The NBA’s full embrace of basic math has increased the attractiveness of the punt threes strategy. In 2012-2013, a player only had to produce 1.0 3PG to be an average contributor in the threes category. Today, that kind of production from deep is laughed at. In 2017-2018, average production from three meant hitting 1.5 3PG. The increase in threes hasn’t had a major effect on the value of most guards and wings, but it has had an effect on the value of big men who don’t shoot threes. Bigs who provide juicy numbers in the traditional big man categories, but don’t hit threes, have become harder to target because they put you in a deeper hole in triples than they used to. That’s where punting threes comes in. Punting threes makes it easier to draft these big men and be strong in FG%, rebounds, and blocks.
As is the case with every punting strategy, the success of the build is not only determined by the easy to find categories, but by how strong a team ends up being in the categories that usually accompany strong production in the punted category. When you punt threes, you will want to pay extra close attention to points, FT%, assists, and steals as those are the categories that top-end three-point shooters tend to be strong in. FT% is the category that will give you the most headaches. Because of this, punting both threes and FT% makes a lot of sense (Players in italics are a good fit for this double-punt). If you do decide on the double-punt, keep a very close eye on your points. Points is usually a weakness in both punt FT% and punt threes, so the category will be very problematic if you are punting both. If you do want to try to compete in FT%, you’re going to want to make finding FT% impact a priority in the early and middle rounds. It is extremely hard to find FT% impact late in any build and punting threes complicates things even further. It’s also going to be impossible to be strong in the targeted categories without taking a few players who are above-average in threes, so don’t hesitate on a 2.0 3PG type of player if he contributes useful numbers in the categories that you need. You’ll notice that both sample teams include a handful of reliable three-point threats.
This strategy works with any of the first-round big men. They are all competent from beyond the three-point line, but none of the bigs lose much value when threes are ignored. Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are the best perimeter starting points for this build. Giannis gains quite a bit of value when triples are thrown out and threes were only LeBron’s seventh-best category in 2017-2018. Both are exceptional sources of points, assists, and steals and contribute more in the big man categories than most big men. Russell Westbrook also works here, but he forces you to play catch-up in FG% and all but guarantees that your team will be weak in turnovers. Kawhi Leonard and Victor Oladipo are likely to average a couple of threes per game, but are viable starting points as well. This is obviously not a build that you’ll want to slot Steph Curry, James Harden, or Kevin Durant into.
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, FT%, Assists, Steals
First-round targets: Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo
R2) Joel Embiid – Embiid’s three-ball (1.0 3PG on 30.8 3P%) is still a work-in-progress, so like most bigs, he receives a solid boost in value when threes are ignored. Embiid provides owners with incredible counting stats and above-average production in two of the categories that this build can struggle with. Embiid is a very good passer for a big man (3.2 APG) and few bigs can match his scoring output (22.9 PPG). He is also a monster on the boards (11.0 RPG) and one of the league’s best rim protectors (1.8 BPG). His FG% is going to be dependent on how much he improves his three-ball. If his can hit close to 35 percent of his triples this season, we could see his FG% reach 50 percent (48.3 FG%).
R2) Jimmy Butler – Butler has been a top-eight player in the punt threes build two seasons in a row (1.2 3PG), so his recent trade demand isn’t a big deal. He could land somewhere less than ideal, see his numbers drop, and still provide solid value if drafted in the second round. Jimmy actually has a fairly low usage rate (25.0 USG%) for a superstar, so unless he lands on a top-tier team, he’s likely to at least match that rate. Butler’s value is also safe because a huge amount of it is tied up in steals (2.0 SPG), a category that is unlikely to be affected by a change in address. Regardless of where he starts the year, Jimmy should also be an above-average contributor in points (22.2 PPG), rebounds (5.3 RPG), and dimes (4.9 APG). He’ll also be a very good source of FT% impact (85.4 FT% on 7.2 FTA) and will rarely turn the ball over (1.8 TOPG).
R2) John Wall – Wall was more valuable than Damian Lillard and roughly equal in value to Steph Curry in 2016-2017 when threes were ignored. Last season was a nightmare for Wall, but the point guard is still only 28-years-old and should be much better this season if he can remain healthy. Wall was only a mid-round player last season because his percentages fell off of a cliff. After shooting 45.1 percent from the floor and 72.6 percent from the line in 2016-2017, Wall only hit 42.0 percent of his field goal attempts and 72.6 percent of his free throw attempts in 2017-2018. His FT% is more likely to bounce back than his FG%. Last year’s poor FT% was well below his career mark of 78.6 percent, but his FG% wasn’t too far off his career average of 43.2 percent. Wall could be a mess in the percentages and will definitely be a huge negative in the turnover category (4.1 TOPG). However, he could be a positive in almost every other counting stat. Last season, Wall managed to average 19.4 PPG, 9.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.1 BPG.
Other Round 2 Options: Jrue Holiday, Ben Simmons