Click here for Part 1 of our look at Deep-League First & Second-round pairings.
Kyrie Irving (Pick 8-12)
Kyrie Irving/Deandre Ayton: This is a start that keeps you viable in all of the counting stats and puts you in an outstanding spot in the percentages and turnovers. Kyrie is elite for a guard from the field and a top-end source of FT% impact. Ayton will likely be the best source of FG% impact this year out of the players that don’t kill your chances at the line. Add a couple of wings and a big who blocks shots by the end of round five and you are in business.
Kyrie Irving/Nikola Vucevic: I’m fine with pairing either Ayton or Vucevic with Kyrie in standard leagues and at least one the bigs should be there in deeper leagues. This works similarly to the Ayton pairing, except Vucevic offers his owners more threes, better FT%, and less FG% impact.
Other strong options: Jimmy Butler (a fragile pairing, but a solid FG% start for a guard-guard pairing and elite in steals and FT%), Pascal Siakam (extremely well-balanced start, strong percentages, blocks the only major issue), Zion Williamson (this pairing has no major holes, Kyrie can mostly offset Zion at the line, the question marks surrounding Zion’s durability make this a risky pairing), Devin Booker (both guards are excellent from the field, fragile pairing that has a lot of upside if you can get Myles Turner or Mitchell Robinson in 3, huge FT% impact would make Clint Capela viable in 3 as well), John Collins (rough steals and blocks start but great percentages, turnovers, and about average points, threes, and boards), Paul George (huge upside on a per-game basis, huge downside on a games-played basis)
Kyrie Irving/Deandre Ayton or Nikola Vucevic: These pairings work for the same reason that they do in punt assists, except here you have to focus on dimes in the next few rounds instead of blocks. Assists are more of a problem if you start with Ayton than Vucevic.
Kyrie Irving/John Collins: Collins works better than Pascal Siakam here because he does more on the boards and in the FG% column. Those two categories are this build’s two most problematic areas and Collins should be elite in both. This is a weak start in assists and forces you to play catch-up in steals.
Other strong options: Pascal Siakam (numbers aren’t as good in the key categories but will come with more steals and dimes than Collins), Jimmy Butler (good FG% for a guard-guard start and Buckets is a great rebounder for a two, a fragile pairing), Jrue Holiday (an extremely strong FG% start for a guard-guard pairing, no notable issues here outside of durability), Kemba Walker (a tough FG% start but strong everywhere else, Walker’s durability helps offset Kyrie’s injury risk), Devin Booker (both guards are excellent from the field, fragile pairing that has a lot of upside)
Joel Embiid (8-16)
Joel Embiid/Trae Young: This is an extremely strong start for those playing in 8-category leagues and those who are comfortable punting both FG% and turnovers. This pairing’s only weakness in the double-punt is steals, which is not a major concern as swipes can be found throughout the draft. This is an extremely strong start in points, assists, and FT%.
Joel Embiid/Luka Doncic: This is another very strong double-punt pairing. Luka brings more threes, boards, and steals than Trae at the cost of your FT%. The Maverick should be better from the line this year (71.3 FT%) but is still likely to be a drag on the category. Dallas’ strong playoff schedule makes Doncic an especially attractive partner for Embiid. The Sixer is likely to sit a couple of games during the fantasy playoffs, so you need to make sure that your other early-round picks have strong playoff schedules.
Other strong options: Nikola Vucevic (both bigs are strong passers and free throw shooters and do not have much value tied up in FG%), Kemba Walker (won’t be there in all deeper leagues, but a no-brainer start if it is available, Kemba’s line complements Embiid’s and the point guard is extremely durable), Jimmy Butler (a fragile pairing, but Butler offsets Embiid’s weak steal rate and you won’t have to punt turnovers), Devin Booker (similar to the Young start but with a lot more injury risk), Jrue Holiday (not a safe pairing, but a well-balanced start, no major weaknesses coming out of R2)
Joel Embiid/Deandre Ayton: This is a rough start in threes and steals, but it is one of the best ways to make an Embiid team competitive in turnovers. Ayton’s elite FG% impact makes it easy to chase low-FG% guards who put up big threes and steals numbers later. This is obviously a dominant start in rebounds, blocks, and FG% and it is also a better-than-average points duo.
Joel Embiid/Pascal Siakam: Siakam is a great alternative if Ayton and Nikola Vucevic are off the board. Siakam will produce a well-rounded line that is lacking blocks. Embiid more than offsets the Raptor’s lack of swats, and this pairing leaves the second round in a great spot in points, rebounds, blocks, and FG%. This pairing’s only major weakness is its lack of steals.
Other strong options: Nikola Vucevic (not always there, but a great punt assists partner for all of the first-round picks), Jimmy Butler (a high-ceiling per-game pairing that will take years off of your life, threes are the only issue), John Collins (brutal steals start, bad threes start but not a disaster, great big-man numbers, solid at the line and in turnovers), Devin Booker (one of the few punt assists pairings that could cause trouble in turnovers, terrible in steals, outstanding in the scoring categories and FT%), Donovan Mitchell (extremely balanced start, FG% a little low but it can be brought back, Mitchell’s durability a nice match for Embiid)
Bradley Beal (8-12)
Bradley Beal/Rudy Gobert or Andre Drummond: This is an obvious setup that allows you to be dominant in the big-man categories while keeping your team alive in points. Threes are going to be an issue, but that is the case for all punt FT% teams. You will need to watch your steals if you pick Gobert, and your FG% and blocks if you select Drummond. I’d look at Steven Adams in the middle rounds if you go with Gobert and Hassan Whiteside in the middle rounds if you decide on Drummond.
Bradley Beal/Luka Doncic: Both Beal and Doncic are mediocre from the line, and this duo makes a strong finish in points and threes possible. If Gobert and Drummond are not on the board when your third pick comes around, go Clint Capela, and if he’s gone, grab Zion Williamson or Mitchell Robinson.
Other strong options: Russell Westbrook (this start could lead to FG% and TOs problems but is durable and an excellent start in the guard categories), Clint Capela (much better in three, but fine in two in 18-team leagues), Deandre Ayton (Ayton will be early-round in punt FT% and will score more than the punt FT%-only bigs), Jrue Holiday (Jrue doesn’t bring the threes you need, but very good everywhere else when FT% ignored), Kemba Walker (huge points and threes start, FG% an issue, great TOs for a guard-guard pairing)
Bradley Beal/Deandre Ayton or Nikola Vucevic: The two obvious punt assists second-round bigs work extremely well with Beal. The Beal/Ayton pairing doesn’t have any major issues. Threes are slightly low, but that is an easy category to find later. Everything else is about average or better. The same goes for the Beal/Vucevic pairing. It is about average or better in all eight categories but leaves less room for error in FG%.
Bradley Beal/Paul George: George is going to fall in a lot of drafts and this option will be there a surprising amount of the time. Any George team will need to watch FG%, and you will also need to get a shot blocker on the roster asap. This is a monster start in points, threes, steals, and FT%.
Other strong options: Jimmy Butler (exceptionally strong start in steals, FT%, and TOs, average in points and threes), Pascal Siakam (a very clean start with no issues outside of blocks, very nice percentages, points, threes, and TOs), John Collins (very balanced, only problem is steals), Kawhi Leonard (long-shot to fall, but monster per-game start if he does, tons of late-season risk with Beal a shutdown risk due to the Wizards’ “talent”)
Andre Drummond (8-18)
Andre Drummond/Kemba Walker: This is an absurdly durable partnership. Drummond and Walker have combined to miss a total of only 15 games over the past four years. This duo makes a ton of sense from a per-game standpoint as well. Kemba’s elite threes help keep the squad competitive in triples and it’s a solid start in the build’s other problematic category (points). You will need to hunt FG% in the middle rounds if this is your start. Walker is always a drag on the category, and Drummond is only a good, but not great, source of FG% impact.
Andre Drummond/Jrue Holiday: Holiday doesn’t save your threes like Kemba does, and managers rolling will this pairing will want to avoid taking more than one more 0.0-ish big man. It’s very hard to take more than 2-to-3 major hits in the category these days. This is an exceptionally strong start in rebounds, blocks, and FG% as Holiday is above-average for a point guard in all three categories. This pairing also allows you to stop worrying about steals. Both players produce elite swipes numbers.
Other strong options: Trae Young (lose a lot of value and makes FG% tough, but addresses the build’s issues with points, threes, and dimes), Luka Doncic (huge help in points, threes, and assists, a less than ideal start in FG% and TOs), Russell Westbrook (Westbrook’s low FG% makes him a better match with Gobert, but can work here with smart mid-round picks, ridiculous boards and steals start, would prioritize Young and Doncic due to their superior points and threes), Kyrie Irving (could fall due to his face issue, outstanding match if he does due to his high points, threes, and excellent FG%)