Fantasy Hoops Strategy: 2015-16 Draft Targets When Punting Steals
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 5 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 installment, 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.
If you choose to punt steals, you'll notice that the stat is not as positionally-weighted as say threes, rebounds, or assists. Yes, most of the steal value in the league comes from point guards, but you'll also find wings and big men on the steal leaderboard every year.
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 just dings pass-happy point guards, there's value to be had at each position when punting steals (much like punting points).
If you're going to punt steals, though, you will notice your strengths will still mostly lie 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 get plenty of help in threes, assists, and free throw percentage as well.
Point Guard - PG Damian Lillard
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 16 (2)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 19 (2)
Ranking Difference: -3
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 19
Current ESPN Projection: 9
Damian Lillard is bordering on superstardom, but he didn't get there by averaging less than a steal per game over his three-year career. His 1.2 pilfers per contest last season was a career high, but it still represented one of the lowest marks at the position, especially for a player who played so many minutes (35.7 per game in 2014-15). Lillard is the ideal point guard to grab when punting steals, as his added value in threes (2.4), assists (6.2), and free throw percentage (86.4%) can go a long way in helping you stay competitive in those categories in a build that generally devalues players that excel in them. Of course, the 21.0 points and 4.6 rebounds don't hurt either.
Shooting Guard - SG J.J. Redick
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 60 (5)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 38 (4)
Ranking Difference: +22
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 81
Current ESPN Projection: 69
J.J. Redick was an early-round asset last season when punting his negligible 0.5 steals per contest, so he becomes hard to pass up in this build when he's being drafted near the end of the middle rounds. His threes (2.6) and free throw percentage (90.1%) are excellent gets for a steal punting team that might be lacking in those areas, while the high field goal percentage (47.7%) and low turnovers (1.2) for his position are nice bonuses as well.
Small Forward - SF/PF Carmelo Anthony
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 30 (3)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 29 (3)
Ranking Difference: +1
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 11
Current ESPN Projection: 18
Carmelo Anthony finished last season as the 30th-ranked player in nine-category leagues on a per game basis, so he might not seem like a good pick at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second on the surface. Don't sleep on the fact, however, that the two seasons before his injury-riddled 2014-15, he finished as a top-10 asset. When you punt his 1.0 steal per game, he becomes a particularly interesting target because of the way he helps you build stacks in points (24.2), threes (1.5), rebounds (6.6), assists (3.1), and free throw percentage (79.7%). The threes and free throw percentage, in particular, are premium gets when punting steals.
Power Forward - PF/C Pau Gasol
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 13 (2)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 6 (1)
Ranking Difference: +7
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 30
Current ESPN Projection: 25
Pau Gasol had a bit of a renaissance season in 2014-15, finishing as the 13th-ranked player in nine-category leagues after two straight seasons of falling out of the top-50. He's never been a guy to get a lot of steals, though, and his 0.3 from last year was a career low. If you're punting pilfers, his averages of 18.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 blocks, 2.0 turnovers, 49.4% shooting from the field, and 80.3% from the line give him top-5 upside. Who knows if he can hit that exact line in his second year in Chicago, but if he comes close, he's a great target for this build in the third round.
Center - C Jonas Valanciunas
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 61 (6)
Punting Steals Rank (Round): 36 (3)
Ranking Difference: +25
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 55
Current ESPN Projection: 41
Jonas Valanciunas looks primed for a breakout with the Raptors this year, so he'll be a slam dunk pick in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts if you're punting his 0.4 steals per contest. In just 26.2 minutes per game in 2014-15, Valanciunas posted respectable averages of 12.0 points, 8.7 boards, 1.2 blocks, and only 1.4 turnovers per game, while shooting 57.2% from the field and 78.6% from the free throw line. That's one of the best shooting splits you'll find for a big man, and all the counting numbers should go up with more minutes and touches in his fourth NBA season.