Fantasy Hoops Strategy: 2015-16 Draft Targets When Punting Blocks
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 6 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.
There are so few elite shot blockers in fantasy basketball that punting blocks becomes one of the easiest of the punting strategies to employ. There were only 16 players that averaged more than 1.5 rejections per game last season, and the majority of those guys get snatched up in the early rounds of fantasy drafts.
Since there is such a high concentration of value in the top few leaders in the category as well, missing out on the truly elite options like Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Gobert, or Hassan Whiteside will basically mean that your team doesn't have blocks as one of its strengths anyway.
Instead of panicking and reaching for blocks in the middle rounds, you might want to consider punting the category entirely. Yes, doing so will almost universally boost the value of guards, but there are plenty of wings and bigs that lack in the swats department as well, and they also become more valuable in this build. Guard stats like threes, assists, steals, and free throw percentage will stack fairly naturally, so make sure you get good sources of rebounds, field goal percentages, and low turnovers when you can. That is, of course, unless you're game for the challenge of punting more than one category (not recommended, but not impossible to pull off).
Point Guard - PG Chris Paul
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 4 (1)
Punting Blocks Rank (Round): 2 (1)
Ranking Difference: +2
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 5
Current ESPN Projection: 8
Every single point guard that finished last season with standard-league value in nine-category leagues is more valuable in this build than in a non-punt, so you basically can't go wrong whichever way you choose to approach the position. Since the early-round point guards have the most juice in other categories, they tend to have the most value added at the position when you take away their negligible blocks. Some people are getting bored of drafting Chris Paul and his eight straight years of ranking in the top four in nine-category leagues, so he's a great player to pick and subsequently consider punting his 0.2 blocks per contest if he slips to the later part of the first round. If you do so, you start your draft with so many great stacking options with his 19.1 points, 1.7 threes, 10.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 90.0% free throw percentage, and mere 2.3 turnovers per contest. You'll also find that the 4.6 rebounds and 48.5% shooting from the field are great to have at your point guard position in this build, since the bigs that excel in blocks tend to be some of the best sources of production in those categories.
Shooting Guard - SG/SF Khris Middleton
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 50 (5)
Punting Blocks Rank (Round): 31 (3)
Ranking Difference: +19
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 65
Current ESPN Projection: 52
Much like the point guard position, there are very few shooting guards that lose value in a block punt. Even so, you want to keep the generally weak categories of the build in mind when you pick your guards, namely rebounds, turnovers, and field goal percentage. Khris Middleton fits that mold quite nicely, as his averages of 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 turnovers, and 46.7% shooting from the field are all above standard-league average for a guard. His 13.4 points, 1.4 threes, and 1.5 steals per contest are all nice gets for stacking in those categories as well. Middleton will probably be overlooked a bit in the middle rounds, but don't sleep on his subtle early-round upside when punting blocked shots.
Small Forward - SG/SF Trevor Ariza
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 36 (3)
Punting Blocks Rank (Round): 16 (2)
Ranking Difference: +20
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 42
Current ESPN Projection: 92
When punting swats, Trevor Ariza was shockingly the 16th-ranked player overall in nine-category leagues last season. His 11.5 points per game probably made him seem kind of invisible, but there was plenty of value in his 2.1 triples, 5.6 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.7 turnovers, and 84.5% shooting from the free throw line. The 41.4% shooting from the field is a bit of a disadvantage in this build, so you have to be mindful of getting good shooters with some of your other picks if you take Ariza.
Power Forward - PF/C Zach Randolph
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 65 (6)
Punting Blocks Rank (Round): 52 (5)
Ranking Difference: +13
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 72
Current ESPN Projection: 77
Zach Randolph is an ideal power forward or center for this build, because he's a positional anomaly. Most of the best sources of rebounding and field goal percentage in fantasy hoops are often power forwards or centers that are good shot blockers as well, but ZBo is one of the rare players that gives you boards and efficient shooting without the swats. His 10.5 rebounds per contest and 48.7% shooting from the field are excellent gets for someone punting blocks, while the 16.1 points, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steal, and 76.5% shooting from the line are plenty helpful as well.
Center - PF/C Kevin Love
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 33 (3)
Punting Blocks Rank (Round): 27 (3)
Ranking Difference: +6
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 22
Current ESPN Projection: 35
Not that long ago, Kevin Love was a consensus top-five pick in fantasy hoops. Now, as part of a "Big Three" with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, he's a bit of an afterthought. He might not be putting up 26-point, 13-rebound seasons anymore, but he can still be plenty valuable in fantasy hoops, particularly if you're not counting his 0.5 blocks per contest. He still gives you elite threes (1.9) and rebounds (9.7), while contributing in points (16.4), assists (2.2), free throw percentage (80.4%), and turnovers (1.6). The 43.4% shooting from the field is a bit of a rub in this build, so try to make it up elsewhere if you roll with Love in the early rounds.