*Updated for ESPN’s latest rankings
Punting points is for experts only. If you’re new to punting, keep on reading. It helps my ranking on Google. But don’t attempt this strategy on draft day. I’ve been playing fantasy basketball, punting, and spending an unhealthy amount of time thinking about fantasy basketball strategies for over a decade, and I still find this build extremely hard to pull off.
No punting build changes your draft board more than punting points does and it is not particularly close. Last season, Larry Nance Jr. was a top-35 player without points, and Devin Booker wasn’t even a top-100 player. Marcus Smart snuck into the top-50 when punts were ignored, and D’Angelo Russell barely cracked the top-100. Punt points’ ability to turn the draft board upside down gives it, arguably, the highest ceiling of any build. It is very possible to finish your draft with a handful of top-30 players while not owning a single player who finished outside of the top-100 in this build in 2018-2019. You can’t do that in punt assists. You can’t do that in punt FT%. And you definitely can’t do that in punt FG%.
While this build does have a very high ceiling, it also comes with a very low floor. It is extremely difficult to find enough threes in this build. Points and threes are strongly correlated. There are not many low-scoring players who excel from deep and provide useful numbers in the other seven categories. Because of this, we will need to target some high-scoring players who lose a lot of value in this build. It’s not ideal, but there’s no other way to find enough threes. It is even harder to be competitive in threes here than it is in punt FT%. To give you an idea of how difficult it can be to finish as average in the threes category (being clearly above-average takes a miracle), skip ahead to my sample teams. You’ll notice that I only took one or two 0.0-ish big men on each team, and I still barely managed to finish as competitive in the category.
Both percentages categories can be huge issues in this build. Punting points makes both of your percentage very volatile because the volume is lower. A poor shooting week from your first-round building block is going to hurt more here than it will in other builds. The lower volume and increased volatility that results from it means that we’re going to have to focus more on the percentages categories early in the draft, as that is where the best sources of percentages impact are usually found. You can find players later in the draft who are very good either from the field or the line, but usually, it is only one or the other, and often these players come with a major drawback or two.
This build can work with most of the first-round picks. The only no-doubter first-round player that I would not consider pairing the strategy with is James Harden. It’s not that Harden loses too much value here. The Rocket was the second most valuable player when points were ignored last season. I just don’t see the point. Punting FG% and/or Turnovers with him is a much, much easier strategy to pull off. Steph Curry will challenge Harden for the scoring title this year and makes more sense as a starting point for the build. Unlike Harden, Curry won’t put you in a huge hole in field goal percentage or turnovers. He also makes sense because he is the best solution to the build’s problems with threes. He will likely smash his previous record from deep (5.1 3PG) with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson out until the All-Star break. Curry will also make your free throw percentage less volatile. Curry went to the line 5.9 times per game in 2017-2018 and could average close to 7.0 FTA in what should be a historic offensive season.
The three first-round big men are excellent starting points for this build due to their high-efficiency, high-volume games. Karl-Anthony Towns works extremely well here because of his elite impact on both percentages categories. The young Wolf was only a top-30 source of field goal percentage impact last season (51.8 FG% on 17.1 FGA) but improved from the floor as the year went on and is usually much more productive in the category. In 2017-2018, only nine players had a greater impact on the category. We don’t have to go back to 2017-2018 for evidence of Towns dominating the free throw percentage category. Last season, the only true big men who had a larger positive impact on the category were Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen. Towns is also extremely durable and durable early-round picks hold even more value here than they do in other builds. If you’re missing one of your early-round players when punting points, your percentages are going to be absurdly volatile.
No player will be more valuable than Anthony Davis this season when points are ignored. He lapped the competition in this build in both 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 and finished second in the punt points rankings in 2016-2017 behind a version of Kevin Durant that we will never see again. Playing with LeBron James should make him a top-10 source of field goal percentage impact (51.7 FG% on 18.3 FGA) this year. LeBron tends to be a major boon for his big men’s field goal percentage. When JaVale McGee shared the court with LeBron last year, he hit 66.8 percent of his shots. When LeBron wasn’t on the court, McGee only connected on 57.7 percent of his attempts. James had a similar impact on Tristan Thompson in his final year in Cleveland. When LeBron was on the court, Thompson shot 57.7 percent from the field. When LeBron sat, he only hit 52.2 percent of his shots. Davis’ free throw percentage is a little harder to predict. Free throw percentage is a category with a significant amount of year-to-year variance and The Brow’s numbers from the line are evidence of this. He shot 79.4 percent from the charity stripe last season and his free throw percentage has ranged from 75.8 percent to 82.8 percent over the past four seasons.
Nikola Jokic was only a good, not great, source of field goal percentage impact last season (51.1 FG% on 15.1 FGA). He won’t end up as an elite contributor in the category this year unless he can recapture some of his 2017-2018 magic from deep. That season, Jokic shot a blistering 39.6 percent from three. In 2018-2019, his success rate dropped all the way down to 30.7 percent. His free throw percentage impact is guaranteed to be significant. He has hit at least 81.1 percent of his free throw attempts in each of his four seasons in the league and connected on 85.0 percent of his trips to the line in 2017-2018.
The guards that are usually available during the second half of the first round also work here. Damian Lillard (3.0 3PG), Kyrie Irving (2.6 3PG), and Bradley Beal (2.5 3PG) are all major producers in this build’s most problematic category, and all three do good work in the percentages categories. Lillard’s field goal percentage is less than ideal (44.4 FG% 19.2 FGA), but he more than makes up for his mediocre shooting from the floor by being an elite source of free throw percentage impact (91.2 FT% on 6.4 FTA). Only Harden had a larger positive impact on the category in 2018-2019.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James are both monster starting points for the punt points/FT% double-punt. Both players’ free throw percentage hits are significant, and I would not recommend pairing either player with the regular punt points build. You may be able to come back in the category, but the sacrifices that you will need to make elsewhere to do that will be significant and likely not worth it. The players in this guide whose names are in italics are players that I would only consider if I was employing the double-punt.
Note: The below list is not meant to be a complete list of all of the players that fit into this build. The round that I recommend taking each player in is based on ESPN Fantasy Basketball’s rankings and where I think each player will, or could be, available in a standard 12-team, nine-category draft. If you don’t see a player that you think fits the build well, it may be because I think that player is badly overpriced on ESPN.
Categories to target: FG%, FT%, Threes
First-round targets: Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, Paul George
R2) Kyrie Irving – If Irving was durable, he’d be the eighth-overall pick in most drafts and a no-brainer starting point for this build. He line is flawless, and the Nets’ new lead guard excels in all of the build’s key categories. The only regularly-rostered point guard-eligible player that had a larger positive impact on field goal percentage (48.7 FG% on 18.5 FGA) last year was Malcolm Brogdon, and only 17 players bested Irving when it came to impact on the free throw percentage category (87.3 FT% on 3.7 FTA) in 2018-2019. Kyrie also killed his opponents from deep (2.6 3PG) and set a career-high in assists (6.9 APG) in his final season in Boston. He’s never going to be an All-NBA defender, but the point guard has improved on that end. He is coming off of a year in which he averaged career-highs in both steals (1.6 SPG) and blocks (0.5 BPG). Irving is an injury risk, but unlike some players in this range, he does have a shot at playing over 70 games this season. The Nets won’t be good enough to rest him, and he has hit the 70-games played mark in two of the past four seasons.
R2) Deandre Ayton – In his rookie year, Ayton was a top-five source of field goal percentage impact (58.5 FG% on 12.2 FGA) and was the only member of that top-five who didn’t kill his owner’s chances in the free throw percentage category (74.6 FT%). His usage is going up this year, and his impact on the category could be even greater. The sophomore will also finish among the league leaders in rebounds (10.3 RPG) and will likely provide his owners with more than a steal and a block per contest (0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG). His elite field goal percentage comes at a cost. Ayton’s dominance in the category is partially due to his unwillingness to let it fly from deep (0.0 3PG). His lack of threes and excellent big-man numbers make him an excellent second- or third-round pick for Steph Curry-led teams.
R2) Nikola Vucevic – If you were punting points last season, only seven players were more valuable to your build than Vucevic. The Magic’s main man was more valuable when points were ignored than Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and Damian Lillard. The center has no holes in his line and is above-average for his position in every category. He helps you win all three of the big-man categories (12.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 51.8 FG% on 16.9 FGA) and does not hurt you in the guard categories like most big men do (1.1 3PG, 1.0 SPG, 78.9 FT%).
Other Round 2 Options: Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, Jimmy Butler