R3) Deandre Ayton – Unless Ayton takes a step back this season, he’ll finish as a first-round player in this build in nine-category leagues (2.4 TOPG). Before the bubble, the stud big man was a first-round asset to this build, and in his stellar rookie season, the Sun finished inside of the top-25 when dimes were ignored. Ayton has 22 and 13 potential this season (19.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG) and should block at least 1.5 shots per game (1.7 BPG). With assists thrown out, the only major hole in his line is his threes. He hasn’t started shooting them yet (0.0 3PG), but that will likely change this year. Whether or not that is a good thing for his value remains to be seen. Ayton is elite from the floor (54.8 FG% on 15.5 FGA), and the attempts from deep will lower his impact on the category. Due to his top-end impact on the FG% category, Ayton is an excellent second-round option for teams starting their punt assist teams with Steph Curry, Jayson Tatum, and Kawhi Leonard.
R3) Donovan Mitchell – Mitchell in the third is not great value, but building a successful team is not just about scooping up players who gain value when the punted category is ignored. Mitchell was only a borderline top-50 player in punt assists last season, and that’s OK. We’re fine with that because the Jazz’s go-to guy gives us what we need in the build’s key categories at a point in the draft when we need to be focusing on them. Points and FT% impact dries up after the early rounds, and Mitchell is a stud in both categories. In 2019-2020, the shooting guard averaged an outstanding 24.5 PPG while connecting on 85.9 percent of his 4.6 FTA. He’ll finish as a top-40 player in this build if his steal rate bounces back, and I believe it will. Steals has quite a bit of year-to-year variance on the individual level, and Mitchell has been much more productive in the category in the past. In his first two seasons in the association, the gunner averaged 1.5 SPG and 1.4 SPG.
R3) Nikola Vucevic – Vucevic in the third is a steal. The always-slept-on fantasy stud will be in the same role in 2020-2021 that has led to three consecutive top-20 finishes in the punt assists build. He’s not as flashy of an option as many of the players ranked around him, but he’s a better pick than most. Vucevic produces top-20 numbers by doing a little bit of everything and not hurting you anywhere. He provides elite boards (11.0 RPG) and solid out-of-position scoring numbers (19.5 PPG on 47.0 FG% and 78.1 FT%, 1.5 3PG) while doing a respectable job on the defensive end (0.9 SPG, 0.9 BPG). Vucevic also happens to be on the type of team that fantasy managers want their players to be on. The Magic will be fighting for a playoff spot late in the season, and that guarantees that Vucevic will be playing big minutes when his owners need him the most.
R3) Brandon Ingram – I would not take Ingram before the end of the third, but he’s fine around the turn. After failing to crack 70 percent from the line in his first three seasons in the association, the Pelican hit a shocking 85.1 percent of his attempts in his first year in New Orleans. Given the size of the improvement and the obvious changes he has made to his stroke, it’s hard to say whether he’ll be able to match that impressive success rate. To be safe, I would assume some regression, but I would bet that he still lands over 80 percent. As long as Ingram remains a plus free throw shooter, he has a good chance at cracking the top-40 in this build while providing his owners with excellent points (24.3 PPG), threes (2.4 3PG), above-average rebounds (6.3 RPG), and solid defensive numbers (1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG). His high turnover rate is not a concern (3.1 TOPG) since this build can usually handle multiple high-turnover players without issue.
R3) John Collins – Unlike on Yahoo, Collins will come on at a reasonable price on ESPN. He’s not going to go near the end of the fourth where he’s ranked, but you should be able to get him in three, which feels right given the recent developments in Atlanta. First, the bad. He’s not matching last year’s top-10 finish. That’s not happening. That’s not his ceiling. Forget that ever happened. Clint Capela donning a Hawks jersey guarantees that Collins’ rebounding rate (10.1 RPG) and swats (1.6 BPG) take a hit this year. His sterling FG% (58.3 FG%) is also likely to come down as the power forward will be asked to spend more time on the perimeter with Capela clogging up the lane. Now the good. He’s still going to be a very strong contributor in all three big-man categories, and while he won’t score as much he did last season (21.6 PPG), he’s still going to be well above average in the category for a center-eligible player. Collins is also still going to hit his free throws (80.0 FT% on 3.7 FTA), and with so many ball-handlers now in Atlanta, his turnovers are likely to come down (1.8 TOPG). The third-year man has no chance at repeating last year’s incredible per-game finish, but a second-round finish in this friendly build (1.5 APG) is still very doable.
Other Round 3 Options: Pascal Siakam (ranked in the second but should fall to the third), Rudy Gobert, Andre Drummond, John Collins
R4) Zach LaVine – As you may have noticed by now, points and percentages are the name of the game early in the draft when building a punt assists team. LaVine doesn’t excel in either percentages category (45.0 FG%, 80.2 FT%), but he does do a respectable job in both given that he’s a 25.5 PPG player on a bad team. I would expect his points to dip slightly this season and for his percentages to improve a little bit. With Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter healthy, and Coby White ready to take on a larger role on offense, LaVine won’t have as much defensive attention headed his way. He is also usually better from the line than he was in 2019-2020. Last year’s connection rate was the second-worst of his career, and he shot 83.2 percent from the line in 2018-2019. LaVine is also elite from deep (3.1 3PG) and does excellent work in the steals column (1.5 SPG).
R4) Khris Middleton – Middleton is one of this build’s better mid-round targets, even with Jrue Holiday now in town. The Buck is coming off of a second-round finish in the build and produces the type of line that punt assists teams salivate over. Giannis’ sidekick was one of the league’s most efficient high-volume scorers (21.1 PPG) in 2019-2020. Only a handful of guards were more efficient from the field (49.9 FG%), and even fewer were more accurate at the free throw line (90.8 FT% on 3.6 FTA). Middleton was also a plus rebounder for a wing (6.2 RPG), and his excellent FG% was not due to a lack of three-point attempts (2.4 3PG). The only glaring issue with Middleton’s line is his blocks. Despite being 6’7″, the All-Star only managed to record seven swats last season. If you target Middleton, make sure that you pair him with one of the top-end bigs that are available from round 3 to 6. The Bucks going all in takes a little shine off of Middleton, but I would still be comfortable taking him towards the end of the fourth.
Other Round 4 Options: Jamal Murray, Jusuf Nurkic
R5) Robert Covington – If you come out the fourth round in good shape in FG%, FT%, and points, you almost have to take Covington in five. He’s fine in four as well, and if you want to get spicy and take him in three, he’ll return value there too if you are punting assists. The defensive stopper was a top-20 player without dimes last year and has finished inside of the top-25 in this build four seasons in a row. Covington brings elite steals (1.6 SPG), very useful boards (6.0 RPG with the Wolves), and above-average triples (2.3 3PG). He’ll also be one of the best sources of out-of-position blocks, although he likely won’t match last season’s 1.3 BPG. Last year’s exceptional performance in the category is inflated by his time as the Rockets’ primary rim defender. While in Houston, the newest Blazer averaged a ridiculous 2.2 BPG. As elite as Covington is in this build, he’s a tough pickup for teams struggling in points. The swingman has never averaged more than 13.5 PPG, and most of the players in his range score significantly more than that. Points are very hard to find after round five, so if you have a poor start in points, and grab Covington in four or five, you probably won’t be able to end up where you want to be in the category.
R5) Mitchell Robinson – If you draft Robinson, and he ends up earning the trust of Coach Thibodeau, there is a decent chance that you will end up having a first-round punt assists asset on your hands. Despite only playing 23.2 MPG during his very frustrating sophomore season, Robinson was a top-25 punt assists weapon. To be fair, that ranking was inflated by a nonexistent turnover rate (0.6 TOPG), but he still has early-round potential in eight-category leagues if Thibs lets him play 28+ MPG. With that much run, the Knick could lead the league in blocks (3.0 BP36), and he would have a solid shot at averaging a double-double (15.0 PP36, 10.9 RP36). Robinson is known for his blocks, but don’t sleep on his impact on the FG% category. Despite only taking 5.6 shots a night, the center had a top-five impact on the category (74.2 FG%) last season. He is best paired with a team already in excellent shape in both points and threes (0.0 3PG).
R5) Jonas Valanciunas – Big Science is coming off of a top-35 finish in the punt assists build, and I see no reason why he can’t come close to matching last year’s impressive finish. Yes, Brandon Clarke is lurking, but it’s not like JV needed a lot of minutes to achieve his impressive ranking. Last year’s early-round performance came in only 26.5 MPG. Given who is behind him, I would not expect a major jump in playing time or production, and that’s OK. The throwback center will still be solid value here if his role is similar to what it was in 2019-2020. Valanciunas is a lock to average a double-double (14.9 PPG, 11.2 RPG) and should do it rather efficiently (58.3 FG%). He’ll also help you win blocks (1.1 BPG) and is even chipping in from deep these days (0.5 3PG). The one major issue with his line is his steals. Few players hurt you in the category as much as Valanciunas does (0.4 SPG).
R5) Tobias Harris – The 2020-2021 season is going to be a wild one, and all the uncertainty surrounding it gives players like Harris extra value. When it comes to safety in the middle rounds, you can’t do any better than the Sixer. The swingman has been a top-50 asset to this build a whopping six years in a row and has missed a total of three games over the last four seasons. He may not win you your league, but he’s also incredibly unlikely to bust. Harris produces a very clean line outside of his below-average steal rate (0.7 SPG) and is the type of player that can help a punt assists team reach its goal of winning both percentages categories consistently (47.2 FG%, 80.6 FT%). The swingman also produces above-average numbers in the points (19.4 PPG) and rebounding categories (6.8 RPG). He’s ranked in the third on ESPN, but will usually go around the fifth.
R5) Gordon Hayward – This build loves super-efficient players like Hayward. The veteran looked very good in his final year in Boston and was a top-50 player in and outside of the punt assists build. He hit that mark by making the most of his attempts from the floor (50.2 FG% on 13.5 FG%) and the line (84.7 FT%) while also being a plus contributor in the points category (17.3 PPG). Hayward’s impressive FG% comes at a price, but it is one that fantasy owners will happily accept. The wing is a slightly-below-average source of threes (1.6 3PG). We will take that tradeoff every day because quality FG% impact from guard-eligible players is much more difficult to find than triples. Hayward is also a very strong rebounder (6.5 RPG) who will drag down your swipes (0.7 SPG).
Other Round 5 Options: C.J. McCollum, Kristaps Porzingis, Christian Wood
R6) Kelly Oubre Jr. – With Klay Thompson down and out in Golden State, Oubre should be able to match most of his impressive 2019-2020 numbers. Expect strong scoring numbers from Oubre (18.7 PPG, 1.9 3PG) that come with about average FG% impact for a wing (45.2 FG%). While the scoring numbers are nice, it is his rebounding and defensive numbers that allowed him to finish inside of the top-30 in punt assists in 2019-2020. In his final season in Phoenix, Oubre averaged an excellent 6.2 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.7 BPG.
R6) Clint Capela – Both ESPN and Yahoo do this to Capela every year, and he proves them wrong every year. The Hawks’ new center is once again placed multiple rounds lower than he should be. When healthy, which he should be this season given that his foot has had over nine months to heal, Capela is an early-round asset. Despite his FT% woes (52.9 FT% on 2.7 FTA), the big man was a top-12 punt assists asset in 2019-2020. He should remain as dominant as ever in the big-men categories (62.9 FG% on 9.9 FGA, 13.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG) with the Hawks, and he could see a slight usage increase (13.9 PPG) now that he’s on a team that doesn’t completely ignore their bigs. It is not impossible to work around Capela’s FT%, but his struggles at the line are very difficult to offset. He’s a much better fit for punt assist teams led by Steph, Kawhi, or Durant than teams lead by Tatum or Towns. If you are looking to punt both assists and FT%, Capela becomes a must-draft player. In that build, the former Rocket was a top-eight player in his final season in Houston.
R6) Hassan Whiteside – Whiteside’s role with the Kings is up in the air. Sacramento has Richaun Holmes on the roster, and any sane team would try to develop Marvin Bagley as a five. It’s possible that Whiteside plays 28 MPG, and it’s also possible that he gets stuck in the low-20s. Either way, he’s an easy pick in the middle rounds. He can outplay a sixth-round ADP in 24 MPG and has first-round upside if he lands in the high-20s. Whiteside is coming off of a top-five finish in the punt assists build and has been a top-30 punt assists weapon in five of his six seasons as a full-time NBA player. Regardless of his role, he’s going to be a monster in all three of the big-man categories (61.8 FG%, 14.2 RPG, 3.1 BPG) while being an above-average per-minute scorer for a big (16.3 PPG). As always, his FT% is going to be a mystery. He could be respectable from the line this year, or he could turn your team into a punt FT% squad by himself. Over the last three seasons, Whiteside’s FT% has ranged from an acceptable 70.3 percent to a ghastly 44.9 percent.
R6) Jaylen Brown – If Brown shows any improvement at the line this year, he could sneak into the top-35 in this build. When you ignore dimes (2.1 APG), FT% becomes Brown’s only notable weakness (73.6 FT% on 4.3 FTA). The Celtic will be one of the best points options available after the first three rounds (20.4 PPG) and one of the few high-scoring wings that helps you win FG% (49.0 FG% on 15.4 FGA). That shooting percentage becomes even more impressive when you consider that he averaged 2.1 3PG in 2019-2020. Brown is also a strong rebounder for his position (6.4 RPG) and comes with average swipes (1.1 SPG). He’s ranked a little lower than this on ESPN, but in most leagues, he’ll go in the fifth or the sixth.
Other Round 6 Options: Victor Oladipo, Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, Steven Adams
R7) Thomas Bryant – Bryant is ranked a couple of rounds below this on ESPN, but in a competitive league, you’re going to need to take him around the seventh or the eighth. Anyone who drafted Bryant last season came away disappointed, but in some ways, it was a very encouraging year. The Wizards’ starting center was once again a per-minute monster. In only his second full season in the association, Bryant was a top-30 per-minute producer. That level of per-minute efficiency allowed him to finish as a top-50 player in punt dimes (including bubble games) despite only playing 24.9 MPG. If he can stay healthy, he should play more than that this year and 28+ MPG would give Bryant top-35 potential in this build. Besides steals (0.8 SP36), Bryant produces a well-rounded line. He does good work in all of the big-man categories (58.1 FG%, 10.4 RP36, 1.5 BP36), helps more than many centers from deep (1.2 3P36), and has close to a neutral impact on the FT% category (73.9 FT% on 2.5 FTA). The Wizards’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook will likely take a small bite out of Bryant’s value, but it will not be a deathblow. His rebounding rate will dip, but that drop should be somewhat offset by a small increase in FG%. As long as he plays minutes in the upper-20s, he is going to crush his ADP.
R7) Brandon Clarke – You may be able to get Clarke a round later than this on ESPN, but with Jaren Jackson Jr. beat up, I think he’s worth a look in the seventh. Last season, in only 21.7 MPG, the Canadian was a top-60 player in nine-category league punt assists. Drafting Clarke is one of the best ways to dig yourself out of an early-round FG% hole. Despite only averaging 8.2 FGA before the bubble, the Grizzly had a top-10 impact on the FG% category (62.3 FG%). Clarke should also do a respectable job in the other big-man categories (9.5 RP36, 1.4 BP36), and unlike most bigs found this late in the draft, he won’t hurt you at the line (75.9 FT%).
Other Round 7 Options: Jaren Jackson Jr., Eric Bledsoe, Michael Porter Jr., Kemba Walker
R8) Serge Ibaka – Like Bryant, Ibaka is ranked a little lower than this on ESPN but is unlikely to last until the ninth or tenth round in a competitive league. Ma Fuzzy should have no problems outpacing his surprisingly depressed price in his first season with the Clippers. In his final campaign with the Raptors, he finished as a top-65 punt assists weapon in 27.5 MPG. He should get at least that much run in Los Angeles, and a top-50 finish or better is very possible. Whether Ibaka is just a good pick at this stage in the draft rather than an excellent pick will be determined by his block rate. In 2019-2020, Serge only managed 0.8 BPG (1.1 BP36). That was by far the worst performance of the center’s career in the category and a far cry from the 1.4 BPG (1.8 BP36) that he managed in 2018-2019. In addition to what should hopefully be improved swats, Ibaka should help his owners win points (16.0 PPG), threes (1.3 3PG), rebounds (8.3 RPG), and FG% (51.8 FG% on 12.5 FGA). The one drawback to selecting the veteran late is that he’ll make winning steals consistently difficult (0.5 SPG).
R8) Brook Lopez – This is a nice price for a player who provided third-round value in the punt assists build last year. However, despite the value that Lopez will return at this spot, he’s not for everyone. Almost all of Lopez’s value was tied up in two categories last season and one of them was turnovers (1.0 TOPG). Whether or not to draft Brook comes down to how badly you need blocks. If you are in a good spot in blocks when it comes time to decide on Lopez, I would stay away. An already strong blocks team won’t gain much from picking up Lopez’s elite swats (2.5 BPG), and grabbing the center will hurt you elsewhere (11.0 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 4.5 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 42.7 FG%). If you are behind in the category, go ahead and snatch him up. After this point in the draft, blocks become very scarce.
Other Round 8 Options: Lauri Markkanen, Myles Turner, Danilo Gallinari