Click here for Part 1 of our look at First & Second-round pairings. This is not the end of our pairing coverage! I will be putting out some content that takes us deeper into drafts after we have selected our first two players and will be looking at some pairing options for those playing in deeper leagues.

 

Damian Lillard (Pick 6-7)

Punt FG%:

Damian Lillard/Nikola Vucevic

Above average in FT%, Turnovers

Average in Points, Threes, Rebounds, Assists

Below average in Steals, Blocks

  • Lillard is a mediocre source of steals for an early-round guard (1.1 SPG), so you will want to pair him with big men who can provide you with strong out-of-position numbers in the category. Vucevic does just that (1.0 SPG) and puts you in a solid spot in rebounds (12.0 RPG) coming out of the second round. This is a monster free throw percentage start which will make it easier to chase blocks in the middle rounds.

 

Damian Lillard/Joel Embiid

Above average in Points, Threes, Rebounds, Blocks, FT%

Average in Assists

Below average in Steals, Turnovers

  • Pairing the two All-Stars is one of the best semi-realistic per-game starts for the punt FG% build. Per-game being the keyword of course. On nights when Embiid isn’t resting, this pairing will only have problems with steals and turnovers. Lillard has never been more than an average source of swipes (1.1 SPG), and Embiid doesn’t provide much out-of-position help (0.7 SPG). It’s not the worst category to fall behind in early. Steals can be found throughout the draft and it is a category that you can come back in late.

 

Other Strong Partners for Damian Lillard in Punt FG%: Jimmy Butler (fixes your problem with steals, makes you play catch-up in the big man categories, monster FT% start), Kemba Walker (puts you in a great spot in the non-steals guard categories, not a terrible turnovers start as both players are above-average in the category for early-round guards), Paul George (can make assists tricky since this pairing demands a big man in three and isn’t great in dimes, very strong in all of the other guard categories), Trae Young (better in the double-punt with turnovers, big points, threes, and assists start but both PGs are weak in steals and it’s an ugly start in blocks), Russell Westbrook (another double-punt pick, great rebounding start but Westbrook cancels out a lot of the good work Lillard does at the line)

 

Punt Assists:

Damian Lillard/Deandre Ayton

Above average in FG%, FT%, Turnovers

Average in Rebounds

Below average in Points, Threes, Steals, Blocks

  • Lillard works fine in the punt assists build even though he loses a decent amount of value (6.9 APG). He makes it easy to dominate free throw percentage (91.2 FT% on 6.4 FTA) and puts his owners in a great spot in points (25.8 PPG) and threes (3.0 3PG). Ayton is the perfect partner for Lillard in punt dimes because he offsets Lillard’s sizeable FG% hit and should finish among the league leaders in rebounds (10.3 RPG). You will need to find a top-end shot blocker in the middle rounds if this is your start. Ayton projects to only be a good, not great, rim protector this season (0.9 BPG).

 

Damian Lillard/Kawhi Leonard

Above average in Points, Threes, FT%, Turnovers

Average in Steals

Below average in Rebounds, Blocks, FG%

  • If you’re going to gamble on Kawhi in the second, make sure it is in the punt assists build (3.3 APG). Leonard is very efficient for a wing (49.6 FG%), and that efficiency makes him the best second-round wing partner for Lillard and his unfortunate field goal percentage (44.4 FG%). Leonard (1.9 SPG) also offsets Lillard’s middling steals output (1.1 SPG) and does more than most wings on the boards (7.3 RPG). Both Kawhi and Lillard are elite at the line and pairing the two together expands your mid-round big-man options.

 

Other Strong Partners for Damian Lillard in Punt Assists: Nikola Vucevic (doesn’t bring FG% back like Ayton does, but a balanced start overall), Paul George (FG% hole will be huge, but it’s not a death sentence in the category and all of the guard categories are in very good shape), Joel Embiid (will lead to issues with FG%, steals, and turnovers, great everywhere else), Bradley Beal (balanced start, Beal solid from the field and in blocks so less of a hit there than most guard/guard starts), Kyrie Irving (helps with steals and FG%, great points, threes, FT% start)

 

LeBron James (Pick 8-12)

Punt FT%:

LeBron James/Rudy Gobert

Above average in Rebounds, Blocks, FG%

Average in Assists, Turnovers

Below average in Points, Threes, Steals

  • This is the classic LeBron punt FT% start. Andre Drummond obviously works extremely well here too. Gobert puts his owners in a better spot in field goal percentage and blocks while Drummond helps LeBron-led teams more on the boards and in the steals column. You can’t go wrong with either, but check your league’s playoff setup before deciding on which big to take. Drummond’s playoff schedule is weak in some setups and Gobert’s is outstanding in some setups. If you go big in the second, you have to go small in three and four. LeBron is going to put up big numbers in this build’s problematic categories (27.4 PPG, 2.0 3PG, 8.3 APG) but any team punting free throw percentage is going to have problems in those areas if they do not go heavy on point guards early. Point guards (and assists) become an endangered species after the fifth round in most drafts.

 

LeBron James/Kemba Walker

Above average in Threes, Assists

Average in Points, FG%

Below average in Rebounds, Steals, Blocks, Turnovers

  • Going with a point guard in two can work extremely well in punt FT%, especially if you think you have a shot at Mitchell Robinson or Clint Capela in the third. Selecting Walker in the second round is one of the few ways that the punt FT% build can end up in a good spot in the category through two. Kemba has hit at least 2.9 3PG in each of his last three seasons. Walker’s assists (5.9 APG) should increase in Boston, and his weak field goal percentage numbers (43.4 FG%) could as well. Kyrie Irving had the most efficient stretch of his career in Boston. You should still end up in good shape in the category if Kemba’s shooting numbers do not improve. You’ll be rostering plenty of high field goal percentage players in this build and LeBron should be more efficient this year (51.0 FG%) with Anthony Davis around to draw defensive attention.

 

Other Strong Partners for LeBron James in Punt FT%: Andre Drummond, Kyrie Irving (Irving loses some value here but his points, threes, assists, and steals are a major help), Bradley Beal (same deal as Kyrie except he doesn’t lose any value), Jrue Holiday (monster assists start, weak in points and threes), Trae Young (not on the other PGs’ level due to turnovers and FG%, but should be an elite source of points, threes, and assists), Clint Capela (for deeper leagues, poor man’s Gobert), Mitchell Robinson (for deeper leagues, makes points tricky, possibly leads to a double-punt with points), Luka Doncic (for deeper leagues, do not take until 20+, big points and threes, tough turnovers and FG%),

 

Punt Blocks:

LeBron James/Kyrie Irving

Above average in Assists, FG%

Average in Points, Threes

Below average in Rebounds, Steals, FT%, Turnovers

  • Free throw percentage impact drys up after the early rounds, so if we’re going to slide LeBron into a build that isn’t punting free throw percentage, we have to target the category early and often. Irving was a top-20 source of free throw percentage impact last season (87.3 FT% on 3.7 FTA) and was even more dominant in the category in 2017-2018 and 2016-2017. This is a pretty balanced start outside of the issue with free throw percentage. All three of this pairing’s other weaknesses can be offset with smart mid-round picks.

 

LeBron James/Jimmy Butler

Above average in Assists, Steals, FG%

Average in Turnovers

Below average in Points, Threes, Rebounds, FT%

  • Butler should be an even better source of free throw percentage impact than Irving this season. The last time Buckets was his team’s first option, only eight players had a larger positive impact on the category. Jimmy also comes with an elite steals rate (1.9 SPG) and is a great option for those hoping to offset LeBron’s high turnover rate. In his lone full season in Minnesota, Butler only averaged 1.8 TOPG. Starting your draft with this pair will likely lead to problems with threes. LeBron is above-average from deep (2.0 3PG), but Jimmy has always struggled with the category (1.0 3PG). Fantasy players going with this pair will need to make sure that most of the bigs that they take in middle and later rounds hit from deep, at least occasionally.

 

Other Strong Partners for LeBron James in Punt Blocks: Kemba Walker (helps with the FT% and threes issues, FG% hit is harder to offset in punt blocks than in punt FT%), Bradley Beal (not a help in FT%, but excellent everywhere else), Nikola Vucevic (above-average from the line for a big, no big holes in his line), Jrue Holiday (could make your FT% issue worse, solid elsewhere), Trae Young (fixes threes and FT% issues at the expense of FG% and turnovers)

 

Kyrie Irving (Pick 8-12)

Punt Assists:

Kyrie Irving/Deandre Ayton

Above average in FG%, FT%, Turnovers

Average in Rebounds

Below average in Points, Threes, Steals, Blocks

  • We always want to aim to be above average in the percentages categories when punting assists and this start puts us on pace to achieve that goal. Kyrie is excellent both from the floor (48.7 FG%) and at the line (87.3 FT%). Ayton is elite from the field (58.5 FG%), and it looks like he’ll only be a minor drag on your free throw percentage (74.6 FT%) in his sophomore season. This start is also likely to lead to a dominating performance in the turnovers category and owners rolling with this pair will have to be on the lookout for turnovers overkill. If you just blindly follow the punt assists rankings you will likely end up too strong in turnovers and weaker than you need to be elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to take some high-turnover players in the middle rounds. The only category that this duo doesn’t produce at least acceptable numbers in is threes due to Ayton’s unwillingness to shoot them (0.0 3PG). If you draft Ayton, try not to draft more than one or two more 0.0-ish big men.

 

Kyrie Irving/Nikola Vucevic

Above average in FG%, FT%, Turnovers

Average in Rebounds

Below average in Points, Threes, Steals, Blocks

  • Vucevic works like Ayton does but gives you a three each night (1.1 3PG) and comes with less field goal percentage impact (51.8 FG%). Like Ayton (0.9 BPG), Vucevic is only a good, not great, shot blocker (1.1 BPG) who comes with a respectable steal rate for a big (1.0 SPG).

 

Other Strong Partners for Kyrie Irving in Punt Assists: Bradley Beal (may not be there, but a great start in the percentages and guard categories, both high-FG% guards), Jimmy Butler (fragile pairing, but both guys on mediocre teams who won’t be able to rest them), Paul George (nasty per-game pairing, high-risk/high-reward), Joel Embiid (even higher-risk/higher-reward), Kawhi Leonard (punt assists beast, will need to hope the low-LM talk is for real)

 

Punt Points: 

Kyrie Irving/Deandre Ayton

Above average in FG%, FT%, Turnovers

Average in Rebounds

Below average in Threes, Assists, Steals, Blocks

  • The second-round targets for Kyrie-led punt points team are similar to those for Kyrie-led punt assists teams. The third and fourth rounds are when things start to look different. When punting points, you will want to pick up at least one point guard in three or four if you go with Ayton in the second. The Suns’ sophomore center comes with a significant dimes hit (1.8 APG).

 

Kyrie Irving/Nikola Vucevic

Above average in FG%, FT%, Turnovers

Average in Rebounds

Below average in Threes, Assists, Steals, Blocks

  • Vucevic is a very good passer for a big man (3.8 APG), so you will not have to target assists as aggressively in the third and fourth rounds as you would with Ayton. Don’t wait too long to pick up some more dimes though. Quality point guards and assists cannot be found late. Once players like Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright come off the board in the seventh or eighth, it will be impossible to come back in the category.

 

Other Strong Partners for Kyrie Irving in Punt Points: Jrue Holiday (fragile pairing, very good start in all of the guard categories and in FG%, both players excellent from the field for guards), Bradley Beal (punt points needs threes and good percentages early and Beal brings both), Jimmy Butler (fragile pairing, huge start in FT% and steals, threes could be an issue since Jimmy rarely shoots them), Paul George (threes is the hardest category to be strong in when punting points and an Irving/George start is beyond elite in the category)

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