All rankings and comments are for nine-category H2H leagues unless otherwise noted. All player positions are taken from Yahoo Fantasy Basketball.
1) Anthony Davis (PF/C) – In nine-category leagues, there’s Anthony Davis, and then there is everyone else. Davis was, by far, the most valuable player last season, not only on a per game basis, but also in terms of total value. Making the choice even more obvious is The Brow’s newfound sturdiness. Davis has played in 75 games in each of the past two seasons, and with the Pelicans looking like they’ll be part of the slugfest that is the bottom half of the Western Conference’s playoffs picture, he’s likely to play through any minor injuries. What makes Davis even more unfair is his natural fit for fantasy basketball’s most effective punting strategy. The punt assists strategy is at its deadliest when its centerpiece is elite in both percentages categories like Davis is. The Pelican shot 53.4% from the field during the 2017-2018 campaign and was just as effective at the line. Davis averaged a whopping 8.0 FTA last season and managed to convert 82.8% of his free-throw attempts.
The Pelicans swapping out DeMarcus Cousins for Julius Randle should be a boon to Davis’ value. After Cousins’ injury, Davis’ value spiked. However, this jump in value was not due to a major increase in usage or minutes played. What Cousins’ injury did was allow Davis to spend most of his time at the five on defense. This made it easier for Davis to rack up big defensive numbers. Before the injury, Davis was averaging “only” 1.1 SPG and 2.1 BPG. After Cousins’ season ended, Davis averaged an incredible 2.0 SPG and 3.2 BPG. Randle will play the four in any lineups with Davis, and with Nikola Mirotic slated to be the Pelicans’ starting power forward, Davis should see almost all of his minutes at the five.
2) Giannis Antetokounmpo (SF/PF) – The next three picks come down to personal preference and risk appetite. Durant and Curry were significantly more valuable than Giannis last season, but Antetokounmpo is more likely to be available during the fantasy playoffs. Antetokounmpo doesn’t have the same upside that the Warriors’ superstar duo has, but he can still be a top-three player if utilized correctly. Only Anthony Davis and LeBron James were more valuable in the punt FT% build last season. Giannis’ improving, but still weak, free-throw shooting makes him an ideal fit for fantasy basketball’s most famous punting strategy. His three-ball is still missing (0.6 3PG), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Trading FG% impact for more threes is almost always bad for a player’s value (see 2017-2018’s Blake Griffin).
Giannis dominates the big man categories (52.9 FG%, 10.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG) and is one of the league’s better thieves (1.5 SPG). If you’re punting FT% with Giannis you will need to make finding assists later in the draft a priority. Most of the punt assists big men contribute next to nothing in the assists category and Giannis is only a good, not great, source of dimes (4.8 APG). You’ll still need three or four point guards on your punt FT% roster to offset the punt FT% big man targets’ lack of assists.
3) Kevin Durant (SF/PF) – Durant is the first-round’s most injury-prone player and next to Kawhi Leonard, its riskiest pick. The Warrior has played in more than 70 games only once over the past four seasons. He will also be a risk to sit out during the fantasy playoffs if the Warriors manage to separate themselves from the rest of the West. However, Durant’s upside is immense and like Curry, he’s a real threat to finish as the top player in nine-category leagues. He was fantasy’s most valuable player on a per game basis in nine-category leagues in his first year with the Warriors and finished third in his second. He is another excellent building block for the punt assists build. Punt assists is the one punting strategy where being elite in both percentages categories is a realistic goal and that is because the build usually starts with players like Durant. The swingman has always dominated both percentages categories (51.6 FG%, 88.9 FT%). He is also a top-end scoring threat (26.4 PPG) and brings a combination of threes and blocks that can win leagues (2.5 3PG, 1.8 BPG). If you select Durant in the first-round, steals will need to be a focus later in your draft. No likely first-round pick averaged less swipes than Durant last season (0.7 SPG).
4) Nikola Jokic (PF/C) – Jokic was a first-round player last year, is only 23, and was a top-three player in nine-category leagues over the last two months of the 2017-2018 season. If you’re not on the Jokic train yet, get on before you have to go back, delete some tweets, and pretend like you were sold from the start. I bring up his ranking over the last two months of the season, not only because it is so impressive, but because he spent most of those two months playing beside Paul Millsap. There were some questions last season regarding whether the two would mesh and if Millsap’s presence would prevent Jokic from realizing his potential. Jokic’s extremely hot finish to the season puts those fears to rest. Over those last two months, the center averaged a jaw-dropping 22.1 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 11.2 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 1.0 BPG while shooting an excellent 53.5% from the floor and 85.5% from the line. He is a natural fit for both the punt blocks and punt points builds.
5) LeBron James (SF/PF) – The Lakers were an ideal landing spot for James. Houston would have been a disaster and Philly would have been less than ideal for the same reason. If James went to either team, they would have immediately become dominant and we’d be looking at rest days throughout the season and during the fantasy playoffs. He won’t be able to take nights off now that he’ll be wearing a Lakers jersey. If James misses more than a handful of games, this Lakers squad could miss the playoffs. LeBron playing 82 games in back-to-back seasons is unlikely, but given his mediocre supporting cast and superhuman durability, at least 75 games from James seems likely. That makes LeBron one of the safest first-round picks. Expect elite production in points (27.5 PPG), rebounds (8.6 RPG), and FG% (54.2 FG%) and strong defensive numbers (1.4 SPG, 0.9 BPG). His dimes will be elite as well, but he may not match his 2017-2018 output (9.1 APG). The Lakers’ lack of shooting is well documented and many of the new additions need the ball to be effective. If LeBron is your first-round pick, punt FT% (73.1 FT%). His issues at the line and his ability to dominate the categories that punt FT% teams can struggle with make him an outstanding fit for the build.
6) Andre Drummond (PF/C) – It’s hard to shoot 60.5 percent from the line and maintain second-round value, but Drummond managed to do just that in 2017-2018. He pulled off that impressive feat by being one of the league’s best sources of defensive numbers (1.5 SPG, 1.6 BPG) and by being his usual dominant self on the boards (16.2 RPG). Drummond’s line didn’t change much after the arrival of Blake Griffin with one notable exception. Before Griffin arrived, Drummond was averaging a very healthy 3.9 APG. After Griffin joined the team, that number dropped to 1.7 APG. Expect his dimes to stay low in his first year under Dwane Casey. The Pistons will have Reggie Jackson back and Griffin will be the big man that the Pistons run their offense through. Drummond has improved at the line, but remains a punt FT%-only player. He was a top-10 asset to the build in 2017-2018.
7) Joel Embiid (PF/C) – Embiid is going to sneak into the first round of a lot of drafts and I think that is a mistake. Last season was considered a success for Embiid and for good reason. He averaged a very impressive 22.9 PPG, 1.0 3PG, 11.0 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. He also played in a career-best 63 games. However, we still don’t know if his body can hold up for over 70 games a season, and anything less than 70 games played for your first-round pick is devastating. He also still has some major holes in line. His impact on the percentages is fairly neutral (48.3 FG%, 76.9 FT%). This is an issue because you want your first-round pick to be dominant in at least one of the percentages categories. It is very hard to find percentages impact that is not accompanied by a major issue later in the draft, so stocking up on efficient players early in the draft is essential. Grabbing Embiid and his forgettable percentages in the first makes it unlikely that your team will be better than average from the floor and at the line. His monster usage rate (33.7 USG%) also makes him the most turnover-prone big man (3.7 TOPG) not currently nursing a torn Achilles. If you want to roll the dice on Embiid, do it in the second round and try to pair him with a safe guard like Damian Lillard. Embiid’s mediocre FG% and dominant big man numbers make him an ideal fit for the punt FG% build.
8) Kevin Love (PF/C) – If Love can stay healthy, he’s likely in for a very big year. Last season, without LeBron on the floor, Love sported a usage rate of 30.4 percent. That was well above the 24.8 percent usage rate that he had when playing alongside The King. Love’s minutes are also likely to increase. With LeBron on the roster, and the Cavaliers in cruise control until playoffs, there was no need to play Love major minutes last season. That won’t be the case this season with the Cavaliers currently looking like a borderline playoff team. Expect Love’s minutes (28.0 MPG) to creep back into the lower-30s. More minutes and more usage makes a 20 and 12 season very possible. We should also see Love’s assists increase. With LeBron on the floor, Love had an 9.8 assist percentage last season. Without James on floor, that assist percentage increased to 12.1 percent. Love is an excellent fit for the punt FG% (45.8 FG%) and punt blocks (0.4 BPG) builds.
9) Draymond Green (PF/C) – Draymond is another strong second-round pick for those who like their second-round picks to have a very high floor. It’s not as rare of a combination as it used it be, but Green is a member of the one three (1.1 3PG), one steal (1.3 SPG), and one block (1.3 BPG) club. He is also a better source of dimes than most point guards (7.3 APG) and makes a respectable impact on the boards (7.6 RPG). His percentages are mediocre (45.4 FG%, 77.5 FT%), but that’s not a major issue due to the low volume that accompanies those so-so percentages (8.8 FGA, 2.5 FTA). Green is a great fit for the punt points build and the punt points and FT% strategy.
10) Otto Porter (SF/PF) – The third round is filled with quality wings and who to chose should come down to what build you are attempting. Porter is an outstanding fit for both the punt assists build (2.0 APG) and punt points build (14.7 PPG). The Wizard posted first-round value without assists in 2016-2017 and was a second-round player without dimes last season. He also cracked the first round in punt points in 2016-2017 and was a top-15 player in that build in 2017-2018. Porter has managed these impressive finishes by producing one of fantasy’s cleanest lines. He is efficient from the floor (50.3 FG%) and at the line (82.8 FT%). He is also a strong source of defensive numbers (1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG) and is effective from three (1.8 3PG) and on the boards (6.4 RPG). Porter loses about a round of value in eight-category leagues due to his exceptionally low turnover rate (1.0 TOPG) being ignored.
11) Robert Covington (SF/PF) – The Lord is finally getting the respect he deserves. Covington is the player I received the most push back on last season, but it seems like the fantasy community is finally on board. The Sixer is one of the best defenders in the league and his defensive prowess has allowed him to become an early-round asset. Only a handful of players do more in the defensive categories (1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG). Covington is also a huge help from deep (2.5 3PG) and does a respectable job on the boards (5.4 RPG). His FG% (41.3 FG%) is less than ideal, but his low shot attempts (10.5 FGA) blunt the impact of his poor shooting. Covington fits into any build and is an especially potent weapon in punt assists (2.0 APG). The swingman has been a top-25 asset without assists the past two seasons.
12) LaMarcus Aldridge (PF/C) – Aldridge took full advantage of Kawhi Leonard’s absence and finished as a top-20 player in nine-category leagues in 2017-2018. The 33-year-old still has something left in the tank, but don’t expect a repeat of last year’s impressive production. Last season, Aldridge had a usage rate of 29.0 percent. That was a significant increase from his 2016-2017 24.7 percent usage rate. The Spurs’ acquisition of DeMar DeRozan makes a repeat of last year’s usage unlikely so expect numbers closer to Aldridge’s 2016-2017 averages. During that season, Aldridge averaged 17.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.2 BPG.
13) Tobias Harris (SF/PF) – Harris has provided mid-round value to fantasy owners for years and looks ready to take the next step and ascend into the early rounds. After being traded to the Clippers, Harris posted top-30 numbers and provided, at least, league-average production in all nine categories. His production in the points (19.3 PPG), threes (2.2 3PG), and rebounding (6.0 RPG) categories was especially noteworthy. Like Klay Thompson, Harris isn’t a league-winning pick, but he is a good bet to return value if placed in the punt assists build.
14) Myles Turner (PF/C) – Turner didn’t live up to his third-round draft price last season, but the Pacer still managed to post top-55 numbers in nine-category leagues. That kind of floor makes this still only 22-year-old a great bet in the middle rounds. Turner is entering a contract year and has a very fantasy-friendly game. He is one of the few players who can provide elite blocks (1.8 BPG) without hurting you at the line (77.7 FT%). He’s also expanded his game beyond the three-point arc (0.9 3PG) and rarely turns the ball over (1.5 TOPG). Turner is one of the primary mid-round targets for the punt FG% build due to his elite blocks and middling FG% (47.9 FG%).
15) Nikola Vucevic (PF/C) – Vucevic is an extremely consistent fantasy asset and would be ranked about ten spots higher if it wasn’t for the uncertainty surrounding his role with the Magic. Mo Bamba makes the veteran expendable and it would be a surprise if Vucevic finished the season in a Magic jersey. A trade would likely hurt Vucevic’s value as it is unlikely that he’d be the second-option on his new team. For now, he is just that for Magic and his large role allows him to post big scoring (16.5 PPG) and rebounding (9.2 RPG) numbers. Vucevic is an excellent mid-round pick for those punting FG%. He doesn’t depend on FG% to boost his value (47.5 FG%) and his boards and blocks (1.1 BPG) help shore up the build’s biggest weaknesses. Vucevic’s FT% is very hard to project. The big man shot a stellar 81.9 percent from the line last season, but only managed to hit 66.9 percent of his attempts during the 2016-2017 season.
16) Nikola Mirotic (SF/PF) – Mirotic has an extremely fantasy-friendly game and has finally landed in a spot where he’s guaranteed to see enough minutes to be a consistent, high-end fantasy option. After the move to the Pelicans, Mirotic was a top-45 option in nine-category leagues and produced on both ends of the court. In New Orleans, he averaged a very healthy 14.6 PPG, 2.2 3PG, 8.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.9 BPG. Mirotic managed those impressive numbers in only 29.1 MPG so the Pelicans’ acquisition of Julius Randle should not have a major impact on his value.
17) Blake Griffin (PF/C) – Griffin’s game, and stat line, changed last season, but he remains a very good fit for the punt FT% build. Out-of-position assists are essential to the build’s success and few big men have ever provided more than Griffin (5.8 APG). His newfound three-ball (1.9 3PG) is also a huge help for a build that usually struggles to win threes consistently. Unfortunately, his extended range is a double-edged sword. His three-ball has driven down his once very solid FG% (43.8 FG%). If you plan on targeting Griffin in the middle rounds, try to pair him with an elite FG% anchor like Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan. Winning FG% consistently when punting FT% is more difficult than it seems due to the build’s reliance on point guards. Filling a big man spot with a low-FG% big like Griffin puts the category at risk. Grabbing Griffin will also force you to play catch-up in the defensive categories (0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG).
18) John Collins (PF/C) – Collins is going to be a hot commodity on draft day so be prepared to pay up. I expect him to sneak into the fifth round in most drafts and I also expect him to provide solid value at that spot. The Hawks are extremely thin up front and that makes it likely that Collins will see minutes in the thirties in his sophomore campaign. That kind of run for a player like Collins usually results in big things. In his rookie year, in only 24.1 MPG, Collins was a top-100 player and managed to average 7.3 RPG and 1.1 BPG. Expect big rebounding and blocks numbers and top-end FG% impact (57.6 FG%).
19) Lauri Markkanen (PF) – Markkanen looks like a future star and is already a major contributor on the offensive end. He is one of the league’s most effective stretch bigs (2.1 3PG) and could average close to 20 a night sooner rather than later (15.2 PPG). The Bull also does a good job on the boards (7.5 RPG) and makes the most of his trips to line (84.3 FT%). Markkanen’s long-range game will keep his FG% relatively low (43.4 FG%), but we should see some improvement in that area during his second season in the association. The Bulls didn’t have many credible offensive threats on their roster last season and the sophomore should receive less defensive attention now that Jabari Parker is on the roster and Zach LaVine is fully healthy.
20) Jarrett Allen (PF/C) – Don’t expect to be able to draft Allen at his current eighth-round price if your draft is closer to the start of the season. Allen is going to be a very popular breakout candidate and for good reason. The Nets’ center was only 19-years-old in his rookie year yet still managed to post top-100 numbers after the All-Star break. After the break, he averaged a whopping 2.1 BPG and hit an incredible 59.8 percent of shot attempts. Allen’s success at the free-throw line makes him even more enticing (77.6 FT%) as it is very difficult to find elite blocks that aren’t accompanied by poor free-throw shooting, especially in the middle rounds. His rebounding is currently only adequate (9.7 RP36) but should improve as he gets stronger. Allen has some major holes in his line that likely won’t go away this season. Managers targeting the big man will have to keep an eye on their points (14.7 PP36), assists (1.2 AP36), and steals (0.7 SP36). Allen’s contributions in those categories are very low, even for a center.
21) Aaron Gordon (SF/PF) – Gordon is one fantasy’s biggest question marks. The Magic’s second-leading scorer started off the year on fire and posted early-round value until the middle of December. He then proceeded to fall off a cliff. Gordon was barely a top-150 player over the last three months of season and his useful counting stats were more than cancelled out by his horrendous efficiency. Over those final three months of the season, Gordon averaged 15.9 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 7.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.8 BPG, but only shot 38.8 percent from the floor and 63.1 percent from the line. Because of Gordon’s downside in the percentages categories, he is best deployed in the punt FG% build. Punt FG% cancels out any poor shooting and punt FG% teams are usually filled with strong free-throw shooters who can offset any struggles at the line.
22) Jason Tatum (SF/PF) – The Celtics are extremely deep and that makes all of their players extremely hard to project. Gordon Hayward had a usage rate of 27.6 percent in his final year in Utah and his return could cause a drop in touches for Tatum. The second-year stud should improve on his solid rookie year numbers (13.9 PPG, 1.3 3PG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG), but it’s unlikely that he truly breakouts unless Hayward or Kyrie Irving miss significant time. His name, and big playoff run, are going to lead to him being drafted too early in most drafts. His current ADP sits in the fourth-round, but smart owners should pass on Tatum at that price and grab players with similar upside and clearer roles. Tatum was only a top-100 player over the last three months of his rookie season.
23) Al Horford (PF/C) – Horford was, arguably, the Celtics’ best player last season, but when it comes to fantasy, his best days are behind him. The big man was only a top-45 player last year and his production waned as the year went on. Over the last two months of the season, Horford was only a top-80 fantasy asset thanks to some major struggles shooting the ball. During that stretch, he shot 43.5 percent from the field and only managed 12.0 PPG and 1.1 3PG. Gordon Hayward’s return, and Jayson Tatum’s development, could drop Horford’s scoring numbers even further. He is now an obvious fit for the punt points build and should continue to be a useful source of out-of-position assists (4.7 APG), rebounds (7.4 RPG), and blocks (1.1 BPG).
24) Dwight Howard (PF/C) – Howard isn’t the player he used to be, but he can still produce top-40 numbers in the punt FT% build. Last season, he managed that feat by averaging 16.6 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 1.6 BPG while shooting 55.5 percent from the floor. The newest Wizard is a great mid-round option for those looking to punt FT% but who want to go guard-heavy in the early rounds. John Wall should help Howard maintain his stellar scoring and efficiency numbers and could help bring down Howard’s high turnover rate (2.6 TOPG). Do not bother trying to offset Dwight’s awful free-throw shooting (57.4 FT% on 7.2 FTA). It is not possible. He’s also not an option, even in the later rounds, for those playing in Roto leagues.
25) Paul Millsap (PF/C) – Like his former partner in crime, Al Horford, Millsap has seen better days. A wrist injury cost Millsap most of his first season with Nuggets and the former All-Star was never able to really get it going. Millsap only managed to post top-80 numbers last season and saw his averages drop almost across the board. He should be more comfortable playing beside Nikola Jokic this season, but that increased comfort level may be offset by Millsap’s advanced age. Expect close to a three (1.0 3PG), steal (1.0 SPG), and block (1.2 BPG) each night. It’s fair to expect a bounce back at the line. Last season, Millsap only hit 69.6 percent of his free-throw attempts. Before last year’s disappointing season, the power forward had hit at least 73 percent of his attempts seven seasons in a row.