1) James Harden (PG/SG) – Despite the unfortunate trade demand and ugly turnover rate (4.5 TOPG), Harden remains a strong contender for the top overall spot in nine-category leagues. The counting numbers are all ridiculous (34.4 PPG, 4.4 3PG, 6.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG), but none of those numbers is my favorite James Harden stat. My favorite James Harden stat is 3.3 games missed per year over the last six seasons. That is not something you see very often these days. Punting FG% is the obvious way to go with Harden. Not only does he gain a significant amount of value in that build (43.5 FG% on 22.7 FGA), he also provides some exceptionally strong contributions for a guard in boards and blocks. The punt FG% tends to struggle in both categories and needs to be on the hunt for guards like Harden who provide strong out-of-position numbers in both categories. If you play in an eight-category league, no one else has an argument at one, even with the superstar wanting out of Houston. Harden lapped the field last year in leagues where turnovers don’t matter and has finished as the top per-game player in eight-category leagues in three of the last four seasons. The Westbrook for Wall swap is good news for Harden’s value. Wall doesn’t command nearly as many touches and will likely miss more games than Westbrook would have. With the former MVP now in a Wizards jersey, we could see Harden’s usage rate approach 40 percent.
2) Stephen Curry (PG/SG) – Same deal as Towns. Take last year and throw it in the garbage. Don’t worry about the rough games last October. Curry has NBA-level teammates once again and has a very good shot at finishing as a top-three player in nine-category leagues. I’m not expecting him to match his historic 2015-2016 campaign, as that was arguably the best offensive season in NBA history, but we should expect him to comfortably surpass his KD-era numbers (27.3 PPG, 5.1 3PG, 5.3 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.3 SPG in 2018-2019). Curry is elite not only because of his numbers but also because there is no guard in the league who offers as much team-building flexibility as Steph does. Harden, Lillard, Young, and Doncic all have weaknesses that limit your team-building options. Curry does not. You can put Steph in anything besides punt threes. His outstanding percentages (47.2 FG%, 91.6 FT%) are a huge boon for any team that is punting a counting category, and he remains an excellent fit for the punt FT% build due to his dominance in the points and threes categories. Both categories tend to give the build nightmares, and Curry can make both issues disappear almost by himself.
3) Damian Lillard (PG) – The Blazers are in the perfect spot. They’re not good enough to give their top guns nights off during the regular season, and with Jusuf Nurkic back, they’re not bad enough to fall out of the playoff race. Their mediocrity makes Lillard one of the safest first-round picks in a year that should be filled with annoying DNPs for stars. Lillard is another no-brainer pick for the punt FG% build (45.7 FG% on 20.0 FGA) and is also the most natural guard starting point for the underrated punt steals build (1.0 SPG). He is especially intriguing in the punt FG% because unlike James Harden, Trae Young, and Luka Doncic, Lillard allows you to compete in turnovers (2.9 TOPG) while maintaining most of the build’s natural strengths. The Blazer was the sixth-ranked player in nine-category leagues before the bubble last season, and only Harden and Devin Booker helped their owners more at the line (88.8 FT% on 7.6 FTA).
4) Trae Young (PG) – Young should go higher than this if you play in eight-category leagues (4.8 TOPG) and lower than this if you play nine-category Roto. The offensive dynamo finished sixth-overall in eight-category leagues last year but only 20th in nine-category leagues. He’s ranked this high in what are nine-category H2H rankings because punting exists. When you neutralize one of Young’s three main weaknesses (43.7 FG% on 20.8 FGA, 0.1 BPG, 4.8 TOPG), he becomes a first-round player. The Hawk was a top-10 player in both punt FG% and punt blocks in 2020-2021. Expect close to 29/9 a night with elite threes and FT% impact from the Hawk (29.6 PPG, 3.4 3PG, 9.3 APG, and 86.0 FT% on 9.3 FTA).
5) Luka Doncic (PG/SG/SF) – Like most, I’m a big Luka fan. His Game 4 performance against the Clippers was one of the five best games I’ve ever seen played. That being said, I’m probably not going to own Doncic in any nine-category leagues this year. He’s going to go inside of the top-five in a lot of leagues, and that is a ridiculous price for a player who was ranked outside of the top-25 before the COVID break, and who was ranked outside of the top-75 from January to March. In eight-category leagues, I love him. Go nuts in the middle of the first. But in nine-category leagues, you have to be careful. Doncic has a lower ceiling than you’d think due to all the holes in his line. Last season, Luka was a four-category player. He dominated points (28.7 PPG), threes (2.9 3PG), rebounds (9.3 RPG), and dimes (8.7 APG) while putting up mediocre-to-ugly numbers everywhere else (46.6 FG%, 75.2 FT%, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 4.2 TOPG). His young LeBron-like struggles at the line make him a natural fit for the punt FT% build, but it is his points, threes, and assists that make him an ideal fit for fantasy’s most famous punting strategy. Since you are going to be drafting players like Rudy Gobert, Clint Capela, and Andre Drummond in that build, you’re going to have a very hard time with points, threes, and assists. Drafting Luka as the centerpiece of the strategy doesn’t make those issues go away, but it does make them much easier to handle.
6) LeBron James (PG/SF/PF) – After an unfortunate 2018-2019 season, LeBron struck back at Father Time in 2019-2020 and pulled off a top-10 finish in nine-category leagues. He managed this despite most of his counting numbers slipping slightly. The big exception, and the reason why he was able to once again be a first-round pick, was his assists (10.6 APG). Since he’s going to be back in the point guard role this season, I don’t expect a major drop in value. Even if he slips a bit physically, his role keeps his ceiling extremely high. Only Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic averaged more touches per game than The King did last year. Unlike Giannis, he can be used outside of the punt FT% build (70.1 FT% on 6.0 FTA), but that is his ideal home. LeBron’s still excellent points (25.9 PPG) and elite dimes are a good match for a build that needs to keep an eye on both categories. If you draft James in the first, pay extra attention to your defensive numbers. The Finals MVP has only averaged 0.6 BPG in Los Angeles and last year’s 1.2 SPG average was the worst performance of his career in the category.
7) Kyrie Irving (PG/SG) – Next to Zion Williamson, Irving may be the hardest player to rank. There’s clear first-round upside here, but there is also thirty games played downside. Thirty games played may actually be too generous as that would be an improvement on what Kyrie gave his owners last season. If you want to roll the dice, and at a late-second-round/early-round-third-round price, I would be willing to in a lot of scenarios, you will likely have a better second- or third-best player than your opponents. Kyrie can do first-round things alongside what will be a somewhat limited Durant. In his final season with LeBron James, Irving averaged an outstanding 25.2 PPG on 47.3 FG% and 90.5 FT%, 2.5 3PG, 5.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG. His near-flawless line (27.4 PPG on 47.8 FG%, 92.2 FT%, 2.8 3PG, 6.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.6 TOPG in 2019-2020) allows Irving to fit into any build. Although it may sound strange because he’s a point guard and derives a fair amount of value from dimes, I like Irving the most in punt assists due to his top-end production in both percentages categories. Punt assists is one of only two builds (punt steals is the other) that allows you to have a legitimate shot at being above-average in both percentages. That is a huge advantage in fantasy because it makes you less susceptible to a bad schedule.
8) Devin Booker (PG/SG) – If you are looking for a percentages boost in the second, Booker is your guy. And if you are punting threes, Booker is probably your guy in the second as well. The Sun has turned himself into an unbelievably efficient scorer. Last season, Booker’s 26.1 PPG came on 48.7 percent shooting from the field and 91.6 percent shooting from the floor. The only point guard-eligible players who did better work in the FG% category were LeBron James, Ben Simmons, and Ja Morant, and the only players that had a larger positive impact on FT% was absolutely no one. Booker led the league in FT% impact last year. I mentioned punt threes right off the bat because that build is naturally weak in both points and free throw percentage, and Booker is elite in both. As a bonus, he barely loses any value when threes are thrown out. 2.0 3PG does not go nearly as far as it used to. Booker should once again be a top-end source of dimes from the two-guard spot (6.6 APG) even with Chris Paul in town. The downside to drafting the young All-Star is that he will drag down your defensive numbers (0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG) and turnovers (3.9 TOPG).
9) Russell Westbrook (PG) – Westbrook moves back into the second round now that he’s on a Wizards team that is going to allow him to have all the touches he wants. Not only are his numbers going to increase, so will his games played. The Wizards are likely heading for the play-in tournament and won’t be able to give Broadie nights off. I would expect him to go back to flirting with a massive triple-double while producing elite steals. 25/10/10/1.5 is in play. Bradley Beal is not a major concern. He’s not nearly as ball-dominant as Harden. Beal only had a 27 USG% the last time he played with Wall. Harden had a 36.3 USG% beside Westbrook last year and was over 40 percent when Chris Paul was his sidekick. The move to Washington will hurt Westbrook in the FG% category. The Wizards won’t have the spacing that the Rockets did, and it will be easier for defenses to load up on the former-MVP now. I would expect Westbrook’s FG% to be more in line with what it was in his final year in Oklahoma City (42.8 FG%) than what it was with the Rockets (47.4 FG%). Any team looking to grab the All-Star in the second will want to pair him with the first-round picks that are extremely accurate at the line. Westbrook’s FT% is very hard to predict. It was up and down last year, and he hasn’t shot better than 76 percent from the line since the 2016-2017 season.
10) Chris Paul (PG) – Players are definitely aging better these days. Most of the league’s elite are now in their 30s and have shown no signs of slowing down. However, Paul is turning 36 this season, and Father Time should take at least a small bite out of his production. I would be very surprised if Paul matched last season’s top-15 finish in his first year in Phoenix, and even more surprised if the historically brittle point guard only missed two games like he did last year. Playing beside Devin Booker should also eat into Paul’s usage and dimes (6.8 APG). I also have my doubts that Paul can match last season’s pre-bubble 48.9 percent shooting from the floor. That was the former superstar’s best performance in the category since the 2009-2010 season. Be careful with Paul. The dimes, steals (1.6 SPG), and FT% impact (90.5 FT% on 4.0 FTA) are all extremely useful, but things can go downhill in a hurry at his age.
11) Ben Simmons (PG) – The Sixers have never had a supporting cast that fits Simmon as well as this season’s supporting cast will. The Sixers are finally providing the Australian with decent spacing, and that extra room to work with should lead to a bump in both Simmons’ scoring rate (16.7 PPG on 58.5 FG%) and his assist rate (8.2 APG). In addition to improved counting numbers, owners should expect elite steals (2.1 SPG) and outstanding boards for a point guard-eligible player (7.8 RPG). I’d have him a handful of spots higher if he provided his owners with any choice in punting build. As of now, his FT% hit is not offsettable (62.7 FT% on 5.3 FTA). If you select Simmons, you are either going to be punting the category or losing it 80 percent of the time.
12) Fred VanVleet (PG/SG) – VanVleet returning to the Raptors is phenomenal news for his value. He would have been a dicey bet on a bad team where he was the main offensive option. FVV is a nice player, but he doesn’t have the size to survive not playing with other studs like Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. Now that he’s officially back in Toronto, owners can look forward to early-round production in friendly builds. In his first year as a starter, the combo-guard finished as a top-25 player overall, a top-20 player in punt blocks (0.3 BPG), and a first-round player in punt FG% (40.9 FG% on 14.6 FGA). VanVleet managed those impressive final rankings by being a force in all of the guard categories (17.6 PPG, 2.7 3PG, 6.6 APG, 1.9 SPG) and by having a relatively low turnover rate for a player who spent a lot of his time at the one (2.2 TOPG).
13) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (PG/SG/SF) – SGA finished as a top-50 player in his sophomore season while never playing like a top-50 player. He was either borderline droppable or an early-round asset. From the beginning of the season to December 17th, the Canadian was ranked outside of the top-130 in nine-category leagues behind fantasy studs such as Glenn Robinson III and Justin Holiday. Those who held through his rough start or bought low early were richly rewarded over the second half of the season. From December 18th until the COVID stoppage, fewer than 20 players were more valuable than the Thunder’s young stud. Over that stretch, SGA averaged an outstanding 20.2 PPG on 50.2 FG%, 1.2 3PG, 6.9 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.9 BPG. As good as those offensive counting numbers are, they may be his floor this year. With both Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari playing elsewhere, SGA is going to have all the usage he wants. He’s also moving to point guard, which guarantees a spike in his assist rate. The 2020-2021 season should be a fun one for the future star.
14) Kyle Lowry (PG) – Lowry’s still got something left in his sizable tank. The 34-year-old was the Raptors’ best player once again and finished as a top-20 player in both eight- and nine-category leagues. Unless your name is LeBron James, Father Time comes for everyone, so we should expect some slippage from the six-time All-Star. Fortunately, he can slip and still return decent value at his current ADP, especially if the owner scooping him up is punting FG%. In that build (41.7 FG%), the Raptor was a first-round player last year. When you toss out FG%, Lowry’s line has no holes. He’s still outstanding from deep (2.9 3PG), top-end in dimes (7.7 APG), well above average in steals (1.4 SPG), and a sneaky-good source of FT% impact (86.1 FT% on 5.7 FTA).
15) Jrue Holiday (PG/SG) – Holiday will need some positive regression in the percentages categories for his fantasy value to survive the move to Milwaukee. His unfortunate top-35 2019-2020 finish was due to a significant dip in both categories. After shooting at least 47.2 percent from the field in his two previous seasons, Holiday connected on only 45.5 percent of his shot attempts last year. The drop at the line was even more extreme. Despite being a career 77.7 percent shooter from the charity stripe, Jrue connected on only 70.9 percent of his freebies last year. I have more faith in his free throw shooting bouncing back than his FG%. FT%, along with steals, has the most year-to-year variance of the nine standard categories. Wild swings at the line are fairly common, and they usually correct themselves. Jrue works everywhere, but I like him the most in punt FT%. In that build, you don’t have to pray for some positive regression, and his threes (2.0 3PG), assists (6.7 APG), and steals (1.6 SPG) are a big boost to a build that can have problems with all three categories. Just make sure you pair him with multiple elite points option. If you follow up your first-round pick with a traditional punt FT% big like Rudy Gobert and then go with Jrue (19.1 PPG) in the third, points is going to be a problem as two of your first three picks are going to be mediocre in a category that dries up very quickly in drafts.
16) Donovan Mitchell (PG/SG) – Mitchell took a step forward in most categories last season. He set a career-high in points (25.1 PPG), threes (2.7 3PG), rebounds (4.5 RPG), assists (4.3 APG), FG% (45.7 FG%), and FT% (87.6 FT%). All that stopped him from finally posting top-30 numbers was a surprisingly poor steal rate (1.0 SPG). In his first two years in the association, Mitchell averaged 1.5 SPG and 1.4 SPG. Since steals has a significant amount of year-to-year variance on the individual level, I would expect a bounceback in the category. Also working in his favor is that the drop wasn’t accompanied by an increased role on offense. His usage rate held steady, which suggests that the drop in swipes wasn’t an energy issue. Regardless of what happens with his steals, Mitchell is a rock-solid pick in the early-rounds who fits in nicely with the punt assists build due to his point guard eligibility and lack of reliance on assists (4.3 APG) to boost his value. He is one of the safest picks in his range, not only due to his production but also due to his durability. The Jazz’s leading scorer has only missed a total of 11 games in his three years in the league.
17) D’Angelo Russell (PG/SG) – Russell is going to be a monster punt FG% and punt FG%/turnovers asset in Minnesota. Despite playing most of his year beside G League players, the combo guard finished as a top-35 player in the single punt (42.6 FG% on 18.8 FGA) and a top-25 player in the double-punt (3.3 TOPG). Expect top-end points (23.1 PPG) and threes (3.5 3PG) from Russell with about six assists per night (6.3 APG). The former All-Star’s outstanding contributions in the guard categories will be somewhat offset by exceptionally poor numbers in the big man categories (42.6 FG%, 3.9 RPG, 0.3 BPG). Russell has a little extra value this year because of the team he plays for. The Wolves won’t be good enough to lock up a playoff spot early, and they likely won’t be bad enough to fall out of contention for the play-in tournament either. This makes it likely that Russell will be active and going all out during the fantasy playoffs.
18) Zach LaVine (PG/SG/SF) – It’s going to be difficult for LaVine to repeat his top-35 2019-2020 performance. His outstanding across-the-board contributions were inflated by the rash of the injuries that the Bulls suffered through. A healthier Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter will take touches away from LaVine, as will a second-year Coby White. LaVine also absolutely crushed his previous career-high in swipes last season (1.5 SPG). Prior to 2019-2020, the Bull had never eclipsed 1.0 SPG. Any player whose fantasy improvement is at least partially driven by a large steals jump is going to be a little risky. That is because steals, along with FT%, has the most year-to-year variance on the individual level. Rebounding and assist rates are usually fairly stable and predictable, but steal rates can jump all over the place. The shooting guard may not match last year’s numbers, but he is still a strong pick for most builds due to his efficient high-volume scoring (25.5 PPG, 3.1 3PG, 45.0 FG%, 80.2 FT%) and lack of holes in his line. The Bull is a high-turnover player and should be bumped up a round if you play in eight-category leagues (3.4 TOPG).
19) Jamal Murray (PG/SG) – Be careful not to overreact to the monster playoff run. It was fueled by some unsustainable shooting from deep and a significant bump in playing time. In the playoffs, Murray shot 45.3 percent from three and played 39.6 MPG. Both numbers were well above his pre-bubble regular-season marks of 34.6 percent from deep and 32.8 MPG. The Canadian is still a very solid pick in the fourth round of the draft, but I would hesitate to go any higher. Before the bubble, Murray was only a top-60 player and produced very mediocre numbers in the non-scoring cats. Playing alongside Nikola Jokic limits his dimes (4.8 APG), and the point guard has never been more than an average contributor in the steals category. His middling 2019-2020 1.1 SPG average was a career-best. Look his way if you need a points (18.8 PPG) and FT% boost (89.3 FT%), but don’t expect early-round numbers. A top-40 finish would be a significant improvement on what he has done in the past.
20) De’Aaron Fox (PG) – Fox improved last year, but not in the categories that we needed him to. His points (20.4 PPG) and efficiency jumped (47.5 FG%), while his dimes (6.8 APG) and defensive numbers held steady (1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG). Unfortunately, he showed no improvement from deep (1.0 3PG), and his free throw shooting actually got worse (70.3 FT%). Unless Fox cleans those issues, it’s going to be very hard for him to be more than a top-60 player in nine-category leagues. Before the bubble, Fox was only a top-90 option when turnovers were included (3.2 TOPG). Because of his two weaknesses, he’s not an easy fit in any build. A strong early draft is essential if you are targeting Fox in the middle rounds. Since he’s such a bad three-point shooter, Fox is only an OK fit for the punt FT% build. His points, assists, and steals are a big help, but threes are the build’s biggest issue, and Fox only makes the problem worse. His struggles at the line are what prevent him from being a must-draft in the punt threes build. That build’s biggest issue is FT%, and the only guard who had a larger negative impact on that category last season was Ben Simmons.
21) Lonzo Ball (PG) – Lonzo has all the tools to be an early-round asset, it’s just a question of whether he can put them all together for a full season. He hasn’t yet, but there have been signs that he is on the cusp of doing so. From December 29th to the COVID stoppage, LaMelo’s brother was a borderline top-25 player. During that monster stretch, Ball averaged a nasty 14.2 PPG on 43.9 FG%, 2.9 3PG, 7.3 RPG, 8.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. Of course, in classic Lonzo style, he followed up that unbelievable run with an ugly performance in the bubble. There’s a lot of risk here due to his inconsistency and injury history, but if you feel very comfortable with your early-round picks and want to swing in the middle rounds, Ball is one of your better options. His FT% remains very ugly (56.6 FT%), but he doesn’t get to the line enough to be pigeonholed as a punt FT%-only player (1.2 FTA).
22) Marcus Smart (PG/SG) – Having a solid understanding of how useful players like Smart can be is one of the things that separates then men and women from the boys and girls in fantasy basketball. Because of his low-scoring numbers (13.5 PPG) and unfortunate FG% (38.5 FG%), Smart is often treated as a borderline top-100 asset when he’s really a no-doubter mid-round player who can provide you with early-round numbers in the right build. In 2019-2020, Smart was a top-60 option when his ugly shooting numbers counted and a top-30 option when they didn’t. He made up for his shortcomings by helping his owners win threes (2.4 3PG), dimes (4.8 APG), and steals (1.6 SPG) while rarely turning the ball over (1.7 TOPG). The lack of scoring is not a major issue in the punt FG% build since most of the early-round targets are well above average or dominant in the category. Be careful when slotting him into the punt points build. He can work there, but you need to make sure that you pair him with some big men who are elite from the field. Since players in that build are going to be lower volume scorers than in other builds, a player like Smart will do more damage to your chance in FG% than he would to teams punting assists or blocks.
23) Kemba Walker (PG) – After years of being one of the most bankable stars in fantasy, Walker is all of a sudden a fairly risky pick in the middle rounds. The point guard is going to be 31 next season, will miss all of December rehabbing his knee injury, will possibly be on a load management program when he returns, and is likely going to have a smaller role going forward with both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the verge of a major breakout. In his first year with the Celtics, Walker only produced top-45 numbers and saw his playing time drop to 31.8 MPG. I wouldn’t expect a bounceback in what will be a condensed 2020-2021 season. Kemba’s top-20 numbers in his final season in Charlotte were driven by a MPG average (34.9 MPG) and usage rate (31.9 USG%) that he has no chance of replicating in Boston. He can still be a top-30 player in the punt FG% build (42.9 FG%), but outside of that build, he’s not going to be someone I’m rushing to draft. There are just too many good point guards available in the same range who are safer bets. The Boston version of Kemba still does solid work in the scoring categories (20.3 PPG, 3.0 3PG, 86.1 FT% on 4.4 FTA), but his contributions outside of those areas are limited (3.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG).
24) C.J. McCollum (PG/SG) – Grabbing McCollum in the middle rounds won’t win you your league, but the move is also very unlikely to lose you your league. Like Tobias Harris, McCollum is as safe as it gets from a per-game perspective, and he rarely misses games. The Blazer has been a top-60 player five seasons in a row and has only missed 19 games over that stretch. Jusuf Nurkic’s return shouldn’t have a major impact on McCollum’s value. Aside from threes, which jumped from 2.4 3PG in 2018-2019 to 2.8 3PG in 2019-2020, McCollum’s numbers didn’t change much with Nurkic out for all the pre-bubble games. Expect excellent points (22.5 PPG) and threes that are accompanied by low-end dimes (4.3 APG) once again in 2020-2021. I would also expect McCollum’s FT% to rise this year. Before shooting 75.4 percent from the line last season, McCollum had hit at least 82.3 percent of his attempts in his three previous seasons. His disappointing steals (0.7 SPG) make him a natural fit for the punt steals build, and his point guard eligibility on Yahoo makes him a good target for the punt assists build.
25) Ricky Rubio (PG) – Despite playing beside Devin Booker and his 29.9 USG%, Rubio’s assists made a comeback last year (8.8 APG), and it led to a top-60 nine-category finish and a fourth-round finish in eight-category leagues. That’s not a huge surprise, as his disappointing assist rate in Utah was tied to a Quin Snyder system that deflates point guard dimes. His production in the assists category should hold steady in Minnesota. He’s proven that he can be a force in the category beside a high-usage player, and the last time he was in a Wolves jersey, Rubio averaged 91. APG. In addition to his top-end assists, the Spaniard still provides his owners with very useful steals (1.4 SPG) while being a sneaky source of FT% impact (86.3 FT% on 3.5 FTA). He also continues to be a drag on the FG% category, although the hit isn’t quite as bad it used to be (41.5 FG% on 10.6 FGA). Like most players in this range, Rubio is not a perfect fit for any build due to his weaknesses, but the punt threes (1.2 3PG) and punt FG% builds can turn him into a fourth-round player in nine-category leagues.
26) Ja Morant (PG) – Morant is probably going to be overdrafted this season in nine-category leagues. He has the tools to be a long-term fantasy stud, but to get to that level this year, it is going to take a ton of offseason improvement. As a rookie, Morant was only a top-130 player in nine-category leagues and a top-70 player in eight-category because he contributed useful numbers in only three categories. Everything besides points (18.8 PPG), assists (7.3 APG), and FG% (47.7 FG%) was a mess. The three-ball looked very raw (0.9 3PG), the swipes were missing (0.9 SPG), he didn’t do much on the boards (3.9 RPG), the turnovers were high (3.4 TOPG). Everything is fixable, but if you are considering him early in the draft, you are betting that he fixes everything at once. If you do want to take a chance on the youngster at his inflated price, try to pair him with a friendly build. The risk is a lot lower in punt threes or punt steals.
27) Eric Bledsoe (PG/SG) – Whether Blesode can bounce back from his disappointing 2019-2020 top-80 finish comes down to two things: his minutes (27.2 MPG) and his steal rate (0.9 SPG). As of now, I’m confident that we’ll see some improvement in both. The low minutes were mostly due to the point guard playing for a team that had the East’s one-seed locked up in December. In New Orleans, he’s in the exact opposite situation. The Pelicans are likely headed toward the play-in tournament and won’t be able to limit or rest their top players at any point this year. The minutes increase should help his steals rate bounce back, but I would also expect improvement on a per-minute basis. In his first two seasons with the Bucks, Bledsoe produced 2.3 SP36 and 1.8 SP36. In 2019-2020, that number dropped all the way to 1.2 SP36. Some of that drop may be age-related, but I’m betting a lot of it is just the steals category doing what the steals category does. Steals has a significant amount of year-to-year variance, and any player that is dependent on steals to boost their value is at risk of having wild swings in value. I would expect some positive regression, and even 1.6 SP36 would likely get Bledsoe back into the top-65. Those drafting the Buck should also expect useful assist numbers (5.4 APG), a neutral FG% hit (46.3 FG%), and low-end production in points (14.5 PPG) and threes (1.2 3PG).
28) Victor Oladipo (PG/SG) – Oladipo is not someone I would be targeting in early drafts. We need to see how he looks in camp and preseason first. The Pacer looked like a shell of himself when he first returned from his brutal 2019 injury, and he didn’t look any better in the bubble. Even if the early returns on Dipo are positive, I would be wary of investing anything higher than a seventh-round pick in the former All-Star. This is not a player with early-round upside, even when healthy. His first-round 2017-2018 season was a fluke driven by an unsustainable steal rate and some finishing at the rim that was well above his career norms. His 2018-2019 top-55 per-game finish should be treated as his ceiling. That year, Oladipo averaged 18.8 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 5.6 RPG, 5.2 APG, and 1.7 SPG.
29) Dejounte Murray (PG) – Like his backcourt partner Derrick White, Murray will be a fantasy stud if Pop ever fully unleashes him. Murray’s impressive top-70 pre-bubble finish came in only 25.0 MPG. If the 24-year-old were to see 30 MPG this season, a top-50 finish would be a lock. Unfortunately, that is a big if, and we’ll have to watch the Spurs’ rotation closely in preseason for clues. Murray is a very unique player. He is one of the best rebounding guards in the league (8.2 RP36) and has the ability to lead the league in steals (2.4 SP36) if he finally gets the minutes he deserves. He can also be a useful source of dimes (4.1 APG) and comes with a low turnover rate for a point guard (1.9 TOPG). He’s going to be a decent-sized drag on your points (15.4 PP36) and threes (0.9 3P36) again. His low threes are less of an issue than his low points, as threes can easily be found on the wire and late in drafts. His low points are a much bigger issue since the difference-makers in the category are rarely found on the wire and dry up quickly after the first few rounds of the draft.
30) Malcolm Brogdon (PG/SG) – Brodgon’s first year in Indiana was a strange one. He was playing at a first-round clip for the first month of the season and then played like a borderline drop for the rest of the year. In the end, he ended up as a top-90 nine-category player. With Victor Oladipo hopefully healthy this year, I would expect Brogdon’s line to look different than it did in his first year with the Pacers. He should play off the ball more, and that will likely lead to a drop in dimes (7.1 APG). That drop should be offset by an increase in his FG% and his threes. After shooting an elite 42.6 percent from deep in his final year with the Bucks, Brogdon shot a shockingly poor 32.6 percent from three in 2019-2020. Some of that drop is just noise, but a lot of it was caused by playing on the ball more often than he is used to. His corner three attempts plummeted last year, and his threes were more contested. In 2018-2019, 26.4 percent of Brogdon’s three-point attempts were wide-open attempts. In 2019-2020, only 20.9 percent of his attempts were wide-open. With a healthy Oladipo around to draw the attention of defenses, Brogdon should get better looks, and it would not be surprising to see his three-point percentage jump back into the high-30s. If it does correct itself, a top-50 finish is possible thanks to his dimes, threes, and extremely helpful FT% impact. Brogdon doesn’t get to the line often (3.4 FTA), but he can still have a top-20 impact on the category because he seldom misses. Last season, Brogdon connected on 89.2 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe.
31) John Wall (PG) – I was out on Wall before the trade, and now that he’ll be sharing a backcourt with James Harden, I want nothing to do with the point guard unless he comes at a significant discount. Wall is going to bust if you draft him in the fifth-round or earlier, and it’s possible that he ends up being a disappointment if taken anywhere inside of the top-100. This is not some early-round player coming off of a major injury. This is a player who was ranked 73rd in nine-category leagues before going down in 2018-2019 and who barely finished inside of the top-60 in 2017-2018. If Wall has lost a step or two, he could easily fall outside of the top-100 on a per-game basis. Playing beside Harden will drag down Wall’s points (20.7 PPG in 2018-2019) and assists (8.7 APG in 2018-2019). His steals won’t be affected by Harden, but they could be by his Achilles injury (1.5 SPG in 2018-2109). Everything else is going to be ugly. The last time we saw Wall, he was destroying his owners’ chances of winning FG% (44.5 FG% on 17.2 FGA), FT% (69.7 FT% on 5.5 FTA), and turnovers (3.8 TOPG). To make matters worse, he’s likely going to be limited early in the season, and with the Rockets not worried about competing this year, he’ll be a late-season shutdown risk. Because of his many significant weaknesses, he’s someone to avoid in Roto and should only be considered in friendly builds like punt FG% or punt FT%.
32) Derrick White (PG/SG) – If White was guaranteed 30 minutes per game, I would have him 20 spots higher than this. This ranking is more about me not trusting Pop than it is about White. The combo guard is a very good per-minute player and is coming off of an outstanding run in the bubble. In his seven bubble appearances, White averaged a stellar 18.9 PPG, 3.1 3PG, 4.3 RPG, 5.0 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 0.6 BPG in 29.8 MPG. Those numbers were good enough to make him a top-35 option in the bubble. The problem is that it took the Spurs losing their starting frontcourt to force Pop’s hand and play White beside Dejounte Murray. Popovich rarely used that combination in the regular season when both LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles were healthy. White will be a player to watch in preseason. If we are seeing plenty of Murray and White minutes, then I’ll be targeting the Spur aggressively. If not, I’ll be staying away. When given the minutes he deserves, White produces a unique line that includes very useful out-of-position blocks (1.2 BP36), underrated FT% impact (85.7 FT% on 2.9 FTA), and low-end dimes (5.2 AP36). Including bubble play, White was a top-110 nine-category league player in only 24.7 MPG in 2019-2020.
33) Mike Conley (PG) – I don’t expect a major bounceback from Conley. I do think he’ll be better, but the Jazz’s system is too unfriendly to point guards for the veteran to produce another top-50 season. Just look at Ricky Rubio’s numbers before and after Utah if you disagree with that statement. Conley is unlikely to receive a significant usage rate bump this year, so any improvement is going to have to be derived from the FG% and steals categories. A bounceback in steals seems likely to me, but I am less confident that his FG% improves in a significant way. Steals has a lot of year-to-year variance, and Conley’s 2019-2020 0.8 SPG (1.0 SP36) average was the worst of his career by a fair amount. He was also much more productive in the category in 2018-2019 (1.3 SPG, 1.4 SP36). Those numbers tell me that he is due for some positive regression. I’m less confident in his chances of improving his shooting from the field because a lot of his disappointing result in the category can be tied to his shot distribution. In 2019-2020, Conley took 45.2 percent of his shot attempts from three. He also took 13.4 percent of his attempts at the rim. Both numbers are very different from their 2018-2019 counterparts. In his final season in Memphis, Conley took only 38.0 percent of his shots from deep, and he attempted 19.0 percent of shots from at the rim. Unless the point guard’s style changes this year, he’s not going to get the FG% boost that he’ll need to be a mid-round player.
34) Delon Wright (PG/SG) – It’s hard to look at the Pistons’ backcourt and not get excited about Wright’s 2020-2021 prospects. His only competition for playing time is Derrick Rose, who is likely getting traded at some point, and rookie Killian Hayes. He’s rejoining his old coach Dwane Casey and 30 MPG looks very doable. If Wright does end up playing that much, a mid-round finish is very possible. The Piston has always been a strong per-minute producer and was doing mid-round things when given the reigns to the Grizzlies’ offense down the stretch of the 2018-2019 season. That strong finish gives us an idea of what Wright could do in a big role this year. Over the final 11 games of the 2018-2019 campaign, Wright averaged an eye-popping 14.3 PPG, 1.1 3PG, 6.4 RPG, 7.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, and 0.6 BPG. I wouldn’t expect numbers that flashy this season, but that line shows you the type of upside that the combo guard has.
35) Devonte’ Graham (PG/SG) – I hope you enjoyed last season because Graham has no chance of recreating his 2019-2020 magic. He’ll lose touches to both LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward, and that is a brutal development for a player who is completely dependent on touches to maintain his value. Expect Graham’s scoring (18.5 PPG), threes (3.5 3PG), and assists (7.5 APG) to all take a hit. That’s bad news as the point guard doesn’t do enough elsewhere to make up for the drop in those three categories. The Hornet will drag down your boards (3.3 RPG), not do much in the steals department (1.0 SPG), and have a forgettable impact on FT% (82.0 FT% on 3.7 FTA). I would not bother with Graham outside of the punt FG% build (38.2 FG%), and even there, I would not be rushing to draft him.
36) Collin Sexton (PG/SG) – Sexton had a surprisingly efficient 2019-2020 season. In his second year in the association, the Cavalier knocked down 47.2 percent of his attempts from the floor. That is an outstanding mark for a player who dropped 20.8 points a night. However, that percentage is inflated by an unsustainable hot streak from deep during the second half of the season. From January until the COVID stoppage, Sexton shot a Steph Curry-esque 44.9 percent from three. Sexton is not going to repeat last year’s shooting from deep, and he will probably up his volume from beyond the arc as well (1.5 3PG). All that adds up to a drop in FG%, but he still should outperform many high-volume scorers in the category. In addition to his flashy scoring numbers, Sexton is a sneaky source of FT% impact (86.8 FT% on 4.3 FTA) who chips-in low-end dimes (3.6 APG). The Cavalier is not for teams that did not find enough rebounds and blocks earlier in the draft. The combo guard is a bigger drag than most smalls on both categories (3.1 RPG, 0.2 BPG).
37) Donte DiVincenzo (PG/SG) – With Bogan Bogdanovic officially in the Bucks’ rearview, DiVincenzo becomes interesting again. Assuming the Bucks don’t make another move, the third-year man is likely looking at minutes in the upper-20s. That’s not enough playing time to catapult DiVincenzo into the top-50, but it should be enough to allow him to comfortably crack the top-100 in friendly builds. As a sophomore, in only 23.1 MPG, the swingman finished as a top-100 player when assists were thrown out. That surprise finish was driven by an elite steal rate (2.1 SP36), a decent three-ball (2.0 3P36), and an impressive rebounding rate (7.5 RP36) for a two-guard playing beside Giannis Antetokounmpo. If DiVincenzo plays close to 28 MPG, he could produce a 12/6 line that comes with close to a 1.5 SPG.
38) Malik Beasley (PG/SG) – Beasley’s stock took a hit on draft day. Anthony Edwards is going to eat into his minutes, and while Beasley should still be a clear standard league player, he’s not going to be the 20.8 PPG guy that he was after the trade from Denver. He should score in the mid-teens this year and be a plus contributor in the threes column. In each of his last two seasons, Beasley has produced at least 3.1 3P36. The rest of his line will be mediocre (4.4 RP36, 2.2 AP36, 1.2 SP36), and whether or not he can crack the top-100 will come down to his FG%. If Beasley can match the 47.3 percent he shot from the floor in 2018-2019, he will be a top-100 player in nine-category leagues. If he ends up in the low-40s like he did last season (42.5 FG%), he’s going to have a hard time being more than a top-125 player.
39) Seth Curry (PG/SG) – Curry doesn’t produce the most well-rounded line in the world, but he is one of the few players available late who can help you in the scoring categories without dragging down your FG%. In the final season of his second stint in Dallas, Steph’s brother averaged a solid 12.4 PPG and 2.3 3PG in only 24.6 MPG while shooting 49.5 percent from the field. The move to Philadelphia should be a boon for his value. The Sixers are desperate for shooting, and it would be surprising if Curry didn’t see minutes in the high-20s. I’m confident in this because we’ve seen the impact that pairing an elite shooter with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can have. In J.J. Redick’s final season in Philadelphia, the three-man lineup of Redick, Embiid, and Simmons had a net rating of 13.5. That was, by far, the most effective big-minute three-man lineup the Sixers rolled out.
40) Terry Rozier (PG/SG) – There is a good chance that the Hornets’ backcourt ends up being a fantasy quagmire this season. Lamelo Ball has too many holes in his line to be a mid-round player this year, but he’s going to play enough to take a bite out of both Rozier and Devonte’ Graham’s value. Gordon Hayward joining the team is also less than ideal as he’ll take touches and creation responsibilities away from all of the guards. What I’m trying to say is that you should not expect a repeat of last season’s top-80 finish from Rozier. He should still be worth owning in standard leagues, but he is almost certainly going to see all of his usage-related numbers go down. Expect a small drop in points (18.0 PPG), threes (2.7 3PG), assists (4.1 APG), and FT% (87.4 FT% on 3.0 FTA) for the combo guard. A top-80 finish is still possible if you are punting FG% (42.3 FG%). In that build, Rozier has plenty of room to fall. In 2019-2020, the former Celtic was a top-55 player when FG% was ignored.
41) Derrick Rose (PG/SG) – The Pistons are not exactly deep on the wing and in the backcourt. They’ve got Rose, rookie Killian Hayes, Delon Wright, and not much else. That’s bad news for the Pistons’ playoffs hopes this year, but it should be very good news for Rose’s fantasy prospects, at least until he’s moved to a contender. In only 26.0 MPG last season, Rose averaged an excellent 18.1 PPG and 5.6 APG while hitting 87.1 percent of his free throw attempts. If you draft Rose and he starts the season well, I strongly recommend trying to sell him high. The Lakers and other contenders are going to come calling at the deadline, and Rose will not be more than a deep-league option on a good team.
42) Lou Williams (PG/SG) – Williams is getting up there, but he still has value in the right build. In 2019-2020, he was a top-100 player in the punt FG% build (41.6 FG% on 14.7 FGA) and a top-120 player in the punt steals build (0.7 SPG). He still brings the heat in points (18.7 PPG), threes (1.8 3PG), assists (5.7 APG), and FT% impact (86.3 FT% on 5.4 FTA) and should have a beefy role with the Clippers if he sticks around. That is looking like a big if at the moment. His name is popping up in a lot of trade rumors, and it is possible that he’s moved for a player who doesn’t need to be hidden on defense in the playoffs. Whether or not a trade would be good for Williams’ value is hard to say, so anyone investing in the sixth-man on draft day should be prepared for a significant swing in value at some point this season.
43) Markelle Fultz (PG/SG) – Fultz made a lot of progress last season. He improved in almost every category on a per-minute basis and remembered how to shoot free throws (73.0 FT% on 2.2 FTA). That was good to see. But he’s still got aways to go before he’s a mid-round player. In 2019-2020, the Magic’s point guard finished as a top-160 player in pre-bubble play. The assists (5.2 APG), steals (1.3 SPG), and FG% (47.3 FG%) are all there, but everything else still needs work. Fultz is very likely going to be a drag on your points (12.1 PPG) and threes (0.5 3PG) while producing numbers that are very detrimental to your chances in rebounds and blocks. Despite possessing great size for a point guard, Fultz only managed 3.3 RPG and 0.2 BPG in 2019-2020.
44) Coby White (PG) – We need to pump the breaks on the White hype. Did he have an insane final month of the season? Yes, and it was great to see. But it was still just one month. For the other three and a half months of the season, the Bull wasn’t even a strong streamer. White is not a lock to break out, and the situation that he finds himself in this season is not the same as the situation that allowed him to go on his monster February run. Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen will be healthy to start the year, and both players are going to take shots away from the confident sophomore. That is a potentially very problematic issue for White as almost all of his value is tied to usage-related categories. The combo guard doesn’t give you anything on the defensive end (1.0 SP36, 0.1 BP36) and isn’t much of a creator (3.8 AP36). If he’s going to hold more than late-round value this year, it’s going to be due to his scoring numbers, which are at the mercy of the Bulls’ shot distribution. If you want to acquire White’s strong contributions in the scoring categories (18.5 PP36, 2.9 3P36), make sure you are punting FG%. As a rookie, White was one of the largest drags on the category in the league (39.4 FG% on 12.2 FGA) despite only playing 25.8 MPG.
45) Elfrid Payton (PG) – Payton is usually useful when given big minutes, and if he can hold onto the Knicks’ starting point guard spot in camp, he could end up playing a surprising amount. Coach Thibodeau loves riding his starters, and if Payton earns his trust, it’s possible that his minutes jump from 27.7 a night to a number in the low-30s. Even if his minutes remain the same, Payton will be worth a look late. In his first year playing in the Mecca, the journeyman was a top-125 player who produced exceptional numbers in the assists (7.2 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG) columns. He was also a plus rebounder for a point guard (4.7 RPG) and didn’t hurt you too much in the turnovers category (2.1 TOPG). If you are punting points (10.0 PPG), threes (0.3 3PG), FT% (57.0 FT%), or some combination of the three, Payton has mid-round upside.
46) LaMelo Ball (PG/SG) – Ball will be a great fantasy asset if he ever learns to shoot. Unfortunately, that is a huge if, and it is definitely not something that is going to happen in his rookie year. His NBL numbers contain a lot of red flags. If you shoot 37.5 percent from the field in Australia, you are likely going to be a disaster in the FG% category in the NBA. Only connecting on 25.0 percent of your threes (1.7 3PG) isn’t great news either, and neither is only hitting 72.3 percent of your free throw attempts. Expect Ball to be a mess in the percentages, threes, and turnovers while providing low-end points and respectable steals and assists. In Australia, he flashed plenty of potential in both swipes and dimes. In 31.1 MPG, the then 18-year-old averaged 1.6 SPG and 6.8 APG. He was a strong rebounder down under (7.6 RPG), but his slim frame makes me less confident that his boards will transfer. If you do want to take a shot on the rookie, make sure you pair him with the punt FG% build. He is going to have a very hard time cracking the top-150 outside of it.
47) Patrick Beverley (PG/SG) – Beverley isn’t the most exciting late-round pick, but he can be a smart one when paired with the right build. In 2019-2020, including bubble games, the Clipper cracked the top-80 in punt points (7.9 PPG) and finished inside of the top-100 in punt FG% (42.8 FG%). If you ignore points, Beverley’s counting numbers are very respectable. He produces about average threes (1.6 3PG), is a strong rebounder for a point guard (5.4 RPG), and provides his owners with low-end dimes (3.7 APG) and defensive numbers (1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG).
48) De’Anthony Melton (PG/SG) – Melton is a high-ceiling/low-floor late-round target. The Grizzlies gave him a hefty deal this offseason, but despite the monetary commitment, he’s still going to be hard-pressed to earn big minutes when Ja Morant, Tyus Jones, and Dillon Brooks are healthy. Draft Melton with the expectation of a 20 MPG role and hope for the best. In even 24 MPG, he would be a clear standard league player. He finished inside of the top-200 in only 19.4 MPG last season thanks to an elite steal rate (2.4 SPG), an above-average rebounding rate for a guard (6.8 RP36), and a quality assist rate (5.4 APG). At worst, he’ll be an excellent steals streamer this season, and he will be a must-own if Ja Morant or Dillon Brooks were to miss time.
49) Killian Hayes (PG/SG) – Like LaMelo Ball, Hayes is only a final-round flier despite stepping into what should be a beefy rookie-year role. I expect the Pistons’ new starting point guard to be a solid source of dimes and an average bet for steals, but everything else is likely to be forgettable or straight up ugly. In the 20 games that he played in the Bundesliga, Hayes averaged 11.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, and 1.4 SPG on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor and 21.8 percent shooting from deep in 24.5 MPG. Those are solid numbers, but there’s nothing there that suggests he will be more than a two-category player this year who drags down your FG%, threes, and turnovers. I like Hayes a fair amount as a long-term prospect, but he’s someone to stay away from until the final rounds in re-draft leagues.
50) Jordan Clarkson (PG/SG) – Clarkson thrived in his sixth-man role with the Jazz and should be one of the few reliable sources of points available at the end of the draft. There’s not a ton of upside here, but he does hold some value as he scores more than the waiver-wire options in 12-team leagues will. From the trade until the COVID stoppage, Clarkson averaged a helpful 15.6 PPG and 2.1 3PG on 48.1 percent shooting for the floor. He’s a decent final-round option for those punting assists and needing to fill their point guard spot. The gunner loses no value when dimes are thrown out (1.6 APG post-trade).