectations in his rookie season and ended up being a major asset in fantasy hoops for those who drafted him late or grabbed him off the waiver wire early in the year. This season, he won't drop far past the second round, but he'll be worth the price of admission if you are punting assists. He only averaged 1.3 dimes per contest in his rookie season, but the 14.3 points, 1.1 triples, 7.3 boards, 0.7 steals, 1.9 blocks, and 1.7 turnovers all offer great stacking options, while the 83.8% shooting from the free throw line won't hurt either. His 42.1% shooting from the field is normally a bit of a drain on his value, but in a punt that heavily upgrades big men, you're sure to make that up elsewhere.

Early-round targets: PF/C Anthony Davis, PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C Serge Ibaka
Mid-round targets: PF/C Myles Turner, PF/C Nerlens Noel, PF/C Dirk Nowitzki
Late-round targets: PF/C Clint Capela, PF/C Bismack Biyombo, PF/C Willie Cauley-Stein

Center - C Hassan Whiteside

Reg. 2015-16 Rank (Round): 7 (1)
Punting Assists Rank (Round): 5 (1)
Ranking Difference: +2
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 13
Current ESPN Projection: 13

If you end up grabbing Hassan Whiteside in the first round or early in the second, you'll want to consider an assist punt right away. He only recorded 30 assists in 2,125 minutes last season, and most of those were probably by accident. While the ultra-low 0.4 assists per contest are typically a major drain for Whiteside's fantasy owners, those punting assists can instead focus on enjoying his monster numbers in rebounds (11.8), blocks (3.7), and field goal percentage (60.5%). The points (14.2) and turnovers (1.9) are also decent, but keep in mind that his complete lack of threes and low output in steals (0.6) will need to be addressed later in your draft.

Early-round targets: C Karl-Anthony Towns, C Hassan Whiteside, C Jonas Valanciunas, C Rudy Gobert, C DeAndre Jordan
Mid-round targets: C Steven Adams, PF/C Andre Drummond, PF/C Ryan Anderson, C Enes Kanter
Late-round targets: C Jahlil Okafor, PF/C Tristan Thompson, PF/C Cody Zeller, C Timofey Mozgov