Fantasy Hoops Strategy: 2015-16 Draft Targets When Punting Three-Pointers
Punting is a staple strategy in head-to-head fantasy basketball leagues. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but some owners find great success in devaluing a category (or two) with the goal of stacking in the remaining stats.
Whether you believe in punting or prefer building a balanced team is completely up to you. If you want to make use of punting in your fantasy drafts this year, however, we've got you covered.
This is Part 2 of 9 in a series in which we are taking a look at punting in each of the nine standard-league stat categories (points, threes, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and turnovers). In each instalment, we'll briefly discuss each strategy, then give you an "All-Punt" team, where we point out the best target at each position for the build in question (with a couple bonus targets to boot). When possible, we'll try to make sure the targets at each position don't overlap in terms of average draft position (ADP), so that you can conceivably grab all five guys (or at least fill out a full lineup by using the "additional options").
Always remember: punting doesn't mean you're actively trying to be bad in a category, just that you don't mind not being successful in it. The goal is always to target players that bring lots of value outside of the punting category in question, while avoiding guys that draw a large portion of their value from it.
All stats, rankings, and punt values come from the incomparable BasketballMonster.com.
In this build, the inevitable outcome is that a lot of bigs will get a value upgrade, while most guards and wings take a hit. For that reason, you could naturally find yourself strong in things like rebounds, blocked shots, and field goal percentage, but weak in assists, steals, and free throw percentage by going this route.
Since you can't field a team entirely comprised of power forwards and centers, you need to be very careful when you pick your guards and wings. The important thing is to remember that you're not trying to avoid three-pointers all together. Like any punting strategy, your goal is to find players that are equally or more valuable when threes are removed from the equation, instead of just building a team that’s categorically horrible from long range.
Just to fill out your roster, you might find yourself needing to select players that help you a lot in the natural weak areas of the build (assists, steals, and free throw percentage) at the guard and wing position, but who only get about average standard-league value on threes (about 1.0 per game). Don't worry. That's normal and we've got some examples of players who fit that mould in the point guard and shooting guard sections below.
The best way to approach punting threes in a draft is to load up on guards and wings who are strong in the weak areas of this build early (even if they hit a few threes from time to time), since all the mid- to late-round bigs will get considerable upgrades if you're punting triples and you'll have more than enough opportunities to fill out those positions then.
Point Guard - PG John Wall
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 27 (3)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 30 (3)
Ranking Difference: -3
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 21
Current ESPN Projection: 11
John Wall is essentially the ideal point guard for this build. He fills up the box score with averages of 17.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 10.0 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.6 blocks, while shooting 44.5% from the floor and 78.5% from the free throw line. His 0.8 threes per contest are nearly negligible for the position, and his rough turnover numbers (3.8), middle-of-the-pack shooting percentage, and blocks are all but made up for by the bigs you'll load up on later in your draft. You'll notice that his overall nine-category rank from 2014-15 drops from 27 to 30 when you punt threes, but keep in mind that just about all the bigs go up, while the guards and wings drop. Three spots is nothing compared to others at his position.
Shooting Guard - SG/SF DeMar DeRozan
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 84 (7)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 72 (6)
Ranking Difference: +12
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 64
Current ESPN Projection: 71
DeMar DeRozan only averaged 0.4 triples per game last year, which is an incredibly low number for a high-scoring wing player. He otherwise filled it up with 20.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest, while shooting 41.3% from the field and 83.2% from the line. The scoring (without threes), high assists for the position, and excellent free throw percentage on 7.2 attempts per game are all excellent gets at shooting guard if you're punting threes. His final ranking for last season might not seem all that encouraging at his ADP, but keep in mind that he missed a lot of time due to injury. His last healthy season -- his All-Star campaign in 2013-14 -- was a top-50 performance when punting triples, with more points (22.7), assists (4.0), and free throw attempts per game (8.0 at 82.4%) than 2014-15. He is already a perfect fit on the wing for this build with last year's reduced numbers, so a return to his form from the year before could make him very valuable in the middle rounds. Scoop him up.
Small Forward - SF/PF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 93 (8)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 64 (6)
Ranking Difference: +29
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 60
Current ESPN Projection: 61
Giannis Antetokounmpo was made for this build, hitting only 7 triples in 81 games played last year. Apart from an aversion to long range shots, though, the Greek Freak is a very enticing fantasy option. He's coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.0 block per game, while shooting 49.1% from the floor and 74.1% from the free throw line. Considering he's already got 4,438 minutes under his belt and is still only 20 years of age, it's easy to imagine his role and numbers both trending up this season and beyond.
Power Forward - PF/C Blake Griffin
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 28 (3)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 18 (2)
Ranking Difference: +10
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 23
Current ESPN Projection: 15
Anthony Davis is far and away the best player to have in this build, since he dominates every category in fantasy hoops except three-pointers (we'll believe that he's added that to his game when we see it). Since you can't reasonably target Davis if you have anything other than the first overall pick, we suggest going after Blake Griffin instead. We all know that Griffin offers you solid points (21.9), rebounds (7.6, but a career average of 9.7), and field goal percentage (50.3%), but the best advantages to grabbing Blake when punting threes is the excellent assists for the position (5.3) and the ever-improving free throw percentage (72.8%). This build generally devalues most of the guards and wings that typically excel in those areas, so Griffin's ability in both makes him stand out in a very large pool of big men that don't shoot threes.
Center - C Brook Lopez
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 24 (2)
Punting Threes Rank (Round): 16 (2)
Ranking Difference: +8
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 28
Current ESPN Projection: 31
The vast majority of big men in fantasy hoops get a value bump when you punt threes, so it's not hard to fill your power forward and center positions in this build. As mentioned in the intro, though, you want to focus heavily on guys that help you out in areas that guards and wings tend to dominate and bigs struggle in, so that you don't accidentally punt things like assists, steals, and free throw percentage as well. Guys like Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah help with assists, and Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel help with steals, but very few guys can keep your free throw percentage at a respectable level. Brook Lopez and his 81.4% mark from the line can certainly help there, though. Throw in his 17.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.4 turnovers, and 51.3% shooting from the field, and you've got a great center that can help with your other stacks as well. Even BroLo's low rebounding numbers for his size aren't a problem if you're punting threes, since doing so gives most of the strong-rebounding bigs in the league a bump in value and you can load up on them later in your draft. Finally, don't sleep on the fact that Lopez was a monster over his last 30 games last year, finishing sixth overall in nine-category leagues when punting threes after the All-Star Break. Sixth!