Fantasy Basketball: 2017-18 Draft Targets When Punting Steals
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 4 of 9 in our handy series of punting guides, in which we'll focus on punting assists.
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 steals, you will notice that the stat doesn't favor particular positions quite as strongly as threes, rebounds, or assists. Whereas punting threes or rebounds basically divides the league down the middle between guards/wings and big men in terms of value, and punting assists mostly devalues pass-first point guards, there's value to be had at each position in fantasy hoops when punting steals (much like punting points).
If you're going to punt steals, however, you will notice that your strengths will still lie mostly in the big-man stats like rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, and low turnovers. With that in mind, make extra sure that you get your top low-steal targets at the guard positions so that you can find plenty of help in threes, assists, and free throw percentage as well.
Point Guard - PG Damian Lillard
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 16 (2)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 11 (1)
Ranking Differential: +5
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 18
Current ESPN Projection: 18
Damian Lillard has one of the fattest stat lines of any point guard in fantasy hoops, but the steals (0.9 per contest in 2016-17) are notably low when compared to other floor generals in his class. While that lack of steals would usually be a detriment to Dame's value, those punting pilfers won't be bothered by that and should zero in on him as a top target.
He helps you out a lot in other important guard stats that are often lacking in this build, namely his 2.9 triples, 5.8 dimes, and 89.5% shooting mark from the charity stripe. The 27.0 points per game and 4.9 rebounds (great for the position) obviously don't hurt either, and his weak-ish categories -- 0.3 blocks, 44.4% shooting from the field, and 2.6 turnovers per game -- can easily be compensated for with the bigs you choose later in the draft.
Early-round targets: PG/SG Kyrie Irving, PG Kemba Walker, PG/SG C.J. McCollum
Mid-round targets: PG Jeff Teague, PG/SG Lou Williams, PG/SG George Hill
Late-round targets: PG/SG Jamal Murray, PG/SG Reggie Jackson, PG/SG Allen Crabbe
Shooting Guard - SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr.
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 141 (12)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 126 (11)
Ranking Differential: +15
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 88
Current ESPN Projection: 98
Tim Hardaway Jr. is probably not going to live up to his new four-year, $71 million contract from the New York Knicks, but he's certainly worth the mid- to late-round price tag in fantasy drafts if you're punting steals. Don't let last year's final ranking of 126th in nine-category leagues with steals punted fool you, THJ was primarily a bench option for the Atlanta Hawks. But he's a likely starter for the Knicks while he's making that kind of cheddar.
What's more, he was ranked 63rd over the last two months of 2016-17, which is a better preview of the kind of production you can expect from him this year. During that span, he averaged 17.5 points, 2.1 threes, 3.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 1.7 turnovers in a healthy 32.3 minutes over 27 contests, while shooting 46.8% from the field and 84.0% from the line. His rebounds and blocks aren't great, but you don't need those stats from your shooting guard anyway. Meanwhile, the threes and free throw percentage are great gets in this particular build, and the points, assists, field goal percentage, and low turnovers are solid for keeping your stacking options open as well.
Early-round targets: SG/SF Gordon Hayward, SG/SF Klay Thompson, SG/SF DeMar DeRozan
Mid-round targets: SG Devin Booker, SG/SF Evan Fournier, PG/SG Jeremy Lin
Late-round targets: SG Eric Gordon, SG Buddy Hield, SG J.J. Redick
Small Forward - SF/PF Danilo Gallinari
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 43 (4)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 36 (3)
Ranking Differential: +7
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 68
Current ESPN Projection: 78
Danilo Gallinari has ranked somewhere between 43 and 52 in nine-category leagues in six of the last seven seasons, so he's already a pretty valuable pick at 68 on Yahoo and 78 on ESPN. If you're punting steals, it's downright theft to get him at his current ADP, considering he ranked 36th last year with steals removed from the equation. Any time you can get a player with an early-round ceiling at the end of the middle rounds, you do it.
And Gallinari is a particularly good get in this build, since his threes (2.0) and free throw percentage (90.2%) tend to be in short supply. As an added bonus, he also tosses in good scoring (18.2), rebounding (5.1), and low turnovers (1.3), giving you even further stacking options.
Early-round targets: SF/PF Kevin Durant, SF/PF LeBron James, SF/PF Carmelo Anthony
Mid-round targets: SF/PF Tobias Harris, SF/PF Harrison Barnes, SF/PF Jae Crowder
Late-round targets: SF/PF Aaron Gordon, SF/PF Marvin Williams, SF/PF Nikola Mirotic
Power Forward - PF/C Pau Gasol
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 75 (7)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 41 (4)
Ranking Differential: +34
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 97
Current ESPN Projection: 96
A 37-year-old Pau Gasol is not going to inspire many people in fantasy drafts going into his 17th NBA season, but if you're punting steals, don't sleep on him. He finished last year ranked 75th in nine-category leagues, but that jumps all the way up to 41st if you remove steals. Near pick 100, pilfer punters will want to pounce.
Even in a season in which he hit career lows across the board, Gasol still held a fair bit of fantasy value because of his rebounds (7.8), blocks (1.1), field goal percentage (50.2%), and low turnovers (1.3). For someone you can slide into either your power forward or center slot, it's also nice to have his decent threes (0.9), assists (2.4), and free throw percentage (70.7%), considering those stats are sometimes scarce in this build.
Early-round targets: PF/C Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C Blake Griffin, PF/C Kevin Love
Mid-round targets: PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C Serge Ibaka, PF Julius Randle
Late-round targets: PF/C Dirk Nowitzki, PF/C Ryan Anderson, PF JaMychal Green
Center - C Karl-Anthony Towns
Reg. 2016-17 Rank (Round): 6 (1)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 3 (1)
Ranking Differential: +3
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 5
Current ESPN Projection: 3
It's hard to find faults in Karl-Anthony Towns' fantasy line, but if you manage to grab him early in the first round, you could consider punting his one and only weak spot. The only true value detractor in his line last year was his 0.8 steals per game, since high turnovers (2.6) are essentially inevitable when it comes to players with such a high-usage rate (27.5%).
Beyond steals and turnovers, the stacking options are literally endless with KAT. He gives you elite points (25.1), rebounds (12.2), blocks (1.3), field goal percentage (54.2%), and free throw percentage (83.2%), while tossing in solid threes (1.2) and assists (2.7) for a center. With that kind of juice, Towns has first-overall upside in fantasy, and he's a no-brainer if you don't care about swipes.
Early-round targets: C Rudy Gobert, C Hassan Whiteside, C Brook Lopez
Mid-round targets: C DeAndre Jordan, PF/C Clint Capela, C Jonas Valanciunas
Late-round targets: C Robin Lopez, C Enes Kanter, C Dewayne Dedmon