Fantasy Basketball: 2017-18 Draft Targets When Punting Three-Pointers
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.
If that's your game, we've got you covered. This is part 2 of 9 in our handy series of punting guides, in which we'll focus on punting three-pointers.
In each instalment, we'll look at punting in one of the nine standard-league stat categories (points, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and turnovers), providing you with helpful tips and draft targets at every position along the way. In the end, we hope these guides will collectively 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).
When possible, we'll try to make sure the top targets at each position don't overlap in terms of average draft position (ADP), so that you can conceivably grab all five guys discussed below (or at least fill out a full lineup by using the additional options listed below each of the top targets).
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.
If you choose to punt three-pointers, you'll quickly realize that there is a massive value divide between bigs and guards/wings.
With only a few exceptions, most bigs don't add a lot of fantasy value from long range, so a lot of them get big upgrades in this build. Conversely, only a handful of top-tier guards and wings in today's run-and-gun NBA don't have a good touch from long range, so most of them lose value here.
In which case, you'll find that stacking in big-man categories like rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage will come easy when punting three-pointers, but that filling out your assists, steals, and free throw percentage will be a bit more challenging.
You can't field a team entirely comprised of power forwards and centers, and you don't want to be weak in all guard-led categories, so you need to be very careful when picking your guards and wings. The important thing to remember is that you're not trying to avoid three-pointers all together. Like any punting strategy, your goal is to find players who are equally or more valuable when threes are removed from the equation, not just to build a team that’s categorically bad from long distance.
Try to fill out your roster with players who help you a lot in the natural weak areas of the build (assists, steals, and free throw percentage) at the guard and wing positions, but who only get about average standard-league value on threes (about 1.0 per game). All the mid- and late-round bigs will get a considerable upgrade in value if you're punting triples, so you'll have more than enough opportunities to fill out those positions and the stats associated with them later in the draft.
Don't worry, we've got plenty of examples of players who fit the build at all positions and at all points in standard drafts.
Point Guard - PG Elfrid Payton
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 95 (8)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 83 (7)
Ranking Differential: +12
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 61
Current ESPN Projection: 49
Elfrid Payton is one of the few point guards in fantasy hoops who gets a major upgrade when punting three-pointers. The main reason you want to make him a target is that he helps in areas that are typically weak in this build, like assists (6.5) and steals (1.0). He also gives you solid rebounds (4.8), blocks (0.5), and field goal percentage (47.3%) for the position, while not killing you too much in points (12.8), free throw percentage (69.2%), and turnovers (2.2).
And while Payton's full-season numbers and top-100 nine-category ranking are plenty nice, you'll want to pay special attention to his performance over the last two months of the campaign. After the All-Star break, Payton averaged 13.5 points, 0.3 threes, 6.8 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 2.4 turnovers in a healthy 30.1 minutes per game, while shooting 50.4% from the field and 75.3% from the free throw line. With threes removed from the equation, that performance ranked him 41st in nine-category leagues over that span.
Early-round targets: PG John Wall, PG Ricky Rubio, PG Jeff Teague
Mid-round targets: PG Lonzo Ball, PG Rajon Rondo, PG/SG Malcolm Brogdon
Late-round targets: PG Marcus Smart, PG/SG Darren Collison, PG/SG Kris Dunn
Shooting Guard - SG/SF DeMar DeRozan
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 46 (4)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 32 (3)
Ranking Differential: +14
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 32
Current ESPN Projection: 35
DeMar DeRozan is likely one of the first players you think of when you consider punting three-pointers, since the All-Star's lack of a long-range shot is one of the biggest knocks on his game. He and his career 0.4 triples per contest have never even sniffed the third-round value suggested by his current price tag on Yahoo and ESPN at any point in his eight seasons, but when you remove that stat from the calculation for the 2016-17 campaign, he was indeed a borderline top-30 asset.
In this build, you'll want to make him one of your top targets, since he helps you out in all three of the typically weak categories in this build: assists (3.9), steals (1.0), and especially free throw percentage (84.2%). Another bonus is that DeRozan is one of the only top-tier scorers in the league who doesn't get any of his fantasy value via the triple. His 27.3 points per game ranked him fifth in the Association last season, and he did that while hitting the fewest threes per game of any of the NBA's 33 players that scored 20 or more points per contest.
Early-round targets: SG/SF Jimmy Butler, PG/SG Goran Dragic, SG/SF Khris Middleton,
Mid-round targets: SG/SF Andrew Wiggins, PG/SG Dwyane Wade, PG/SG Jeremy Lin
Late-round targets: PG/SG Tyler Johnson, SG/SF Andre Iguodala, SG/SF Andre Roberson
Small Forward - SF/PF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 5 (1)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 3 (1)
Ranking Differential: +2
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 5
Current ESPN Projection: 3
If you grab Giannis Antetokounmpo with one of the first picks in your fantasy draft, you might want to immediately consider a three-pointer punt. The Greek Freak was a fantasy beast across the board in his breakout 2016-17 season, but the incidental 0.6 threes per game in his line stood out as a shortcoming. Remove those triples all together, and suddenly you're left with last year's third-best fantasy asset, trailing only Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.
He's especially handy to own in this build, since he gives you so much juice in the categories a three-point-punting team is generally deficient, like assists (5.4), steals (1.7), and free throw percentage (77.0%). Toss in elite scoring (22.9), rebounding (8.8), blocks (1.9), and field goal percentage (52.2%), and you've got the perfect cornerstone for a team punting the long ball.
Early-round targets: SF/PF LeBron James, SF/PF Draymond Green, SF/PF Carmelo Anthony
Mid-round targets: SF/PF Ben Simmons, SF/PF Harrison Barnes, SF/PF James Johnson
Late-round targets: SF/PF Aaron Gordon, SF/PF Thaddeus Young, SF T.J. Warren
Power Forward - PF/C Nikola Vucevic
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 48 (4)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 31 (3)
Ranking Differential: +17
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 50
Current ESPN Projection: 58
Nikola Vucevic is a perfect power forward or center for a three-point punt, since he gives you a combination of the traditional big-man stats like rebounds (10.4), blocks (1.0), field goal percentage (46.8%), and low turnovers (1.6), but also helps you in the traditionally guard-dominant categories like assists (2.8), steals (1.0), and free throw percentage (66.9%). Admittedly, that 2016-17 free throw percentage isn't much to get excited about, but he topped 75% in each of the three preceding seasons and is likely due for some positive regression in that area.
Even in a year in which the Orlando Magic were often playing with an overcrowded frontcourt, Vuc still managed to rank 31st in nine-category leagues when punting triples. Over the last two months of the season, he was ranked even higher at 24th (and shot 77.6% from the line over that span to boot). With his role more clearly defined this season, he'll be a steal for three-point punters at around the 50th pick of the draft.
Early-round targets: PF/C Anthony Davis, PF/C Nikola Jokic, PF/C Myles Turner
Mid-round targets: PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C Clint Capela, PF/C Nerlens Noel
Late-round targets: PF/C Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C Greg Monroe, PF/C Derrick Favors
Center - C Jusuf Nurkic
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 194 (17)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 142 (12)
Ranking Differential: +52
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 47
Current ESPN Projection: 39
Jusuf Nurkic's rankings of 194th in nine-category leagues last year doesn't tell the full story of his value, since it includes his fairly unproductive 45-game stint with the Denver Nuggets from the first half of the season. In the 20 games he played for the Portland Trail Blazers after a trade deadline deal, he was a fantasy beast, averaging 15.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.0 blocks, and 3.1 turnovers in 29.2 minutes per game, while shooting 50.8% from the field and 66.0% from the charity stripe.
His stat line over those final 20 games ranked him 44th in nine-category leagues during that span, and that number jumped all the way up to 28th when punting his 0.0 triples per contest. If you're building a team based around punting three-pointers this year, Nurkic's big-time contributions across the board (particularly his 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals per contest) should have you very interested in him at and around the fourth round of standard drafts.
Early-round targets: C Rudy Gobert, C Hassan Whiteside, C DeAndre Jordan
Mid-round targets: PF/C Andre Drummond, C Marcin Gortat, C Jonas Valanciunas
Late-round targets: C Guillermo Hernangomez, C Steven Adams, C Robin Lopez