All rankings and comments are for nine-category H2H leagues unless otherwise noted. All player positions are taken from Yahoo Fantasy Basketball.
1) James Harden (PG/SG) – If you play in an eight-category league, place Harden at the top of your draft board. He produced similar value to Davis last season when turnovers were ignored and his health is less of a question mark. The reigning MVP has played in at least 80 games in three of the past four seasons.
If you draft Harden, punt FG% is going to be the punting strategy that you should zero in on. Obviously, Harden produces elite numbers in the traditional guard categories that punt FG% teams will be looking to win each week. However, it is his above-average rebounding (5.6 RPG) and shot blocking (0.7 BPG) that makes him an especially good fit. Boards and blocks are strongly correlated with FG% and punting FG% limits the number of big man options for punt FG% teams. This issue often leads to punt FG% teams being weak in at least one of these two categories. Finding out-of-position boards and blocks is essential to a punt FG% team’s success and Harden is one of the better guards at providing that out-of-position production.
2) Stephen Curry (PG/SG) – Last season was not a fun one if you were a Curry owner. The two-time MVP only played in 51 games and was injured for most of the fantasy playoffs. So what should we learn from last year’s debacle? Not much. Do not overreact. I’ve seen Curry ranked close to the end of the first round on some sites and have seen him fall into that range in far too many mocks. He is still an elite option and a threat to be the most valuable player in fantasy. Curry finished second in per game value last season in nine-category leagues and third in eight-category leagues. He is also much more durable than his reputation suggests. Before last season’s unfortunate events, Steph had played in at least 78 games five seasons in a row.
His historic threes (4.2 3PG), solid assists (6.1 APG), and excellent steals (1.6 SPG) make him an ideal building block for the punt FT% build. Steph is obviously elite from the line (92.1 FT%), so he does lose some value when punting FT%, but the categories that he excels in are the categories that make or break the punt FT% build. It’s not hard to dominate the big man categories when punting FT%. Drafting players like Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, and DeAndre Jordan make winning rebounds, boards, and blocks a cinch most weeks. Unfortunately, the punt FT% big men tend to be extremely weak in the non-big man categories and this forces you to find guards that are especially strong in points, threes, assists, and steals. Because of Steph’s excellence in these categories, he is my preferred punt FT% building block. Curry is also an excellent fit for the punt assists build. He is exceptional both from the field (49.5 FG%) and at the line (92.1%) and assists was only Steph’s fourth-best category last season.
3) Damian Lillard (PG) – Lillard is a fine alternative for those not willing to bet their season on whether or not Leonard is healthy and motivated. Lillard is as safe as they come at the end of the first round. The point guard is coming off of a top-eight finish and a year that saw him finish in the top-five in 3PG and PPG. That type of production is extremely useful, but where he really shines is at the free-throw line. Last season, no player had a larger positive impact on the FT% category than Lillard (91.6 FT% on 7.4 FTA).
Lillard is a mainstay of the punt FG% build (43.9 FG%) and is best paired with a big man who does not derive much of their value from FG%. In the past that’s been DeMarcus Cousins and this year it is Joel Embiid. A Lillard/Embiid pairing looks like one of the best answers to the dreaded “What the heck do I do at the end of the first” question that trips up so many fantasy players.
4) Russell Westbrook (PG) – Westbrook is a fine first-round pick, but is not as well-rounded as most of his first-round peers. The point guard was a four-category player last season and the above seven players are above-average or better in six or seven categories. His main strengths and weaknesses are obvious. The dynamo is elite in points (25.4 PPG), rebounds (10.1 RPG), assists (10.3 APG), and steals (1.8 SPG). He’ll also hurt you from the floor (44.9 FG%) and will end any hope you had of winning turnovers (4.8 TOPG). It’s unlikely that he surprises in any of those six categories. While those six categories should be fairly predictable, his performance at the line and from three is completely up in the air.
During his MVP season, Westbrook averaged 2.5 3PG and hit 34.3 percent of his attempts from deep. He also hit 84.5 percent of his free-throw attempts. Last season, his three-point percentage dropped to an awful 29.8 percent and he only managed to connect on 73.7 percent of his free-throw attempts. Everything about that poor free-throw success rate screams fluke. Westbrook is a career 81.4 percent free-throw shooter and free-throw percentage has a fair amount of year-to-year variably. It is difficult to predict just how much he’ll rebound at the line, but his history suggests that he will improve on last year’s disappointing mark. His three-point percentage and three-point makes are less predictable. His three-point percentage dropped nearly five percent to 29.8 percent last season and he averaged three less three-point attempts per game than he did in his MVP year. Normally, after such a drop, it would be fair to expect a bounce back. However, last year’s numbers are more in line with Westbrook’s career averages. Regardless of what Westbrook does from three, he’ll remain the second-best punt FG% building block in fantasy basketball.
5) Victor Oladipo (PG/SG) – Last season’s Most Improved Player has always had a fantasy-friendly game and returns to a role that maximizes his fantasy potential. He is a very useful offensive player (23.1 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 4.3 APG), but it is what he does on the defensive end that makes him elite. In 2017-2018, only one player averaged more than 2.0 SPG. That player was Oladipo (2.4 SPG). The Pacer is also one of the league’s best shot-blocking guards (0.8 BPG). His above-average FG% (47.7%) could be due for some regression. Before the 2017-2018 season, Oladipo’s career-best mark from the floor was 44.2 percent. Oladipo also shot over eight percent better at the rim in 2017-2018 than he has at any point in his career. Oladipo’s point guard-eligibility and lack of dependence on dimes to boost his value makes him a strong match for the punt assists build.
6) Chris Paul (PG) – It’s all about games played for Paul. He can still post top-20 numbers in his sleep, but the Rocket has only broken the 70 games played mark in three of his past seven seasons. Paul was a top-10 player on a per game basis last season and was even better in the punt points build (18.6 PPG). Only five players were more valuable than the veteran when points were ignored in 2017-2018. He can also be an extremely dangerous weapon in the punt points and FT% double-punt strategy. Paul’s excellent threes (2.5 3PG) and steals (1.7 SPG), and still very good assists (7.9 APG), fix most of the issues created by the punt free-throw big man targets.
7) Ben Simmons (PG) – Simmons could not improve at all and still be a fine pick in the second round. The future superstar finished 16th when FT% was ignored last season and 13th in the punt points and FT% double-punt strategy. He was even better down the stretch of the season. Over the last two months of the regular season, only six players were more valuable to the punt FT% build. During that stretch, he averaged 8.9 RPG, 9.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.8 BPG while shooting 59.1 percent from the field. If you draft Simmons, just accept that you’re punting FT% and move on. Don’t try to save your FT%. It’s not possible without making significant sacrifices elsewhere. Last season, the only player who hurt owners at the line more than Simmons did was Dwight Howard.
8) Kyrie Irving (PG/SG) – There’s not a ton of safe picks in this year’s second round. Most of the options are either injury-prone or young and relatively unproven. Irving is no different. His knee injury was bad enough that it cost him the entire playoffs and possibly a trip to the finals. Irving still isn’t playing 5-on-5 basketball, but is supposedly on track to be 100 percent by the start of training camp. If you’re willing to bet on Irving staying healthy, you will be getting a top-20 player without any major holes in his line. Irving is an especially potent scorer (24.4 PPG) and three-point threat (2.8 3PG). He is also one of the most efficient guards in the association (49.1 FG%, 88.9 FT%). A healthy Gordon Hayward would cap his upside, but a healthy Gordon Hayward may not exist this season.
9) Kemba Walker (PG) – If you’re the type who likes to play it safe early and take their home run cuts late in the draft, Kemba is your guy. It doesn’t get any safer than the Hornets’ lead guard. Walker has only missed a total of six games over the past three seasons and has been a top-30 player in each of those three seasons. His floor is even higher in the punt FG% build (43.1 FG%). Walker has been a top-25 player when FG% is ignored six seasons in row. Last season, Walker averaged an excellent 22.1 PPG, 2.9 3PG, 5.6 APG, and 1.1 SPG.
10) John Wall (PG) – Wall functions as a poor man’s Westbrook. He’ll bring the heat in the counting categories (19.4 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 9.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG) while destroying your hopes of winning FG% (42.0 FG%) and turnovers (3.9 TOPG). Like Westbrook, he’s also due for a bounce back at the line. Wall’s 72.6 percent success rate at the charity stripe is well below his career mark of 78.6 percent. Usually Wall is a headliner on my busts lists, but his current ADP around the second/third round turn feels right. If he’s healthy, there’s a good chance that he eclipses last season’s steals numbers. Before his disappointing 2017-2018 campaign, Wall had averaged at least 1.7 SPG four seasons in a row.
11) Jrue Holiday (PG/SG) – Holiday was incredible after DeMarcus Cousins’ injury. Over the last two months of the season, Jrue produced first-round numbers that included averages of 20.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. The point guard was also extremely efficient over that stretch, hitting 50.8 percent of his attempts from the floor. He will be one of your main targets if you choose to punt threes (1.5 3PG). What keeps Holiday from being a strong second-round pick is his health. He played in 81 games last season, but only averaged 51.5 games played in the four seasons before that.
12) Kyle Lowry (PG) – Lowry posted first-round numbers in both the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons, but was only a top-30 player last season. This drop in value was primarily due to a dip in minutes. Lowry’s 2017-2018 per minute production was similar to what it had been in the past. The one exception being his steals rate. Lowry produced an impressive 2.0 SP36 in 2015-2016, but only managed 1.2 SP36 last year. Given his advanced age, a bounce back on the defensive end is unlikely. That drop in steals keeps his upside outside of the top-15. However, the All-Star still provides owners with a well-rounded line that can fit into almost any build. Lowry is one of the league’s best three-point shooters (3.1 3PG), one of the best rebounders at the point guard position (5.6 RPG), and a very good creator (6.9 APG).
13) Devin Booker (PG/SG) – Booker is a tricky player to build around due to the major holes in his line. He’s a hard player to roster outside of the punt FG% build because of his sky-high turnovers (3.6 TOPG) and huge negative impact on the FG% category (43.2 FG% on 19.5 FGA). The Sun also struggles on the defensive end (0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG). However, in the right build, he can be an absolute monster. He’s already one of the league’s top scorers (24.9 PPG) and could average over three triples per game in his fourth season (2.7 3PG). He is also a solid passer (4.7 APG) and an elite source of FT% impact (87.8 FT% on 6.1 FTA). Last season, only a handful of players had a larger positive impact on FT%. His assists could increase if the Suns do not make any more roster moves. The Suns do not have a starting-caliber point guard on the roster and Booker could find himself running the offense more often this season if that doesn’t change.
14) Eric Bledsoe (PG/SG) – Bledsoe produces a well-rounded line that doesn’t have any major holes in it if you play in eight-category leagues (2.9 TOPG). He was dominant down the stretch of the 2017-2018 season and posted top-15 numbers over the last two months of the regular season. Over that stretch, he averaged a very helpful 19.0 PPG, 2.0 3PG, 4.3 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, and 0.6 BPG. The move to the Bucks was a boon for his efficiency. Bledsoe had his best season from the field since 2013-2014 in his first year in Milwaukee (47.3 FG%).
15) Donovan Mitchell (PG/SG) – I like Mitchell. I think he is a long-term stud on the court and in the fantasy realm. That being said, it is very unlikely that he ends up on any of my teams this year. Owners looking to draft Mitchell will need to spend a second-round pick on the sophomore and his numbers don’t justify that steep price. To finish in the second round, Mitchell would have to improve his efficiency (43.7 FG%, 80.5 FT%) while increasing his scoring volume (20.5 PPG). That’s certainly possible, but most of the players currently going in the second-round don’t need to improve at all to finish in that range. Drafting Mitchell in the second round is drafting him at his ceiling, something that owners should try to avoid with all of their picks. Mitchell in the third is a much more reasonable pick. In addition to his solid scoring numbers, he is already a major threat from three (2.4 3PG) and a very proficient thief (1.5 SPG). Mitchell also has point guard-eligibility and doesn’t depend on dimes to boost his value (3.7 APG) so he is a very good option for those looking to punt assists.
16) C.J. McCollum (PG/SG) – McCollum is another excellent fit for the punt assists build and has top-30 upside if his percentages rebound. The Blazer posted top-30 numbers in 2016-2017, but couldn’t manage a repeat performance in 2017-2018 thanks to a decrease in his efficiency from the floor (44.3 FG%) and at the line (83.6 FT%). Even if his percentages remain disappointing, McCollum should still be a top-50 player thanks to his scoring ability (21.4 PPG) and his three-ball (2.3 3PG). The shooting guard is a below-average source of defensive numbers (1.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG).
17) Lonzo Ball (PG) – If Ball can improve his shooting to the point where it is below-average instead of historically bad, he’ll be a top-25 fantasy asset for years to come. He is already a stud almost everywhere else. Ball’s defense is ahead of schedule and his exceptionally strong performance on the defensive end in his rookie year allowed him to hold quite a bit of fantasy value. The point guard was one of the league’s most prolific thieves (1.7 SPG) as a rookie and his size allows his to be one of the few point guards who can help you win blocks (0.8 BPG). He’s also an excellent rebounder (5.6 RPG) and is already of one of the league’s better passers (7.2 APG). Playing alongside LeBron limits Ball’s upside, but the sophomore’s assists should remain strong. Kyrie Irving, a worse passer than Lonzo, managed close to six assists per night in his final season with LeBron.
Ball’s poor FG% (36.0 FG%) is driven not only by his poor outside shooting but also by his terrible finishing at the rim. The Laker shot an awful 49.4 percent at the rim last season. With LeBron in purple and gold, expect both of those numbers to go up. Ball’s free-throw shooting should improve as well. Lonzo is obviously a poor free-throw shooter, but he’s not as bad as his rookie-year percentage suggests (45.1 FT%). In his lone year at UCLA, Lonzo managed to hit 67.3 percent of his free throw attempts.
18) Josh Richardson (PG/SG) – Richardson has emerged as arguably the Heat’s best player and was an early-round asset over the second half of the 2017-2018 season. Over the last three months of the season, Richardson was a top-30 option in nine-category leagues and averaged 13.2 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 3.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. Dwyane Wade’s status for the 2018-2019 season is still up in the air, but his decision shouldn’t impact Richardson’s fantasy value. Richardson’s usage rate was the same with Wade on the court as it was with Wade on the bench.
19) Jamal Murray (PG/SG) – If you are punting assists, Murray will be one of your primary mid-round guard targets. He plays the point for the Nuggets, but thanks to Nikola Jokic’s all-time playmaking skills, Murray functions more as a combo guard. His role keeps his assists low (3.4 APG) so he doesn’t lose much value when dimes are ignored. The 21-year-old is already a great source of triples (2.0 3PG) and should be an improved scorer in his third year (16.7 PPG). Murray is also a sneaky source of FT% impact (90.5 FT% on 3.1 FTA). In his sophomore year, the guard had a top-15 impact on the category. The Nuggets’ acquisition of Isaiah Thomas creates some uncertainty for Murray. Murray can play both guard spots but a backcourt of Murray and Thomas could be very problematic on the defensive end. It may be difficult for the Nuggets to play the two together more than a handful of minutes each game.
20) Mike Conley (PG) – The Grizzlies’ lead guard could outplay this ranking if he remains healthy. Unfortunately, that is a huge if. Conley only managed to make it through 12 games last season and missed 39 games over the two seasons before that. Even if he is healthy, he’s not a lock to return early-round value like he did during the 2016-2017 season. He was a second-round player that season, but was only a top-55 fantasy asset during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons. When healthy, Conley produces a well-rounded line that includes strong contributions in all of the categories that you need your point guards to excel in (20.5 PPG, 2.5 3PG, 6.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 85.9 FT%).
21) Ricky Rubio (PG) – It was a tale of two seasons for Rubio. Early in the season, the Spaniard struggled to adjust to his new team and a new role that was much different than what most envisioned when the season started. Donovan Mitchell’s emergence forced Rubio off the ball and the point guard struggled badly during the first half of the season. Rubio was ranked outside of the top-100 until the All-Star break after which he suddenly started looking like one of the best point guards in the league. The lead guard was a third-round player after the All-Star break and a top-20 player during the last month of the season. It’s difficult to know what Rubio will look like this year and this ranking reflects that. He could outplay this ranking or Mitchell’s presence could keep his fantasy value in check. Regardless of what his role looks like this year, Rubio should still be one of the league’s better thieves (1.6 SPG) and a very good source of FT% impact (86.6 FT% on 3.3 FTA). Don’t expect his assist numbers to return to what they were in Minnesota. Even during his dominant two month run to end the season, Rubio only averaged 5.6 APG.
22) Jeff Teague (PG) – Teague is a safe mid-round pick (assuming Thibodeau doesn’t decide to bring Kirk Hinrich out of retirement) who could turn into an early-round asset if Jimmy Butler were to be moved for low-usage players. The point guard was a top-55 player in nine-category leagues last season and a top-25 option over the last two months of the season, a stretch of games that was played mostly without Butler. Teague’s best contributions come in the assists (7.0 APG) and steals (1.5 SPG) categories. Drafting Teague will also help you win FT% (84.5 FT% on 3.4 FTA). The point guard is excellent fit for the punt points (14.2 PPG) and punt threes (1.2 3PG) builds.
23) Lou Williams (PG/SG) – The Sixth Man of the Year is returning to a Clippers’ team that should be a lot deeper than it was last season. Danilo Gallinari and Patrick Beverley are healthy (for now) and the team drafted exciting rookie point guard prospect Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th-overall pick. These additions make it unlikely that Williams will be able to repeat as a top-45 player in 2018-2019. However, he should still be a mid-round asset and should be able to at least match his 2016-2017 numbers. That season, Williams was a top-75 player and averaged 17.5 PPG, 2.0 3PG, 3.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG. Williams will, once again, be one of the best sources of FT% impact available in the middle rounds (88.0 FT% on 6.2 FTA).
24) Darren Collison (PG/SG) – The Pacers brought in Tyreke Evans on a one-year deal and that puts Collison’s fantasy value at risk. With Evans in town, Collison is likely to see a decrease in playing time (29.3 MPG). This makes it very unlikely that Collison finishes as a top-45 player for the second year in a row. However, he should still start, and play enough minutes to provide owners with low-end point guard numbers (12.4 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 5.3 APG, 1.3 SPG). Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they are not what drives Collison’s value. The veteran is one of the few point guards available in the middle rounds who can help you both from the floor (49.5 FG%) and at the line (88.2 FT% on 2.1 FTA).