Fantasy Basketball: 2017-18 Draft Targets When Punting Points
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 more) in order to focus on stacking your team in other areas.
You may choose to go into your draft with the intention of punting, but that plan can quickly fall apart if your top options get picked before you get the chance to grab them. It's a better strategy to evaluate your team after your first few picks and see if a feasible punt build emerges on its own. If your team is growing strong in some categories but is already way behind your league-mates 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 our punting guides will come in handy.
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be rolling out punting guides for each of the nine standard-league statistical categories (points, three-pointers, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and turnovers). Together, these can serve as a useful reference on your draft day if the opportunity to punt arises -- or as a buying guide for trades after your draft has finished.
In each guide, we will discuss each punt's inherent challenges and best categories to stack, 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 guys (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 tank a category, just that you don't mind not being successful in it. The goal is always to target players who bring a lot of value outside of the punting category in question, while avoiding options who draw a large portion of their value from it.
Casual fantasy hoops players have a tendency to value points over all other categories. We get it. Points are fun, plentiful, and easy to correlate with winning. Remembering that the other eight categories are worth just as much as points in standard head-to-head leagues, however, can provide you with a real edge over your opponents if they get caught up in the flash of scoring buckets.
Players who score a lot of points but don't do much else are almost always taken at a higher ADP than specialists in other categories. If you decide to punt points, that can free you up to fill your lineup with pass-first point guards, three-point aces, and bigs who rebound, block, and shoot efficiently in small-scoring doses. Considering that low scoring usually means low usage as well, punting points will generally give you a team filled with players who don't turn the ball over a lot either, a bonus in nine-category leagues.
Essentially, punting points allows you to stack in any of the other eight categories. That level of flexibility is generally not as easy to come by in other category punts, so it's a major advantage for the points punter.
Point Guard - PG/SG Patrick Beverley
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 58 (5)
Punting Points Rank (Round): 38 (4)
Ranking Differential: +20
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 77
Current ESPN Projection: 93
Patrick Beverley is consistently overlooked in fantasy hoops. Despite having finished inside the top-100 in nine-category leagues in each of the last four seasons -- including a 58th-ranked finish in 2016-17 -- he's been selected outside the top-100 on average every year. Drafters are getting slightly wiser to his value this season, as his current ADP sits at 94.5, but that's still awfully late for a guy with mid-round upside. If you're punting points -- the only true weak point of his line at 9.5 points per game in 2016-17 -- he's a must-have for your build.
He gives you great stacking options with his assists (4.2), threes (1.6), steals (1.5), and free throw percentage (76.8%), while also providing high rebounds (5.9) and low turnovers (1.5) for the position. His field goal percentage (42.0%) and low blocks (0.4) hurt his value, but it's not like you're looking for those stats from your point guard anyway. Besides, a lot of the bigs that gain value in a points punt tend to excel in those areas, so you can make up for his deficiencies elsewhere.
Early-round targets: PG Chris Paul, PG Ricky Rubio, PG Jrue Holiday
Mid-round targets: PG Elfrid Payton, PG Lonzo Ball, PG Rajon Rondo
Late-round targets: PG/SG Malcolm Brogdon, PG Marcus Smart, PG/SG Darren Collison
Shooting Guard - SG/SF Trevor Ariza
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 39 (4)
Punting Points Rank (Round): 28 (3)
Ranking Differential: +11
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 62
Current ESPN Projection: 71
Trevor Ariza has finished 35th, 38th, and 39th in nine-category leagues over his three seasons with the Houston Rockets, despite not being much of a high-volume scorer. Even if he's on the wrong side of 30, his early-round upside is too tantalizing to pass up in the middle rounds if you're punting those unassuming 11.7 points per game.
When his scoring doesn't matter, Ariza provides a lot of value with his elite threes (2.4), steals (1.8), and shockingly low turnovers (0.9), while also tossing in solid rebounding for the position (5.7) and a passable free throw percentage (73.8%). Much like Patrick Beverley, Ariza sets you back a bit in field goal percentage (41.0%) and blocks (0.3), but you can always sort that out with your big men.
Early-round targets: SG/SF Khris Middleton, SG/SF Nicolas Batum, PG/SG Victor Oladipo
Mid-round targets: SG Gary Harris, PG/SG Jeremy Lin, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Late-round targets: PG/SG Seth Curry, SG/SF Kent Bazemore, PG/SG Allen Crabbe
Small Forward - SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 84 (7)
Punting Points Rank (Round): 62 (6)
Ranking Differential: +22
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 166
Current ESPN Projection: 354
After coming in 84th in nine-category leagues last year, a 24-year-old Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is somehow only ranked 166th in Yahoo leagues and 354th on ESPN going into his sixth season. His humble 9.2 points per game is almost certainly the culprit when it comes to his low ranking, but points punters should be very excited about that premium discount on his services.
MKG won't give you much in terms of threes (0.0) or assists (1.4), but you should get your fill of those stats from your guards. Meanwhile, what he will give you is average to above-average rebounding (7.0), steals (1.0), blocks (0.9), field goal percentage (47.8%), and free throw percentage (78.4%), while registering ridiculously low turnovers (0.7) for a guy that plays around 30 minutes a night.
Early-round targets: SG/SF Jimmy Butler, SG/SF Gordon Hayward SF Otto Porter
Mid-round targets: SF/PF Ben Simmons, SF/PF Robert Covington, SF/PF James Johnson
Late-round targets: SF/PF Markieff Morris, SF T.J. Warren, SF Maurice Harkless
Power Forward - PF/C Draymond Green
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 21 (2)
Punting Points Rank (Round): 8 (1)
Ranking Differential: +13
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 20
Current ESPN Projection: 25
Landing Draymond Green in the second or third round of your fantasy draft is a very good reason to consider a points punt. He may have only averaged 10.2 points per game last season, but when you remove scoring from the equation, he was the eighth-ranked player in all of fantasy hoops.
His field goal percentage (41.7%), free throw percentage (70.9%), and high turnovers (2.4) are additional sore spots, but his elite contributions in no less than four categories -- rebounds (7.9), assists (7.0), steals (2.0), and blocks (1.4) -- more than make up for it. Toss in 1.1 triples per contest from a guy you can slot in as a power forward or center, and you've got the prime target for this build.
Early-round targets: PF/C Myles Turner, PF/C Paul Millsap, PF/C Al Horford
Mid-round targets: PF/C Serge Ibaka, PF Julius Randle, PF/C Gorgui Dieng
Late-round targets: PF/C Pau Gasol, SF/PF Marvin Williams, SF/PF Thaddeus Young
Center - PF/C Nerlens Noel
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 65 (6)
Punting Points Rank (Round): 46 (4)
Ranking Differential: +19
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 70
Current ESPN Projection: 110
Nerlens Noel has never finished outside the top-65 in nine-category leagues in his three seasons in the NBA, and he should have no problem pulling that off yet again this time around in his age-23 contract year. If you're punting his career-low 8.7 points per game, you're going to want him at his 100.0 ADP even more than the average fantasy player, since he was a top-50 asset with scoring removed from the calculation in 2016-17.
Once you look past his bucket-getting deficiencies, his rebounds (5.8), steals (1.3), blocks (1.0), high field goal percentage (59.4%), and low turnovers (1.0) provide plenty of stacking options. He won't do your team any favors in threes (0.0), assists (1.0), or free throw percentage (69.4%), but you'll easily be able to balance those categories with low-scoring guards and specialists. (A caveat: It looks like Noel will be coming off the bench to start the season, so plan accordingly.)
Early-round targets: PF/C Nikola Jokic, C Hassan Whiteside, C DeAndre Jordan
Mid-round targets: PF/C Andre Drummond, PF/C Clint Capela, C Jonas Valanciunas
Late-round targets: C Steven Adams, PF/C Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C Dewayne Dedmon