Fantasy Basketball Strategy: Punting Field Goal Percentage
With the preseason underway and the regular season just around the corner, now is the perfect time to hone 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. Then, we talked about punting three-pointers in Part Two, rebounds in Part Three, assists in Part Four, steals in Part Five, and blocks in Part Six. Today, in Part Seven, we take a look at the best and worst places to find value in your draft while punting field goal percentage.
If you decide to punt field goal percentage, just like any other punting strategy, remember that your goal is not simply to draft all the weakest shooters available and hope for the best. The guys with the lowest field goal percentage in the league mostly tend to be guards, so following this approach should help you stack things like threes, assists, steals, and free throw percentage. Just be aware that this also means you run the risk of having an unbalanced team, a team lacking in big-man staples like rebounds, blocks, and low turnovers as well.
You'll likely have to concede in some instances and draft power forwards and centers that are close to or above average shooters to fill out your roster. Just make sure you stay away from ones that derive a large part of their value from their shooting percentage (like DeAndre Jordan) and focus on ones that stay at relatively the same value or get a slight bump without it (like LaMarcus Aldridge).
There are a lot of guys in the first couple rounds who shoot what could be considered a low percentage from the field. (There are close to a dozen listed in the "Early-Round Targets" section directly below.) If you find yourself with some combination of these players through the first two to three rounds, even if you didn't originally intend to do so, it might be wise to make the decision to punt field goal percentage on the spot.
Planning to punt pre-draft can sometimes be tricky if your primary targets are selected early, but deciding to embrace the deficiencies of your team as they develop in the draft and setting your focus on your strengths can set you apart from your competitors and prevent you from making bad reaching decisions later on in the draft.
If anything, keep these guides handy for a quick reference of who to go for if you suddenly realize your team is missing something enough that punting it might be your best course of action. You can never be too prepared for your draft.
SF/PF Carmelo Anthony
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 7 (1)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 6 (1)
Ranking Difference: +1
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 7
Current ESPN Projection: 8
Although Carmelo Anthony's field goal percentage is pretty respectable at 45.2% for a guy that chucks 5.4 three-pointer attempts per contest, it's still the lowest success rate of any first-round target. He also leads the league in attempts (21.3), so Melo near the end of the first round might handicap your ability to be competitive in this area on a consistent basis. Depending on who you manage to grab in the second round, punting field goal percentage might quickly become your best option to maximize your strengths.
By taking Anthony, you've already started a good stack for points, threes, and rebounds, so those areas become early favorites. He also came in at around league-average level or better in assists, steals, and blocks last year, meaning the only place he can really hurt you in this kind of build is in turnovers (and even that's not as bad as most of the other targets in the first). Melo's a top-five fantasy pick if you go into your draft punting field goal percentage and a value pick beyond that.
PG Kyle Lowry
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 17 (2)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 9 (1)
Ranking Difference: +8
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 23
Current ESPN Projection: 21
Kyle Lowry had a career year last season, posting personal bests in several different areas and coming in as the 17th-ranked fantasy player in nine-category leagues. Removing his lackluster 42.3% field goal percentage from the equation catapults him comfortably into the top 10. If you figure he can repeat last season's success in 2014-15, Lowry becomes an absolute steal in the late-second or early-third round.
He gives your team solid and reliable points, threes, assists, steals, and free throw percentage, while keeping the turnovers low and adding great rebounds from the point guard position (nice bonuses in this guard-favoring build). Grabbing him in the second to pair with one of the lower percentage guys from the first makes this strategy worth some serious consideration.
Mid- to Late-Round Targets
PG Kemba Walker
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 60 (5)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 22 (2)
Ranking Difference: +38
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 47
Current ESPN Projection: 35
Kemba Walker should be one of your primary targets when punting field goal percentage, particularly if you manage to shore up your forward and center spots in the first few rounds and then look for great point guard value in the fourth or fifth. Walker may have finished as the 60th-ranked fantasy player last year, but he jumped all the way up to 22nd without his 39.3% field goal percentage.
He gives you value in points, threes, assists, and free throw percentage and has the potential to be elite in steals. (He averaged close to two per game just two years ago, before dropping down to 1.2 last season.) Like Lowry, Kemba also gives you good rebounding and low turnovers compared to most others at the point guard position. Those types of bonuses are exactly what you're looking for in builds like this one that devalue the majority of big men, considering they're usually the ones responsible for stocking you up in those categories.
PG/SG Victor Oladipo
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 131 (11)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 108 (9)
Ranking Difference: +23
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 57
Current ESPN Projection: 39
Victor Oladipo is a huge boom-or-bust pick in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts this year as he heads into his second NBA season. Last year, he struggled with his shot, turnovers, and consistency, playing as a combo guard behind Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo. With both those guys now out of Orlando, Oladipo is an unquestioned starter and should be in for all the responsibility he can handle as one of the Magic's top prospects.
All his counting stats should see a bump in his sophomore campaign and he could very well become one of the league's most elite options for steals with more guaranteed minutes (he averaged 1.9 steals per 36 in his rookie season). The turnovers will need to come down and field goal percentage to go up for him to have a chance of matching his current average draft position (ADP), but punting one of those makes him a much safer bet. You're assuming a lot of risk by picking him, but the massive upside that comes with punting one of his weak categories makes him worth it.
PF/C Ryan Anderson
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 18 (2)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 12 (1)
Ranking Difference: +6
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 64
Current ESPN Projection: 78
Ryan Anderson is one of the more fun anomalies in fantasy hoops. He generally comes off the bench but scores better than most starters. He is 6'10" and can be slotted into your center position but could very well lead the league in three-pointers made per game and free throw percentage any given year. He gets you decent rebounds but doesn't block a whole lot of shots. He gives you practically nothing in assists but in turn doesn't cough the ball up a whole lot either.
Some people may sleep on him this draft season because he is a bench player coming off an injury. If that's the case, take a serious look at him if you're punting field goal percentage. Considering that Anderson shoots almost half of his field goal attempts from long range, the lowered percentage is to be expected. His particular combination of skills carries first-round upside even with that low shooting percentage, so he's practically a no-brainer if you don't count it and you believe he can come back at around the same level.
SG/SF Jimmy Butler
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 62 (6)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 33 (3)
Ranking Difference: +29
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 69
Current ESPN Projection: 73
With all the new additions in Chicago this season, Jimmy Butler has the potential to become the forgotten Bull in fantasy drafts. If you can absorb his subpar field goal percentage (below 40%), however, he's a target you should keep an eye on in the middle rounds.
As a stout defender, Butler is one of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's favorite players to throw on the floor for around 40 minutes per contest. That kind of floor time leads to extra counting stats, which is great coming from a guard that gives you elite steals and close to league-average blocks as it is. He also keeps the turnovers low and flirts with the league average in all the remaining categories as well.
Preseason statistics have a tendency to be misleading, but his 18.6 points, 1.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks per contest with 60.4% shooting from the field over 5 games indicates that he is locked and loaded for the start of the regular season. The field goal percentage will almost certainly regress, but it's not like you need it with this strategy anyway. Grab him around his current ADP for this particular punting build and stand to reap significant benefits.
SF/PF Josh Smith
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 127 (11)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 85 (8)
Ranking Difference: +42
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 87
Current ESPN Projection: 61
Recommending Josh Smith as a fantasy target is pretty difficult these days, considering how badly his two percentages and turnovers hurt you from the small forward and power forward positions. Due to those drains, Smoove finished last season ranked as only the 127th fantasy option, an 11th-round value. If you removed the 41.9% shooting on a career high 16.0 shots per game, however, he'd leapfrog 42 spots up the ranks to 85th.
Even if Stan Van Gundy isn't able to convince Smith to huck fewer low-percentage shots, he becomes a target in this build for the way he stuffs the rest of the stat sheet. His points, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks all range from good to elite and become great for stacking when punting one of his weaknesses.
Other Targets: PG Ricky Rubio, SG/SF Gordon Hayward, PG/SG Jamal Crawford, PG Patrick Beverley, C Roy Hibbert, PG Brandon Jennings, PG/SG Brandon Knight, PG Michael Carter-Williams, SG/SF J.R. Smith, SG/SF Jeff Green, PG Trey Burke.
Players to Avoid
SF/PF LeBron James
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 5 (1)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 15 (2)
Ranking Difference: -10
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 1
Current ESPN Projection: 1
There are very few instances in fantasy hoops when someone would willingly tell you to "avoid" drafting LeBron James, but here we are. LeBron was the most valuable player in fantasy last season in terms of field goal percentage for shooting nearly 57% on 17.6 attempts per game. James, the number-one fantasy pick according to most pundits (now that Kevin Durant is sidelined for a while), gives you plenty of help in other areas as well, but he would've ranked outside of the first round in value last season if field goal percentage were removed from the equation. If you go into your draft with the plan to punt shooting, there are several better options to take in the first round, even if he falls down a few picks to you. Of course, in that case, perhaps you should just take him and readjust your strategy.
PG/SG Goran Dragic
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 28 (3)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 46 (4)
Ranking Difference: -18
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 37
Current ESPN Projection: 24
Last season's Most Improved Player, Goran Dragic, was fantasy dynamite last season. However, with Eric Bledsoe entering this season healthy and Isaiah Thomas now in Phoenix to further muddy up their point guard rotation, a regression is almost certainly around the corner for the Dragon. Even if he maintains last season's level of play, a large part of his value came from the high shooting percentage, particularly from the point guard position. There are plenty of guys that play the point that get a major bump in value when punting field goal percentage, so Dragic can safely be left alone in this build.
PF Kenneth Faried
Reg. 2013-14 Rank (Round): 81 (7)
Punting FG% Rank (Round): 144 (12)
Ranking Difference: -63
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 53
Current ESPN Projection: 45
Kenneth Faried had a stellar FIBA World Cup this summer and is in line for a breakout season this year, but even his best case scenario isn't worth drafting at his current ADP if you're punting field goal shooting. Faried is one of the more valable players in the league in that area, even with the low volume of attempts. Outside of that, the rebounding is nice, but nothing else in his stat line stands out in a way that could aid stacking your other categories. There aren't many obvious options for bigs in this particular build, but Faried is about as clear of one to leave alone as you'll find.