Fantasy Basketball Strategy: Punting Threes
With training camps about to get underway and the regular season just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get ahead of the competition and start honing your fantasy hoops draft strategy. One tried and true method that many people swear by is the concept of "punting" one or more of the standard fantasy basketball categories in order to "stack" the others. For a full explanation of the concept and its pros and cons, check out Part One of this series about punting points. Once you're done there, come back and read on about this instalment's focus: punting three-pointers.
Punting three-pointers made is more or less the least preferable of the punting draft strategies, but we’ll tackle it nonetheless in the interest of being thorough.
If you punt threes, the inevitable outcome is that the vast majority of guards and wings get downgraded, while all your post-up big men get a bump in value. That’s all well and good and you could certainly make a competitive team by going heavy on big men, but it makes your stacking options quite limited. Rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, and even low turnovers are all advantages that come with fielding a tall team, but if you’re pure in your attempt to avoid three-point shooters, you’re likely going to sacrifice things like assists, steals, and free throw percentage as well. Having a team that’s punting up to four different categories is in no way a recipe for success.
That’s why if you insist on going this route (and I’d commend you for at least zigging while others are zagging if you do), you’ll have to compromise by not avoiding guys who are decent three-point shooters outright. You’ll need to roster a point guard or two, for instance, and there’s no need to go after someone like Shaun Livingston just because he doesn’t shoot threes. Instead, fill up your guard and wing positions with players that hit around an average number of threes per game (1.0 or so) and that get their value in other categories – preferably the ones you’ll be weakest in like assists, steals, and free throw percentage. Some guys that immediately come to mind that fit that mould are Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague.
In the end, punt threes if you like, but pay special attention to how your other categories are doing. Remember, the point of punting is to find players that are more valuable when a certain category is removed from the equation, not to build a team that’s just weak in that particular area.
PF/C Anthony Davis
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 2 (1)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 1 (1)
Ranking Difference: +1
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 3
Current ESPN Projection: 3
I get it, a jump of one spot in the rankings isn’t much to write home about and you don’t need much convincing to draft Anthony Davis. Still, it’s worth noting that if you removed three-pointers from the value equation, Brow was the top fantasy player in the league last season on a per-game basis by a fairly wide margin. Yes, that means better than Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and…well, everyone. Davis’ only weaknesses in the standard stat categories are assists and threes. Ignore one or both of those completely and taking Davis first overall doesn’t just become reasonable, it becomes necessary. The combination of elite points, rebounds, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and low turnovers simply doesn't exist in any other player.
PG/SG Dwyane Wade
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 41 (4)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 28 (3)
Ranking Difference: +13
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 33
Current ESPN Projection: 44
I normally don’t advocate for the drafting of Dwyane Wade, due to his chronic knee issues, but he is a primary target in the world of punting threes. Wade has never been a long-range bomber, no matter how much he’d like to claim that he could be. Everyone will project his 2014-15 based on his regular rest days last season and his disappearance at the end of the Finals, so he might actually be on his way to becoming slightly underrated as a fantasy asset. I wouldn’t burn a first or second round pick for him like we used to, but third round onward he’ll be a solid pickup. He’ll also have the post-LeBron no-one-believes-I-can-still-do-this chip on his shoulder and will make the effort to outplay everyone’s expectations. Drafting him is a risky move, but with the possibility of a high reward if everything goes right and you don’t care about the lack of long balls. The point guard eligibility certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Other Targets: PF/C Serge Ibaka, C Brook Lopez, PF/C LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C Al Horford, PF/C Al Jefferson, PF/C Joakim Noah, PF/C DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C Blake Griffin, PF/C Andre Drummond, C DeAndre Jordan, PF/C Tim Duncan, C Marc Gasol.
Mid- to Late-Round Targets
C Nikola Vucevic
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 38 (4)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 22 (2)
Ranking Difference: +16
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 42
Current ESPN Projection: 48
There are a glut of centers in the first few rounds of the draft, but you might decide to take the opportunity to square up your guards and wings first. Luckily, there are still plenty of bigs that provide great value for three-point punters at an affordable price in the mid- to late-rounds as well. Nikola Vucevic headlines that group as someone you can typically get from the fourth round onward. His points, steals, and blocks are at an adequate level, while the rebounds and field goal percentage are elite. Throw in the low turnovers and the high and safe free throw percentage for a center and Vuc can be a great piece to stack the big-man categories with while keeping the others from plummeting.
PG Tony Parker
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 118 (10)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 90 (8)
Ranking Difference: +28
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 53
Current ESPN Projection: 42
He may be a four-time world champion and All-NBA talent, but Tony Parker tends to be one of the most overrated fantasy players there is, due to a relative lack of peripheral stats (three-pointers, steals, and blocks). Take one or more of those things away, however, and he’s suddenly much more enticing - particularly when you consider that there are so few point guards that are worth their respective price tag when punting threes. Parker’s current mid-round average draft position (ADP) is still bordering on rich, but if he slips a little bit and you’re still in need of a point guard late in the mid-rounds, you should certainly pounce. Remember, though, that he’ll always stand the risk of being Popoviched for random games off throughout the season.
PF/C Greg Monroe
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 97 (9)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 62 (6)
Ranking Difference: +35
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 99
Current ESPN Projection: 69
The next three players are all major sleepers at their current Yahoo and ESPN ranks anyway, but especially so when punting threes. Sleeper the first, Greg Monroe, is fresh off taking the qualifying offer to spend one more season with the Pistons before entering unrestricted free agency next summer. That means he’s associated with two of the sweetest words in fantasy sports – “contract year.” As he battles with Josh Smith for power forward minutes (with the assumption that Stan Van Gundy will not subject us to more of those Drummond-Monroe-Smith lineups from last season), he’s a good bet to put up even better numbers this year. With good scoring, rebounding, steals, and field goal percentage, and serviceable assist, block, and turnover numbers down near the 100s in ADP, Monroe is a great get in general and a no-brainer in a three-punting build.
PF/C Markieff Morris
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 101 (9)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 75 (7)
Ranking Difference: +26
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 134
Current ESPN Projection: 112
Sleeper the second, Markieff Morris, is getting flat out disrespected at his current rankings on Yahoo and ESPN. He finished as a late-round value last season as the sixth man for the Suns, backing up Channing Frye. With Frye now off to Orlando to join the Magic, ‘Kieff looks to be the de facto starter at power forward in Phoenix. That means more minutes, more usage, and more numbers. Take away the barely-there 0.4 threes made per game and he’ll be even more valuable. His per-36 numbers suggest he could border on being an 18 and 8 guy with a steal and block per game with a full complement of minutes. If he can come close to that while putting up decent percentages and low turnovers, he could very well be the steal of the draft, punting or otherwise.
SF/PF Terrence Jones
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 64 (6)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 44 (4)
Ranking Difference: +20
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 147
Current ESPN Projection: 108
Sleeper the third, Terrence Jones, is heading into his third season with the Rockets and is primed to continue the breakout he started last year. Even as the fourth option behind James Harden, Dwight Howard, and Chandler Parsons last season, Jones still ranked 64th in 9-category leagues (including a top-20 final month). Now, with Parsons off to Dallas, Jones is likely in for more responsibility and subsequently more usage and fantasy goodness. The points and rebounds are both bound to go up with what should be more minutes and the blocks, field goal percentage and mega-low turnovers were already borderline elite. Take out the negligible 0.4 threes per game and he’s an even more must-have sleeper. Draft at will.
Other Targets: C Marcin Gortat, PF/C Pau Gasol, C Robin Lopez, C Andrew Bogut, PG Ricky Rubio, SG/SF DeMar DeRozan, PF/C Derrick Favors, PG/SG Monta Ellis, PF/C David Lee, C Nikola Pekovic, PF/C Zach Randolph.
Players to Avoid
PG Damian Lillard
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 29 (3)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 64 (6)
Ranking Difference: -35
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 16
Current ESPN Projection: 26
Damian Lillard is a top-tier fantasy point guard, but he does get a lot of his value from that 2.7 three-pointers per game. Take that away and you've still got great scoring and a very useful free throw percentage, but the assists aren't high enough to justify taking him as your point guard in a three-less build. The turnovers are a little high comparatively as well and the field goal percentage isn't quite where you'd want it to be. There are simply better options to fill out your roster than spending a second- or third-round pick on Dame when threes don't count.
SG/SF Klay Thompson
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 46 (4)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 103 (9)
Ranking Difference: -57
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 45
Current ESPN Projection: 46
Klay Thompson might be more valuable than Kevin Love (zing!), but he shouldn't represent even the slightest blip on your radar if you're a long-ball punter. Apart from the three-pointers and decent scoring average, Klay doesn't offer all that much else in the remaining parts of the standard-scoring stat line. When you're punting one or more categories, you should gravitate towards guys that are specialists in your stacking areas to fill out your roster and there's simply no way that Klay fits that bill in this case. He might make for an intriguing option as a three-point specialist in other builds, but here you can safely look away.
SG/SF Joe Johnson
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 88 (8)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 147 (13)
Ranking Difference: -59
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 90
Current ESPN Projection: 94
If Joe Johnson can build on a solid 2014 playoffs and pick up some of the slack for the departed Paul Pierce, he might very well meet and exceed the value at his current ADP this coming season. That is, of course, if you care about three-pointers. If you don't, Joe Cool is of absolutely no interest to you. Despite being named to the Eastern Conference All-Star Team last season, Johnson finished the year outside of standard-league value when punting threes. He's not the scoring threat he used to be and there's little else outside of decent free throw and turnover numbers to tempt drafters without the 2.1 three-pointers per game. Move along.