No punting strategy is loved more by the fantasy community than punt FT%. This build has been fantasy basketball’s most popular punting strategy for decades and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Is it fantasy basketball’s most effective punting strategy? Not in my opinion. Punt assists has a similar ceiling and a much higher floor. But that doesn’t mean that punt FT% should be dismissed as a punting strategy fit only for punting novices. As long as the league continues to have big men who struggle at the line but dominate elsewhere, punt FT% will remain a strategy that can win you your league.
Punt FT%’s popularity stems from the obviousness of its benefits. Big men who provide mid-round value or worse outside of the build can become first-round assets when free throw percentage is ignored. Both DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside were top-five players in this build in 2015-2016. Only five players were move valuable than Rudy Gobert in 2016-2017 if you were punting FT%. Last season, both Andre Drummond and Clint Capela produced first-round numbers if fantasy players ignored their free-throw percentage. It’s also popular because some of the league’s best players fit beautifully with the build. The one flaw in LeBron James’ game is his free throw shooting. Ignoring that category turns the legend into a near-flawless fantasy option, especially if you play in eight-category leagues. Giannis Antetokounmpo gets a similar bump and looks like he’ll be a mainstay of the punt FT% strategy for the next decade. Victor Oladipo is also a viable first-round pick for this strategy, although he is a better fit for the punt assists build.
The most interesting starting point for this build is not one that you would expect. Last season, only one player helped owners at the line more than Steph Curry did. The two-time MVP hit an incredible 92.1 percent of his free throw attempts last season and only Steve Nash and Mark Price sport a higher career free throw percentage. So why should we be comfortable sacrificing a significant amount of value and slotting Steph into the punt FT% build? Because punting is about more than just looking at rankings without the punted category and targeting the players that receive the largest boosts. Punting is all about fit and Curry is an outstanding fit for this build.
This build has a tendency to struggle with points, threes, assists, and to a lesser extent, steals. Points and threes tend to be the two categories that give punt FT% teams the most headaches. This build’s weakness in those four categories exists because the big men that this strategy elevates are often exceptionally weak in those categories. Curry is elite in three of those categories and above-average in assists. If you draft Curry, your threes will still be in an above-average position once you draft your first punt FT% big in either the second or third round. That’s unlikely to be the case with any of the other first-round targets. Steph’s exceptional field goal percentage is also essential to this build. Due to the issues that the punt FT% big men have with dimes, this build can be summed up as “big men and point guards”. You’re going to need at least four point guards on your roster to make this build work and you’re going to want to target players who provide out-of-position assists throughout your draft. The problem with drafting so many point guards is that point guards will usually drag down your field goal percentage. Being weak from the field is an issue in most builds, but it is something that you absolutely must avoid if choose this build. Field goal percentage is going to be one of the categories that this build will be depending on week in and week out and will be a must-win category for punt FT% teams during the fantasy playoffs. This dependency on field goal percentage makes efficient point guards like Curry even more valuable.
The punt FT% build can also struggle with turnovers for the same reason it can struggle with field goal percentage. Point guards are usually accompanied by big turnover numbers. There’s a couple of ways you can avoid throwing away turnovers in addition to free throw percentage. The first is to avoid big men who turn the ball over at a high rate. Since most teams will be filling their big man spots with bigs with low turnover rates, you will be at a huge disadvantage in the category if you are not doing the same. The second is to target point guards like Chris Paul, Kemba Walker, and Mike Conley who rarely turn the ball over. Last season, 18 point guard-eligible players averaged at least 2.5 TOPG. If you can manage to roster two point guards who will average less than that, you should be in good shape.
When to target certain types of players matters in every punting build, but it is especially important here. A whopping 14 of Yahoo’s top-25 players have point guard-eligibility so assists are going to fly off the board early and often. You’re not going to be able to wait until later in the draft to find your assists. Because of this, I strongly recommend going guard-heavy early when punting free throw percentage. I always try to have, at least, three point guards/high-assist players on my roster by the end of the fifth round. I do make sure that I secure the services of at least one of the dominant punt FT% big men, but I’m very comfortable waiting until the fifth round or later to grab my second big man. Players like Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, and Steven Adams are often available after the fifth round and can produce early-round numbers in this build.
If you want to avoid having to deal with all the complications that point guards bring, consider punting assists in addition to free throw percentage. Punting both will strengthen your field goal percentage and ensure that you win turnovers each week. It will also turn the elite punt FT% big men into top-five players and the mid-round punt FT% big men into early-round assets. Both Andre Drummond and Clint Capela were top-five players in the double-punt in 2017-2018 and Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Hassan Whiteside, and DeAndre Jordan were all top-20 assets when both categories were ignored.
Punting both free throw percentage and points is also a very viable strategy. I’ll go into more detail on why that is as part of the punt points guide.
Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all the players that fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based off of Yahoo Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will or could be available in a standard 12-team 9-category draft. If you don’t see a player who you think fits the build well, it may be because I think that player is badly overpriced on Yahoo. For example, Donovan Mitchell and Bradley Beal will not be showing up on any of these punting guides unless Yahoo moves them out of the second-round.
Categories to target: Points, Threes, Assists, Steals, Turnovers
First-round targets: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Victor Oladipo
R2) Ben Simmons – The Sixer is a future first-round pick and could provide first-round value in the punt FT% build as soon as this season. The Rookie of the Year was a top-15 player in this strategy in his rookie year and was a top-seven player without FT% over the last two months of the season. All eyes will be on Simmons’ jumper, but he doesn’t have to improve at all to end up being a strong pick in the second round. Simmons can help his owners lock up rebounds (8.1 RPG), assists (8.2 APG), steals (1.7 SPG), and blocks (0.9 BPG). He should also be an improved source of points in his second season (15.8 PPG) and the upcoming increase in shot attempts could lead to him being a top-10 source of FG% impact (54.5 FG% on 12.3 FGA). It goes without saying that if you draft Simmons, you will need to pair him with elite threats from deep (0.0 3PG).
R2) Chris Paul – Paul is going to fall into the mid-to-late second round of a lot of drafts and be a giant gift to LeBron owners who should have no business being able pair a player of Paul’s caliber with The King. The future Hall of Famer is being underrated in early drafts due to his age and teammates. Yes, playing beside James Harden limits his upside, but Paul is still capable of returning first-round value and is an outstanding fit for the punt FT% build. Drafting Paul is one of the few ways managers can obtain a significant amount of assists (7.9 APG) without putting their turnovers at risk (2.2 TOPG). The Rocket is also deadly from three (2.5 3PG) and remains arguably the NBA’s best defender at the point guard position (1.7 SPG). Paul is also an above-average rebounder for his position (5.4 RPG) and manages his impressive production for deep without dragging down his owner’s FG% (46.0 FG%).
R2) John Wall – Point guards that only average around 5.0 APG won’t cut it in this build. The big men that are elevated by this build provide next to nothing in the assists category and that makes targeting the league’s best creators essential. Wall has been a top-three source of dimes four season in row and is coming off of a year in which he averaged 9.6 APG. Grabbing the Wizard at the end of the second round will allow you to still be ahead of the pack in the assists category after you scoop up your dominant punt FT% big man in the third. Wall will also help you win points (19.4 PPG) and both of the defensive categories (1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG) while providing average production from deep (1.5 3PG). His high turnovers (3.9 TOPG) are more of an issue than his low FG% (42.0 FG%). This build contains enough quality big man targets to more than offset his struggles from the field. There’s no easy way to even out your turnovers after drafting Wall. You’ll still need to aggressively target assists throughout the draft and most players who provide decent dimes turn the ball over at least a couple times per game.
Other Round 2 Options: Joel Embiid, Jrue Holiday, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving