Deciding who to pair your first-round pick with will be one of the most important decisions that you make during your draft. Not every second-round pick fits well with every first-round pick, and a less than ideal pairing can get you into trouble. After the second round, you should have a pretty good idea of the punting build that you will be employing. You usually don’t have to fully commit to a build after the second round, but often, your second-round pick will take a strategy or two off of the table. Below are some first- and second-round pairings that complement each other well and may be available in leagues with 14-to-18 teams. I’ve broken them down by first-round pick and punting strategy. I’ve also included some comments on where you will stand after the second round in each category if you start with one of the below pairings. I did this so that you can have an idea of what categories you will need to focus on in the middle rounds.
Steph Curry (Pick 1-3)
Steph Curry/Mitchell Robinson: This is a very strong start in threes, blocks, FG%, FT%, and TOs, and an average start in steals. You have some work to do in points and rebounds, but neither category is in terrible shape.
Steph Curry/Donovan Mitchell: This pairing all but guarantees a strong points, threes, and steals team. There are plenty of quality bigs available in 3/4/5 so you can start guard-guard and still come back in the big-man categories.
Other strong options: John Collins/Pascal Siakam/Devin Booker if they fall, Jaren Jackson Jr (need to watch rebounds, but big blocks boosts and Steph being great in FG% for a high-volume guard will make taking on Jackson’s likely so-so FG% easier), Zion Williamson (will still be above average in FT% after taking Zion, very strong points and steals start, no major weaknesses)
Steph Curry/Clint Capela: This is the ideal deep-league punt FT% start. Above-average in everything but assists, steals, and blocks. Steals and blocks are about average.
Steph Curry/Draymond Green: The Warriors won’t be good enough to rest anyone, so I have no problem pairing the two stars. Draymond’s low points are much more manageable in deeper leagues. This is only a slightly below average start in points. FG% and blocks are low, but they are not major issues given who your later targets will be.
Other strong options: Zion Williamson (very balanced start, keeps your options open), Ben Simmons (may not fall far enough in some leagues, but great assists start in a build that struggles to find enough dimes, blocks and TOs could be a problem), De’Aaron Fox (great guard category starts, forces a big in 3, locks up steals and assists), Mitchell Robinson (locks up blocks and FG%, and as with Dray, Robinson’s low points hurt less here), Chris Paul (really weak in FG% and blocks so make sure that the top-end big is there in 3 before grabbing the point guard), Luka Doncic (likely won’t fall, but it’s a dream start if you can get him in 2 and Capela in 3)
Anthony Davis (Pick 1-3)
Anthony Davis/Donovan Mitchell: This start has no significant weaknesses. Mitchell will offset most of Davis’ FG% so keep an eye on that category going forward. This is an outstanding steals and points start and a sneaky good turnovers start.
Anthony Davis/D’Angelo Russell: On Yahoo, there’s not a lot of great punt assist guard options around 32-to-36 if Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell are gone. The biggest issue for Davis-led teams is threes and that could be Russell’s best category this year. Great points, steals, and blocks start. Russell at the end of 2 means you’re playing catch-up in FG%.
Other strong options: Devin Booker (Davis’ ideal partner, but a long-shot to fall, a fragile pairing), Jaren Jackson Jr. (both big men come with nice steal rates and FT%, Jackson should be close to average in threes this year, allows you to forget about blocks for the rest of the draft), Zion Williamson (huge hole in threes, FT% below average, awesome everywhere else)
Anthony Davis/Zion Williamson: This duo is weak in FT%, but it’s not an insurmountable deficit. Assists are a much bigger issue so make sure you go with PGs in two of the next three rounds. Lights-out start in rebounds, steals, blocks, FG%, TOs.
Anthony Davis/Chris Paul: This pairing is not for the faint of heart, but it is an extremely strong start in threes, steals, and FT% which are three of the categories that the punt threes build usually struggles with. Paul does a great job of taking care of the ball, so this is an especially attractive partnership in 9-cat.
Other strong options: Devin Booker (no brainer if he falls, FT% is the toughest category to find here and Booker is elite there, outstanding points start, a fragile pairing), Draymond Green (above-average in everything but points and FT%, FT% about average), De’Aaron Fox (doesn’t help your FT% problem, but solid everywhere else, elite steals pairing), Donovan Mitchell (loses some value but the points are massive and locks in steals, will still need to target dimes aggressively), John Collins (likely won’t fall but another easy pick if he does, Collins’ low D stats offset by Davis, Collins respectable at the line and helps with points), Jaren Jackson Jr. (brutal assists start, solid everywhere else, starting with two bigs who shoot a nice percentage at the line will usually lead to a strong FT% team)
James Harden (Pick 1-3)
James Harden/Donovan Mitchell: Doubles down on the build’s natural strengths, but you have to watch assists. Mitchell’s dime will be low with Conley in town and Harden’s are coming down.
James Harden/Jaren Jackson Jr.: Huge blocks start with Jackson likely elite there and Harden above-average for a guard. Puts threes and steals in a very good spot as Harden is elite in both and Jackson is above-average for a big in both.
James Harden/Draymond Green: An average start in points and blocks. Top-end start in threes, assists, steals, and FT%. Rebounds are low, but not a major issue. This pairing will likely lead to a double-punt with TOs.
Other strong options: Myles Turner (much more likely to be there on ESPN than Yahoo, similar to JJJ with less steals and points and more blocks and rebounds), Devin Booker (obvious double-punt start if he falls), De’Aaron Fox (both guards are decent shot blockers, puts assists and steals to bed, double-punt), Chris Paul (ridiculous start in threes, assists, steals, and FT%, may be able to bring back TOs), Trae Young (only possible on ESPN, good double-punt start, have to watch boards and especially blocks), Kristaps Pozingis (Harden’s durability makes this viable, huge points, threes, blocks, FT% start, average in steals, boards and assists could be a problem)
Karl-Anthony Towns (Pick 2-5)
Karl-Anthony Towns/Donovan Mitchell: Towns’ lone weakness is his so-so steal rate and Mitchell is well above average there. Towns offsets Mitchell’s weak shooting numbers. This will be an elite points start and one of the best three-point pairings that includes a big.
Karl-Anthony Towns/Zion Williamson: Zion is going to be one of the league’s best sources of out-of-position steals in his rookie year. It’s a weak threes start, but an absurd FG% start which will make it easy to chase low-efficiency three-point shooters later. FT% and points are in a solid spot. You will probably go 18-2 in blocks and rebounds if you come out of the second round with this pairing.
Other strong options: D’Angelo Russell (huge points and threes start, Russell’s steals should be up this year due to the extra minutes, very rough TOs start), Devin Booker (no-brainer if he falls, his TOs should come down a bit this year with Rubio in town), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Jackson has a nice steal rate for a big, allows you to forget about blocks), John Collins (steals are in big trouble, but solid everywhere else, very strong percentages start), Pascal Siakam (great percentages start, steals are weak)
Karl-Anthony Towns/Pascal Siakam: The punt points build struggles with percentages volatility so you need to find high-volume players, like Towns and Siakam, who excel in both categories early. This is a tough steals start, but acceptable for assists. Both players are strong passers for their position and you will be fine if you add a PG in round 3.
Karl-Anthony Towns/Draymond Green: Draymond is a drag on the percentages, but his low volume keeps this pairing above average in both categories going into the third. This is one of the few big-big starts that is above average in dimes. It is also a great blocks and rebounds start. Threes are a little low and are usually an issue for this build, so make sure that you make triples a focus in the next few rounds.
Karl-Anthony Towns/Chris Paul: Towns’ durability makes taking on Paul a little easier. Punt points teams usually struggle with triples and FT%, and this is an extremely strong start in both. Paul should be elite in steals again and this is one of the few Towns combos that can come out in decent shape in the category after two. This start doesn’t have any major weaknesses.
Other strong options: Mitchell Robinson (You will never lose FG% or blocks with this pair, need to go with guards for the next 3-4 rounds to bring back threes and steals), Myles Turner (extremely strong percentages start and locks in blocks and TOs, threes in decent shape, assists in huge trouble), Jaren Jackson Jr. (big percentages start and both bigs hit from deep, awful assists start), John Collins (another great percentages start, assists and especially steals are ugly)