Fantasy Hoops Strategy: 2015-16 Draft Targets When Punting Free Throw Percentage
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 8 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.
Punting Free Throw Percentage
Even if you're new to the game of punting in fantasy hoops, there's a good chance that you still know about punting free throw percentage. It's the most obvious of the punting strategies, since drafting a really bad free throw shooter like DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, or Dwight Howard all but guarantees that you won't be competitive in the category anyway.
Since those guys shoot free throws so poorly and at such a high volume, you're often better off punting free throw percentage if you select one of them, rather than stumbling around trying to make up for it in the rest of your draft. Heck, if you really want to dominate the big man categories, like rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, and low turnovers, see if you can grab yourself all three of those guys in the first few rounds. It might seem challenging to make up ground in categories like threes, assists, and steals afterwards, but locking down three dominant bigs early leaves you lots of room to go after guards and wings in the middle of your draft.
Point Guard - PG Elfrid Payton
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 178 (15)
Punting FT% Rank (Round): 109 (10)
Ranking Difference: +69
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 68
Current ESPN Projection: 99
As a 55.1% shooter from the line in his rookie campaign, Elfrid Payton was pretty much made to be your team's point guard for punting free throw percentage. His ranks from last season don't even scrape the surface of his potential going into his sophomore year, either, as he was the 43rd-ranked player after the All-Star Break in 2014-15 if you remove free throw percentage from the equation. During those 26 games, Payton averaged 8.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game, which are both fantastic gets in a build that devalues a lot of point guards that usually get you those numbers. You'd like to see more points (11.1) and threes (0.3) for the position, but that's just nitpicking. His field goal percentage (42.9%) leaves a lot to be desired too, but you'll make that up with all your bigs. There simply isn't a better point guard on the market for this build, so go with Elf and get those numbers you lack elsewhere.
Shooting Guard - PG/SG Tyreke Evans
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 79 (7)
Punting FT% Rank (Round): 65 (6)
Ranking Difference: +14
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 83
Current ESPN Projection: 54
Tyreke Evans shot a career-low 69.4% from the line last season, but those of you punting free throw percentage and looking for a combo guard shouldn't worry about that. Especially since 'Reke gives you the threes (0.9), assists (6.6), and steals (1.3) that can be hard to find in this build. The points (16.6) are nice as well, and the 44.7% shooting from the field is actually fairly serviceable for the position and won't be a problem with all the efficient bigs you'll find on your team by draft's end.
Small Forward - SF/PF LeBron James
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 12 (1)
Punting FT% Rank (Round): 8 (1)
Ranking Difference: +4
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 6
Current ESPN Projection: 6
If you don't have the guts to pull the trigger on DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond in the first round, and figure you can still get them in the second or third, then LeBron James becomes the ideal first-round target for this build. For all of the King's strengths, his 71.0% free throw percentage on 7.7 attempts per game isn't one of them. What he does give you, though, is help in the guard stats like threes (1.7), assists (7.4), and steals (1.6) that you'll be lacking when punting free throw percentage. All that, while throwing in fantastic points (25.3), rebounds (6.1), blocks for the position (0.7), and field goal percentage (48.8%). The 3.9 turnovers can be a pain in the butt for most nine-category fantasy teams, but this build can take that hit, since it puts so much value on bigs that generally don't have a problem in that area. The risk of his being rested a lot this season looms large, but LeBron will still play plenty as long as the Cavaliers are in a race for playoff seeding.
Power Forward - PF/C Andre Drummond
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 77 (7)
Punting FT% Rank (Round): 10 (1)
Ranking Difference: +67
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 43
Current ESPN Projection: 38
Andre Drummond is technically a center, but you'll get so many good players at that position in this build that you're almost better served taking advantage of Drum's power forward eligibility. With that, he's our top pick as a power forward when punting free throw percentage, since removing his lowly 38.9% from the line last year would vault him up a ridiculous 67 spots to be a top-10 value. His contributions in points (13.8), rebounds (13.5), steals (0.9), blocks (1.9), field goal percentage (51.4%), and low turnovers (1.5) are drool-inducing when you don't care about free throws. The crazy thing is that he's still only 22 years old, and we haven't even come close to seeing his ceiling yet. Add in the fact that Greg Monroe is off to Milwaukee, and Drummond should seeing an increase in usage as well. There are about a billion reasons to get excited about him in this build.
Center - C DeAndre Jordan
Reg. 2014-15 Rank (Round): 40 (4)
Punting FT% Rank (Round): 3 (1)
Ranking Difference: +37
Current Yahoo O-Rank: 37
Current ESPN Projection: 45
If you draft DeAndre Jordan, you basically have no choice but to punt free throw percentage, as 5.7 Hack-a-DeAndre attempts at 39.7% is no bueno for your fantasy team. Of course, doing so will result in one of the most eye-popping value jumps you'll see in punting, as DJ's 2014-15 ranking would skyrocket a whopping 37 spots to make him the third-best asset in fantasy hoops without freebies (trailing only Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry). The third! His 11.5 points and 1.0 steal per game are certainly nice, but all that value comes from the crazy category juice in his 15.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 71.0% field goal percentage, and mere 1.3 turnovers per contest. Honestly, that line feels like one big typo, it's so inflated. DJ might fall to the third or fourth round in your draft because of his free throw shooting, but don't feel bad about grabbing him anywhere from the first onward if you're punting it. He's honestly that valuable.