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) Kawhi Leonard (SG/SF) – Kawhi is this year’s riskiest early pick for obvious reasons, but his upside is so immense that he should still be taken in the first round. Leonard was a top-four player in nine-category leagues in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 and could easily land there again if he can stay healthy. In 2016-2017, he provided above-average production in every category except turnovers. His role with the Raptors should be similar to what it was with the Spurs. Leonard is a high-usage player (31.1 USG% in 2016-2017), but that shouldn’t be a problem as he is replacing a player with a similar usage rate. In addition, his new number two, Kyle Lowry, is one of the league’s best shooters and an elite off-ball player. Those drafting Leonard should hope that the Celtics’ injury-prone studs stay healthy. Kawhi is a massive upgrade for a 59-win team that had an SRS of 7.29 last season. If the Celtics’ big guns can’t stay healthy, the Raptors may not have much to play for down the stretch.

4) 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.

5) Paul George (SG/SF) – George did what Oladipo couldn’t do and thrived in his first year beside Westbrook and his absurd usage rate. His numbers on the offensive end did drop, but his overall value was similar to what it was in Indiana. He managed this by adjusting his shot mix and doing more on the defensive end. He took 45 percent of his shots from three in his first year in Oklahoma City after only taking 37 percent of his shots from deep in his final year in Indiana. That jump allowed him to average an elite 3.1 3PG. He also increased his steals from 1.6 SPG in 2016-2017 to 2.0 SPG in 2017-2018. The Thunder’s offseason was a mixed bag for George. His usage rate was lower when sharing the floor with Carmelo Anthony, but it’s hard to get too excited about Anthony being moved given that Dennis Schroder is joining the Thunder. Schroder had a usage rate north of 30 percent last season and was a very high-usage player even when the Hawks still had all of their stars. George is best paired with punt FG% build (43.0%) and the punt assists build (3.3 APG).

6) Jimmy Butler (SG/SF) – Jimmy is another player who will outplay his draft position if he can find a way to stay on the court. Butler has been a top-15 per game player four seasons in a row and has produced first-round value three times over that stretch. Unfortunately, he’s only averaged 67 games played over the past four years. Jimmy produces a very clean line with his best contributions coming in the steals department (2.0 SPG) and at the line (85.4 FT% on 7.2 FTA). Butler is also one of the league’s least turnover-prone wings. Despite having a usage rate of 25.0 percent and averaging 4.9 APG, Butler only turned the ball over 1.8 times per game in 2017-2018. Butler is one of the main targets for the punt threes build (1.2 3PG).

7) 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.

8) Khris Middleton (SG/SF) – Middleton is outstanding option around the second-round turn and the best of the many wings that will find themselves being drafted in the third-round. The Buck comes with both a high floor and a high ceiling. He’s been a top-30 player in each of his last two healthy seasons and was a top-15 option over the final two months of the 2017-2018 campaign. Middleton is a player with no major flaws in his line. Last season, he averaged 20.1 PPG, 1.8 3PG, 5.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG. He also had a neutral impact on FG% (46.6 FG%) and was, very quietly, one of the better sources of FT% impact (88.4 FT% on 4.4 FTA). His versatility makes him a strong fit for every build except the punt FT% build and he is a legitimate second-round pick in Roto leagues.

9) 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.

10) 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.

11) 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%).

12) Klay Thompson (SG/SF) – Klay is a boring third-round pick, but boring is not necessarily a bad thing, especially during the early rounds. He’s the type of the player who won’t win you your league, but he won’t lose it either. Thompson has a been a top-40 player in each of his two seasons playing beside Kevin Durant and is one of the better sources of percentages impact from the wing position (48.8 FG%, 83.7 FT%). He’ll also keep you competitive in points (20.0 PPG) and will be a top-five source of threes (3.1 3PG). Thompson is an excellent fit for punt assists teams (2.5 APG), especially those that made the defensive categories a priority during the first two or three rounds (0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG).

13) Gary Harris (SG/SF) – Harris was one of last season’s breakout fantasy stars and the 24-year-old should be able to match last season’s third-round finish. The Nugget is one of the few wing options usually available after the early rounds that can help you win points (17.5 PPG) and threes (2.3 3PG) while boosting your FG% (48.5 FG%). His strong percentages (82.7 FT%) and relatively low assists (2.9 APG) make him an excellent fit for the punt assists build. In addition to his stellar scoring and efficiency numbers, Harris is a good bet to rank among the league leaders in SPG (1.8 SPG).

14) Bradley Beal (SG) – Beal has managed to stay healthy two seasons in a row and looks to be over the stress reaction issues that plagued him during the early part of his career. The swingman has only missed a total of five games over the past two seasons despite ranking among the league leaders in minutes played. Beal’s best contributions come in the scoring categories (22.6 PPG, 2.4 3PG) and he manages those flashy scoring numbers without dragging down his owners’ FG% (46.0 FG%). He is also one of the better sources of assists (4.5 APG) at the shooting guard position. Beal’s ceiling is held by back by his average production on the defensive end. The Wizard has never averaged more than 1.2 SPG and has not averaged more than 0.4 BPG since his rookie year.

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) DeMar DeRozan (SG/SF) – DeRozan is joining a Spurs team desperate for offense and his role with the Spurs should be similar to what it was with the Raptors. Expect DeRozan to have a usage rate around 30 percent in his first year in San Antonio. That should be enough usage to allow him to match his 2017-2018 scoring (23.0 PPG) and assists (5.2 APG) numbers. As always, DeRozan is one of the best fits for the punt threes build (1.1 3PG) because scoring and FT% impact (82.5 FT% on 7.0 FTA) are hard to come by when punting threes. The former Raptor offers little on the defensive end (1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG), but few high-usage players take as good care of the ball as DeRozan does (2.2 TOPG).

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) Gordon Hayward (SG/SF) – Hayward is an exceptionally difficult player to project and not one that I would feel comfortable drafting before the fifth round. It’s very possible that last year’s devastating injury causes him to lose a step and there’s much safer options available in the fourth round that come with similar upside. There’s also the question of how Kyrie Irving, Hayward, and Jason Tatum will fit together. Both Irving and Hayward are very high-usage players and Tatum will demand more touches in sophomore year than he did as a rookie. If healthy, Hayward should score in the high teens and hit close to two threes per night. He will also likely be a big help to owners at the line. In his final season in Utah, Hayward got the line 5.9 times per night and hit 84.4 percent of his attempts. His FG% is more difficult to predict. Hayward is a career 44.4 percent shooter from the floor, but managed to knock down 47.1 percent of his attempts in his last healthy season.

21) Joe Ingles (SG/SF) – Ingles is one of the best shooters in the league (2.5 3PG) and is a better creator than most point guards. The Australian usually runs the point when Ricky Rubio is on the bench and that allows him to be an excellent source of dimes (4.8 APG). His low turnover rate (1.9 TOPG) makes those assists numbers even more impressive. Ingles’ threes and assists make him a great fit for any build and he’s shown that he can produce early-round for extended stretches of the season. Ingles was a top-35 player over the last two months of the 2017-2018 campaign and averaged 13.6 PPG, 2.6 3PG, 4.5 RPG, 6.2 APG, and 1.2 SPG over that span.

22) Will Barton (SG/SF) – Barton signed a big extension this summer and will return as the Nuggets’ starting small forward, a role that allowed him to post top-50 numbers in nine-category leagues last season. He may not have much competition for playing time. Michael Porter Jr. status for opening night is up in the air and Torrey Craig is not a threat to Barton’s minutes. The swingman is a very good scorer (15.7 PPG) who can hit from deep (1.9 3PG) and function as a secondary creator (4.1 APG). Barton is also a sneaky source of out-of-position blocks (0.6 BPG) and does a respectable job on the boards (5.0 RPG).

23) Kyle Anderson (SG/SF) – If you are punting points, and you end your draft without Kyle Anderson on your squad, you have failed. Anderson is a must-grab for those running with the punt points build and given his current late-round price, he should be fairly easy to obtain. Reach for him if you have to. He will be worth it. In his final season with the Spurs, in only 26.7 MPG, Anderson was a top-40 player when points were ignored. He will have a much bigger role with the Grizzlies and could post top-25 numbers without points this season. Anderson won’t score (10.6 PP36) or hit threes (0.3 3P36), but he will do just about everything else. He is a strong rebounder (7.2 RP36), decent passer (3.7 AP36) and a difference maker on the defensive end (2.1 SP36, 1.1 BP36). The Grizzlies are thin on the wing and see Anderson as a long-term piece so expect more than 30 MPG for the 25-year-old. His increased playing time and excellent per minute numbers make the versatile swingman one of this year’s best sleepers and a great pick regardless of your punting strategy.

24) 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).

25) Buddy Hield (SG) – The Kings weren’t at the top of too many fans’ League Pass must-watch lists so its understandable if you’re a little confused by this ranking. Hield very quietly posted some very impressive numbers during his second season in the league. The shooting guard was a top-50 player over the last two months of the season and averaged 15.3 PPG, 2.4 3PG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.3 SPG in only 27.9 MPG during that stretch. He was even better during the final month of season. During that last month, he produced 17.1 PPG and 2.8 3PG and shot 49.3 percent from the floor. Hield is not a lock to start for the Kings, but where he begins the game shouldn’t matter. He did his damage off the bench last season and could see close to 30 MPG if he continues to develop.

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