The first round is hard to screw up, but things get tricky after that. Not every second-round pick fits well with every first-round pick and a less than ideal pairing can get you into trouble. Below are some first- and second-round pairings that compliment each other well. I’ve broken them down by first-round pick and punting strategy. I’ve also included a breakdown of where you will stand after the second round if you start with one of the below pairings. I did this so that you can have an idea of what categories you will need to focus on in the middle rounds. To figure out where each pairing is likely to land you in each category, I compared each pair of players’ 2017-2018 numbers to the average numbers of the top-24 players on Yahoo and ESPN. The averages for both sites were similar with the biggest difference coming in threes and in rebounds. The difference was due to Andre Drummond being a top-24 player on ESPN but not on Yahoo.
Here are the averages (Kawhi Leonard’s 2016-2017 averages were included in the calculation):
Average 2017-2018 Numbers of Yahoo’s Current Top-24 Players: 23.0 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 6.7 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, .8 BPG, 48.0 FG%, 82.0 FT%, 2.9 TOPG
Average 2017-2018 Numbers of ESPN’s Current Top-24 Players: 22.7 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 7.3 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, .9 BPG, 48.4 FG%, 81.0 FT%, 2.8 TOPG
I ignored possible improvements when labeling a pair as above average, average, or below average in a category. That means any Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, or Joel Embiid pairings are likely going to be underrated by this guide.
Note: All pairings and comments are for nine-category leagues unless otherwise noted. The below pairings work in eight-category leagues as well, but some may not be as effective in eight-category leagues as they are in nine-category leagues.
Anthony Davis (Pick 1-2)
Anthony Davis/Kevin Love:
Above average in Points, Rebounds, Blocks, FG%, FT%, Turnovers
Below average in Threes, Steals
- This is a super nasty start in the punt assists build with no major weaknesses. Threes and steals are below-average, but both only slightly. This is an especially attractive start on Yahoo since there are so few quality bigs in rounds three and four.
- This is a somewhat risky start due to both Davis and Love’s injury history. However, Davis has played in 75 games two seasons in a row.
Anthony Davis/Jimmy Butler:
Above average in Points, Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, FG%, FT%, Turnovers
Below average in Threes
- Again, this is not the safest pairing, but it allows you to come out of the first two rounds with only one weakness. I love adding Devin Booker to this pairing in the third to fix that. Booker’s turnovers are less of an issue in punt assists and starting with Davis, Jimmy, and Booker guarantees a strong points team.
Other Strong Partners for Anthony Davis in Punt Assists: Kyle Lowry (fixes issue with threes but watch your points), Kyrie Irving (unlikely to drop, but excellent fit due to threes and elite percentages), Rudy Gobert (allows you to forget about the big man categories for the next four rounds or so, need to add a big PPG/FT% guy in three if you start big/big, Devin Booker ideal, may be able to wait on Rudy on ESPN due to his low ranking).
Anthony Davis/Jrue Holiday:
Above average in Points, Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, FG%, Turnovers
Average in FT%
Below average in Assists
- No major holes here, but both players a little injury-prone. The Pelicans’ playoff schedule is also an issue. The Pelicans only take the court nine times during the standard fantasy playoffs.
Anthony Davis/John Wall
Above average in Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks
Average in FG%
Below average in FT%, Turnovers
- This will actually be an above-average FG% and FT% start if Wall looks more like his 2016-2017 self than his 2017-2018 self. If you select Davis at one or two, picking Wall in two will become the only way to come out of the first two rounds with an above-average assists team.
Other Strong Partners for Anthony Davis in Punt Threes: Jimmy Butler (Butler’s value would be safe in Miami, would give you two first-round players in punt threes, injury-prone pairing, strong points start so Draymond Green (1.1 3PG) in three makes a lot of sense with this pair), Rudy Gobert (less attractive here than in punt assists, points harder to find later in punt threes).
James Harden (Pick 1-2)
James Harden/John Wall
Above average in Points, Threes, Assists, Steals, Blocks, FT%
Below average in Rebounds
- This is actually a somewhat strong start in blocks. Getting slightly-above average blocks without taking a big man in the first two rounds allows you to avoid having to pay a premium for blocks later. Harden is one of the better players to pair with the injury-prone Wall as the reigning MVP is fairly sturdy.
James Harden/Kyle Lowry
Above average in Points, Threes, Assists, FT%
Average in Steals
Below average in Rebounds, Blocks
- Both players are strong rebounders for their position so rebounds is going to be less of an issue than blocks. Marc Gasol is decent option in three for those starting with Harden and Lowry. Gasol is still a solid source of blocks (1.4 BPG) and starting with those three players puts you in a great spot in threes, assists, and FT%. Gasol was a top-25 player in punt FG% last season. I’d stay away from Rudy Gobert even though he would obviously fix your blocks. He becomes a two-category player in punt FG% and ideally, you want your third-round pick to contribute in more categories.
Other Strong Partners for James Harden in Punt FG%/TO: Devin Booker (guarantees dominance in points and threes but puts you in a deeper hole in boards and blocks), Kevin Love (great option, fixes your rebounds issue, very weak start in blocks), Kemba Walker (no-brainer pick if he falls).
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Pick 3-4)
Giannis Antetokounmpo/Kyrie Irving
Above average in Points, FG%, Turnovers
Average in Rebounds, Blocks, Steals
Below average in Threes, Assists
- Points and threes are punt FT%’s bane and Irving is outstanding in both. He can’t fix threes by himself, but if Giannis’ three-ball is for real, this could end up being an average start in threes. This is not as strong a start in assists as most would assume. Both players are actually below-average sources of dimes when compared to their top-24 peers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo/Chris Paul
Above average in Rebounds, Assists, Steals, FG%, Turnovers
Average in Points, Blocks
Below Average in Threes
- Paul is going to fall in a lot of drafts due to his injury history and the possibility of late-season rest and Giannis owners should take advantage of this. Antetokounmpo has been fairly durable thus far and is one of the better early-round partners for Paul. Like Irving, Paul can make a Giannis-led team competitive in threes. He also guarantees a strong start in dimes, which is very important as there are not many assists to be found in the second half of the draft. Turnovers can also be an issue in Punt FT% so low-turnover point guards like Paul are especially valuable. If you’re punting both points and FT%, Paul will be a must in the second round.
Other Strong Partners for Giannis Antetokounmpo in Punt FT%: Kyle Lowry (he’s a better solution to your threes problem than any other guard available at the end of the second, a much better pick if you are punting points alongside FT%), Jrue Holiday (doesn’t help with threes, but provides a ton of defensive numbers to go along with solid dimes), John Wall (guarantees an awesome start in assists, steals, and blocks but comes with significant FG% and turnovers hits).
*I do not recommend picking one of the elite punt FT% bigs in the second-round if you draft Giannis. I usually pass on them in third as well when building a team around the Buck. Giannis provides similar production in the big man categories to the elite bigs so passing on the elite bigs does not mean that you will end up weak in the big man categories. Points, threes, and assists need to be a focus early on when punting FT% and starting Giannis/elite punt FT% big puts you in a huge hole in all three categories.
Giannis Antetokounmpo/Jimmy Butler
Above average in Points, Rebounds, Steals, FG%, Turnovers
Average in Blocks
Below average in Assists, FT%
- Pairing Giannis with Jimmy allows you to finish the second round competitive in all categories. The pairing is only slightly below-average in both assists and FT%. Butler is an excellent option for any punt threes team, but is close to essential when the build starts with Giannis due to his excellence at the line. Punt threes also tends to struggle with steals and this is obviously a dream start in that category. Points can also be very hard to find when punting threes and Jimmy should post some flashy scoring numbers regardless of where he ends up playing.
Giannis Antetokounmpo/Jrue Holiday
Above average in Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, FG%
Average in Points, Assists, Turnovers
Below average in FT%
- This is a massive start in FG% and the defensive categories, three categories that a punt threes teams will be looking to win each week. Both players are incredibly efficient from the floor and provide well above-average production in both steals and blocks. The trade-off is that this start is going to make winning FT% consistently very difficult. Holiday is a mediocre free throw shooter and there are not a ton of great sources of FT% impact available after the early rounds. DeMar DeRozan in four or Enes Kanter in six make a lot of sense if Giannis and Jrue are your top guys. You’ll also want to target Danilo Gallinari late.
Other Strong Partners for Giannis Antetokounmpo in Punt Threes: John Wall (creates some issues with turnovers and to a lesser extent FG%, but puts you in a great spot in all of the other counting stats), LaMarcus Aldridge (makes steals and dimes problematic, but helps a lot at the line and in the points column, LMA was a top-10 player in punt threes last season and should be a top-20 option even with DeRozan in San Antonio).