Fantasy Basketball Strategy: Punting Rebounds
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. In Part One of this series, we explored the pros and cons of punting in general and then dived right in by looking at how to build a team while punting points. In Part Two, we looked at ways to put together your squad without three-pointers. Today, in Part Three, we will tackle who to draft and who to avoid while punting rebounds.
Punting rebounds is one of the least preferable of the punting strategies, much like punting threes. I know that's not the best way to lead an article that spends thousands of words discussing how to build a team without rebounds, but it's important that you realize that fact going in. There are a lot of advantages to be found in the punting game, but threes and rebounds simply don't present as many of those opportunities as the other categories do. You can certainly give it a go if you're looking for a challenge or new ways to get creative with your roster, but otherwise you might be better off looking at something like points as an area to punt, or stay tuned to this series for ways to build a team when punting assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, or turnovers (all very interesting and viable strategies).
The problem with punting rebounds is that its a category almost exclusively dominated by big men. The result of punting boards is essentially that all the bigs get downgraded, while most guards and wings get a bump (much like punting threes has the opposite effect). One might think that punting something like blocks would result in the same problem, but there are plenty of power forwards and centers that are valuable without blocks (Kevin Love), whereas there are practically none that get by as serviceable fantasy options without boards.
The differences in value that are created by removing rebounds from the equation are simply too predictable to use to your advantage. The result of going that route would just be a small, guard-heavy team. This guide could certainly be used to help you build such a squad with at least some hints about where to find your value, but you certainly run the risk of putting together a team that's not only weak in rebounding, but also in other areas where big men typically succeed like blocks, field goal percentage, and low turnovers. If you do choose to punt rebounding, make sure you still draft guys that help you in those areas and stay away from guards and wings that are awful in them (low field goal percentage guys like Kemba Walker, for example).
*Note: This guide could easily be "grab every point guard you can" and "ignore almost every center," but that wouldn't help you fill out your roster. Because this method downgrades practically every big, this guide will put a heavy focus on making sure you get guys that play the PF and C positions that don't rely too heavily on boards for value. Otherwise, think small and don't overpay for your big men.
PG/SG Kyrie Irving
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 23 (2)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 13(2)
Ranking Difference: +10
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 14
Current ESPN Projection: 14
You might find people shying away from Kyrie Irving in fantasy drafts this season. He's going from being the top dog in Cleveland to LeBron James and Kevin Love's third wheel and most people expect a Chris Bosh-like drop-off in numbers in the first year of the league's newest Big Three. If he falls a bit past his current ranking on Yahoo and ESPN because of that, he might make a very good second- or third-round pick for someone punting rebounds. His points are likely to go down slightly as part of the power trio, but his assists and field goal percentage could go up as a result of having better options to pass to and more freedom to pick better shots. Throw in the already excellent three-pointers, steals, and free throw percentage and Kyrie becomes a great (and perhaps underrated) target in this build.
C Brook Lopez
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 12 (1)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 12 (1)
Ranking Difference: even
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 22
Current ESPN Projection: 43
There are plenty of great guard targets in the first few rounds (see below), but if you want to sure up one of your center spots early on with a very valuable player that gets by without being a great rebounder, you'll want to pounce on Brook Lopez in the second or third round. He may have only played in 17 games last year before his season-ending foot injury, but Lopez had the averages of a first-round fantasy selection over that period and could very well continue that as the focal point on offense for the Nets this year. His scoring, blocks, both percentages, and turnovers are all at a high level, which gives you five solid categories out of the remaining eight without rebounds. Considering the fact that you'll get plenty of assists, steals, and threes elsewhere in this kind of build, Lopez is probably the best center target there is if you believe he can bounce back and stay healthy this year.
Mid- to Late-Round Targets
SG/SF Klay Thompson
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 46 (4)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 29 (3)
Ranking Difference: +17
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 45
Current ESPN Projection: 46
In the punting threes part of this series, I talked about how Klay Thompson could be a good target if you punt one of his weaker categories, because a lot of his value is concentrated heavily in only a few areas (which aids stacking). Punting rebounds is a perfect example of when Thompson becomes a guy you want, because he's one of the best out there in three-pointers and has the relatively rare combination of high points and low turnovers. Most of the guys that get a bump in a rebound-punting build are point guards and shooting guards, so Klay is a good small forward target that jumps up to early-round value when not focusing on boards.
SF/PF Chandler Parsons
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 35 (3)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 34 (3)
Ranking Difference: +1
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 46
Current ESPN Projection: 53
Chandler Parsons may be playing for a different Texas team this year, but his production should remain characteristically steady. Parsons has finished as the 35th-ranked fantasy player in each of the last two seasons in Houston and there's no reason to think he can't hit that mark again in Dallas. He's a pretty good rebounder from the small forward position, but taking rebounds out of his line doesn't drop him at all in the rankings, because his value comes from all over the place. He's a jack-of-all-trades fantasy asset that can give you good points, threes, assists, and steals on any given night to go along with good percentages and low turnovers. His power forward eligibility makes him one of the few options at that position that can help with stacks in threes, assists, and steals, and that makes him one of the best mid-round targets you'll find.
PG/SG Monta Ellis
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 62 (6)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 46 (4)
Ranking Difference: +16
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 51
Current ESPN Projection: 30
Another Dallas player whose value rises when you take out rebounds is Monta Ellis. Ellis is one of Dallas' primary ball-handlers, so those of you choosing to stack assists will appreciate his production in that area from the shooting guard position. He also adds great scoring and steals with passable percentages and threes. The blocks are low (fine for his position) and the turnovers are an eyesore, but he still has the potential to hit early-round value at a mid-round price tag if you're a rebound punter.
SF/PF Paul Pierce
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 73 (7)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 65 (6)
Ranking Difference: +8
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 88
Current ESPN Projection: 86
Paul Pierce's 73rd-ranked fantasy finish last season may have been the lowest of his career, but it showed that he can still be an effective fantasy player when he's not a team's full-time first option like he was for the majority of his career as a Celtic. Now on the Washington Wizards, he should slot into a relatively similar role as he had in Brooklyn, just with John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene, and Marcin Gortat in place of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. Pierce's scoring isn't what it once was, but everything else in his line ranges from serviceable to good. Like Chandler Parsons, he's one of few players with power forward eligibility that can give you a bit of everything and when his now pedestrian rebound numbers aren't a factor, he's an excellent get in the later rounds.
SG Jodie Meeks
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 42 (4)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 24 (2)
Ranking Difference: +18
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 152
Current ESPN Projection: 95
If Jodie Meeks can take hold of the starting shooting guard spot in his first season with the Detroit Pistons (and his $6.3 million average yearly salary would suggest that's the plan), then his current rankings on Yahoo and ESPN will make him an excellent sleeper pick this year. He posted early-round value last season on a depleted Lakers squad, but he should still be able to put up decent numbers with starter minutes in Detroit. He certainly doesn't grab very many boards, but the three-point shooting is more elite than people give him credit for and the scoring, steals, percentages, and low turnovers certainly get the job done. Regardless of whether or not he reaches last year's heights again, he was a second-round value last year with rebounds punted and that's worth the late-round flier pick at his current average draft position (ADP).
Other Targets: SG/SF Wesley Matthews, PG Jeff Teague, PG Jose Calderon, SG/SF Kevin Martin, PG Brandon Jennings, PG/SG Jamal Crawford, SF/PF DeMarre Carroll, PF/C Channing Frye, PF/C Josh McRoberts, PG D.J. Augustin.
Players to Avoid
C DeAndre Jordan
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 33 (3)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 122 (11)
Ranking Difference: -89
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 40
Current ESPN Projection: 50
In case it isn't obvious, you shouldn't draft the league leader in rebounds if you're punting them. DeAndre Jordan had a breakout season in 2013-14, posting killer numbers in boards, blocks, and field goal percentage while turning the ball over a negligible amount. He finished as an early-round value and should be well worth the subsequent early-round price tag that is attached to him this season in most cases, just not in this one. Remove rebounds and DJ plummets all the way down eight whole rounds in value. Eight! Steer clear.
PF/C David Lee
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 59 (5)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 104 (9)
Ranking Difference: -45
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 67
Current ESPN Projection: 40
David Lee is a constant 20-10 threat in points and rebounds and posts decent percentages from the field and at the line. If you take away one of his strengths, however, his peripherals (threes, steals, and blocks) are simply too weak to make him draftable at his current ADP. Removing rebounds, in particular, crushes his value. If you have to grab a big in the middle rounds of a rebound-punting build, you're better off going for an elite defender to boost your steals and blocks than a oneway guy like Lee.
SG/SF Lance Stephenson
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 111 (10)
Punting Rebounds Rank (Round): 153 (13)
Ranking Difference: -42
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 77
Current ESPN Projection: 73
Lance Stephenson had a huge 2013-14 and he parlayed it into a sweet deal with the Charlotte Hornets this offseason. One of the most impressive aspects of his game is his rebounding prowess from the shooting guard position, as he led all guards (and every one of his Pacer teammates, for that matter) in boards per game last season with a whopping 7.2. As you can imagine, taking his biggest positional strength away by punting rebounds makes him much less valuable in fantasy hoops. His price tag is currently a bit rich regardless of your strategy, so there's no way you should be taking him if you're not interested in rebounding.