The punt blocks build may not be as flashy or as popular as strategies like punt FT% or punt FG%, but that doesn’t mean it is not a championship-winning strategy. This is a classic build that has become even more effective as the NBA has transitioned to a more perimeter-oriented league. With very few teams running double-big lineups these days, finding quality sources of swats has become more difficult than ever. The numbers bear that out. In 2014-2015, 20 players averaged 1.5 blocks or more. Last season, that number dropped to ten. If you are working with a different build that is aiming to win blocks consistently, you will be competing with every other team in your league for a very small group of players that usually don’t produce a ton of value outside of swats. Not only will you often have to reach for these rare strong sources of blocks, you’ll usually be weakening yourself in a handful of categories while doing so.
Punt blocks can be especially lethal in eight-category leagues. Turnovers not counting means that five of the eight remaining categories are categories that guards and wings tend to excel in. That unbalanced setup strengthens all small-ball builds. While punt FG% tends to be the go-to of most fantasy players looking to build a small-ball team in eight-category leagues, you shouldn’t commit to that strategy without first sitting down and figuring out whether a punt blocks setup would be a better approach. There are strong arguments on both sides of that debate. Punt FG% has a higher ceiling because it increases the value of guards more than the punt blocks strategy does. However, it is also a harder strategy to pull off and comes with a lower floor. That lower floor is due to the popularity of punt FG% and the lack of obvious big man targets in the build. In most competitive 12-team leagues, there will be three or four punt FG% teams competing for the same small group of bigs. All it will take is one unfortunately-timed big man run to put you in a very tough spot. When you punt blocks, missing out on bigs is less of a worry. It’s rare for a draft to contain more than one or two punt blocks teams, so you should be able to get your top big man targets around their ADP.
Even if you don’t plan to utilize this strategy, you should familiarize yourself with it. It is a strategy that works very nicely as a mid-draft pivot. The early rounds don’t always go your way, so it’s important to have a backup strategy (or six) going into your draft. Punt blocks tends to be one of the easier builds to switch to after the first few rounds because there are not a lot of early-round options that make a switch to the strategy inadvisable. It pairs nicely with most of the first-round guards, and is only a no-go zone if you come away from the first two rounds with one or more of Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, or Jaren Jackson Jr. on your squad.
The correlation coefficients show us why punt blocks can be such a devastating strategy when properly implemented. Blocks has a negative relationship with FT%, points, threes, assists, and steals. That means that when we pass on swats, we will be strengthening ourselves in those five categories. That makes sense since outside of a small handful of elite bigs, most of the shot blockers that we will be passing on struggle in some, if not all, of those categories. The opposite is true for FG% and rebounds. Blocks has a positive relationship with both (in this case positive is bad). When we pass on the league’s dominant rim protectors, we will be making it more difficult to win FG% and rebounds consistently since those shot blockers usually do good work in all of the big man categories. Because of this, in order to find enough FG% impact and rebounds, we will need to draft some bigs who average 1.0+ BPG. And that’s fine. We have to do something similar when we punt FG% in order to find enough rebounds and blocks. As is the case with punt FG%, we just need to make sure that the bigs that we are targeting are the right bigs.
We will need to keep an eye on our turnovers when punting blocks in a nine-category league. Since most guards gain a significant amount of value in this build, we will be targeting plenty of them, and that usually leads to issues with turnovers. I would aim to be around average or just below average in the category by the time the final pick is made. This isn’t a build like punt assists or punt points where dominating the category is possible.
The goal when we punt blocks is to win points, threes, assists, steals, and FT% impact consistently while occasionally picking up FG%, rebounds, and/or turnovers.
Any punt blocks team that wants to win a ring needs to make sure that they end the draft in an excellent position in as many guard categories as possible, or at least in a position where they are only a strong pickup or two away from being where they need to be. To end up in a great spot in points, FT%, and assists, you need to target all three categories early and often. Points dry up the quickest. The best sources of points are found inside the first two rounds, and almost all of the best sources of points will be off the board by the end of round four. By the end of round six, difference makers will be very hard to find. In the later rounds, almost all of the decent sources of points come with some serious issues elsewhere. Assists dry up almost as quickly. You’ll want to grab at least two strong contributors in the category during the first three rounds. Three strong dimes options by the end of round five is ideal. We have to be super aggressive with dimes because by the end of round six, almost all of the quality starting point guards will be off the board. The late-round assist sources are mostly low-upside options. FT% follows a similar pattern. You will want to grab at least two very strong sources of FT% during the first three rounds. FT% is not a category that you can find late in the draft. Very few late-round players get to the line enough to make a difference in the category.
The best sources of steals are found in the early rounds. You don’t need to target the category as aggressively as points, assists, and FT%, but we can’t wait as long to focus on the category this year as in years past. Steals dry up quicker than usual this year. Try to go into the second half of the draft in an above-average position in the category. You don’t want to find yourself dependent on the late-round source of steals because those options usually come with plenty of holes in their lines. Threes is the one guard category that can be found throughout the draft. If you fall behind in the triples early, don’t worry. There are plenty of high-3PM options available late. It is also the easiest category to find on the wire.
We will need to keep a close eye on both FG% and rebounds throughout the draft, with rebounds being the more difficult category to manage. That is because on ESPN, rebounds dry up quicker than usual this year. Strong sources of boards are not easy to find during the final handful of rounds this year, especially when we are ignoring players who have a lot of value tied up in swats. In addition to making sure that you grab a couple of quality bigs early, you’ll want to bump guards and wings who provide above-average boards for their position up your draft board. FG% can be managed not only by picking up bigs who excel in the category and guards and wings who are efficient for their position but by avoiding major hits. That second bit is going to be very important during the second half of the draft when most of the guard options are notable drags on the FG% category. By avoiding major drags late, you will make up ground in the category when your opponents take those major drags.
The punt blocks build will be the build of choice for many of those who are fortunate enough to start their draft with Nikola Jokic. The two-time MVP is an obvious fit for this strategy, as blocks is one of the few categories that he doesn’t post dominant numbers in. Punting threes tends to be a stronger option for Jokic-led teams for reasons that we go over in the punt triples guide, but this is a build worth considering and practicing. If you feel you can build a stronger team around Jokic by punting blocks instead of threes, then punt blocks. Big Honey is the ideal starting point for this build because of his elite numbers in the build’s two problematic categories. Punt blocks teams that start their draft with a small are usually going to struggle to find enough boards and FG% impact. That is rarely going to be the case for teams built around Jokic. In 2022-2023, no player produced more value in the FG% category (63.2 FG% on 14.8 FGA) and only two players did better work on the boards (11.8 RPG). He also produces more in the guard categories than any big in the association. During the Nuggets’ championship run, Jokic averaged 24.5 PPG, 9.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG while shooting 82.2 percent from the charity stripe. Don’t lose sleep over his weak three-point output (0.8 3PG). That can be a minor issue in builds like punt points and punt FT%, but here, it doesn’t matter. Teams punting blocks almost always finish their draft near the top of the standings in threes since they will be ignoring many of the league’s 0.0 3PG big men.
This build is also a strong option for most of this year’s first-round guards and wings. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should be the best perimeter starting point for the punt blocks strategy in 2023-2024. Don’t let his excellent out-of-position swats (1.0 BPG) trick you into thinking he’s not. Punting is not about ignoring players who produce strong numbers in the punted category. Punting is about ignoring players who can’t provide us with useful numbers when the punted category doesn’t count. SGA still gives us plenty when his impressive block rate doesn’t matter. In 2022-2023, he was the second-ranked player in the nine-category version of this build and the fourth-ranked player in the eight-category version. He managed to hit those marks by averaging a ridiculous 31.4 PPG on 51.0 FG%, 4.8 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.6 SPG while shooting 90.5 percent from the line on 10.9 FTA. From a category scarcity standpoint, it is hard to do better than the Canadian. Points, assists, steals, and FT% are the four categories that dry up the quickest. Gilgeous-Alexander excels in all four. As is the case with Jokic, his weak three-ball is not a major concern (0.9 3PG). You should have no problem offsetting that minor hit.
Steph Curry works well in every build except punt threes. Which strategy to pair him with should come down to which build you feel gives you the best shot at building the strongest team around the Warrior. You won’t be able to figure out which strategy is your best bet without plenty of preparation. Mocks work great, but Elite Fantasy Basketball’s Team Building Tool is going to be a better option. The tool makes testing out different strategies and combinations of players quick and easy. Testing a strategy through a mock will take about a half hour. The Team Building Tool will allow you to test out your strategy within a couple of minutes. Curry is a strong fit for this build because he produces big numbers in most of the categories that a punt blocks teams needs to win consistently, while helping out more in FG% and blocks than most guards. Curry will finish among the league leaders in points (29.4 PPG), threes (4.9 3PG), and FT% impact (91.5 FT% on 5.0 FTA) and will post a helpful number in assists (6.3 APG). He should also shoot in the high-40s from the field (49.3 FG%) while pulling down five or six boards per night (6.1 RPG). Keep an eye on your steals if you start your punt blocks team with Curry. Father Time has come for his steal rate (0.9 SPG).
Punt points is Tyrese Haliburton’s best build, but if you don’t feel comfortable attempting that fairly tricky strategy, consider slotting him into this build. His relatively low PPG (20.7 PPG) will be less of an issue here than in other builds since this build will be targeting plenty of high-PPG perimeter options while ignoring some of the fantasy-relevant low-PPG bigs. Haliburton should be considered the favorite to lead the league in assists this year (10.4 APG) and should finish among the league leaders in steals (1.6 SPG). He’ll also help you win threes (2.9 3PG) and both percentages (49.0 FG%, 87.1 FT%), although his impact on the FT% category isn’t as significant as his flashy connection rate suggests. Haliburton is only a good, but not great source of FT% category because he doesn’t get to the line a ton (3.6 FTA). If the Pacer is your first-round pick, make FT% impact a priority when deciding on your other early-round building blocks.
You should have an easy time building a strong punt blocks team around Jayson Tatum. Drafting him in the first will make competing in rebounds week in and week out much easier. The Celtic should once again be one of the top sources of boards from the perimeter (8.8 RPG). He’s also going to post monster numbers in point (30.1 PPG), threes (3.2 3PG), and FT% (85.4 FT% on 8.4 FTA) while doing less damage to your chances in turnovers (2.9 TOPG) than most first-round picks. Extra focus will need to be placed on assists and FG% if you start your draft with the forward. Tatum is a below-average source of assists for his draft position (4.6 APG) and his high-3PAr is going to lead to a mediocre FG% (46.6 FG%).
Damian Lillard will be a viable centerpiece for this build in Milwaukee. With his new squad, he will be a top-end source of points, threes, assists, and FT% impact. In 2022-2023, Lillard was a top-three contributor in points (32.2 PPG), threes (4.2 3PG), and FT% (91.4 FT% on 9.6 FTA) and a top-12 source of dimes (7.3 APG). He should be paired with high-FG% options and players that put up a big number in steals. Lillard will be a larger drag on FG% (46.6 FG%) than most of the first-round guards and will be a long shot to average 1.0 SPG. The point guard has failed to hit that mark in each of his last three seasons.
Categories to target: FG%, Rebounds, Turnovers
First-round targets: Nikola Jokic, Jayson Tatum, Steph Curry, Tyrese Haliburton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Damian Lillard
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. All numbers and rankings are from the 2022-2023 season unless otherwise stated.
R2) Domantas Sabonis – This build and punt threes tend to be the best spots for Sabonis. That’s not a surprise, as those are also the best spots for Nikola Jokic. Sabonis functions as a poor man’s version of the Finals MVP. Like Jokic, Sabonis brings the heat in this build’s two tricky spots (12.3 RPG, 61.5 FG% on 11.9 FGA) while producing a goofy number for his position in assists (7.3 APG). He also scores more than most center-eligible players (19.1 PPG), so while he is a below-average source of points for his draft position, taking him early doesn’t hurt you in the category too much because unlike many of your opponents, you won’t have to fill one of your center spots with a low-PPG player later in the draft. His weak three-ball (0.4 3PG) and the moderate FT% hit (74.2 FT% on 5.5 FTA) that accompanies him are not major concerns because this build will be targeting plenty of perimeter options that post big numbers in both areas.
R2) Kyrie Irving – Kyrie is by far the best second-round option for this build on a per-game basis. Per-game basis being the key words in that sentence. The Maverick remains as unpredictable as ever and needs to be paired with safe early-round options. If you leave the first round with an injury-prone player, you’ll need to take Irving off your draft board. When active, Kyrie gives this build everything it could ask for. The eight-time All-Star is one of the league’s most efficient guards (49.4 FG%) and always does good work on the boards (5.1 RPG). He’s also a lock to be a force in all of the guard categories. His numbers in points, threes, assists, steals, and FT% shouldn’t be impacted significantly by Luka Doncic. After the trade, Irving managed a nasty 27.0 PPG, 2.9 3PG, 6.0 APG, and 1.3 SPG while shooting a blistering 94.7 percent on his 4.6 FTA.
R2) Devin Booker – Booker is not a lock to return second-round value in punt blocks due to who he will be sharing the rock with this year. However, he’s still worth considering towards the end of the second for his well-rounded contributions and strong out-of-position FG% impact. In 2022-2023, the Sun produced top-25 numbers in this friendly build by averaging 27.8 PPG on 49.4 FG% and 85.5 FT%, 2.1 3PG, 4.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.0 SPG. All of those numbers are repeatable except the points, although he will likely have some extended stretches where he ends up around last season’s PPG. Both Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal are good bets to miss significant chunks of the regular season. When one or both are sitting, Booker’s usage rate will look like it did during the Chris Paul era.
Other Round 2 Options: Jimmy Butler, James Harden, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young, Mikal Bridges
R3) Karl-Anthony Towns – Towns produces a similar line to Lauri Markkanen. Like Markkanen, he’s a stretch big who provides elite out-of-position FT% impact (87.4 FT% on 4.7 FTA) while putting up big numbers in points, threes, and rebounds. Despite losing touches to Anthony Edwards and boards to Rudy Gobert, the former first-round fantasy pick averaged a respectable 20.8 PPG, 2.1 3PG, and 8.1 RPG during his injury-plagued 2022-2023 season. The boards will likely stay in that range, but we should see an uptick in Towns’ points and threes. Both numbers were dragged down by an abnormally poor season from deep. Last year, the power forward shot only 36.6 percent from beyond the arc. That’s a solid number for most bigs, but for Towns, it’s about four percent worse than what he usually does. Some positive regression from deep should also boost his FG% (49.5 FG%). Towns is also a top-end source of out-of-position dimes (4.8 APG), although that flashy assist rate is a double-edged sword. The extra creation duties will lead to a very rough turnover rate for a big (3.0 TOPG).
R3) Lauri Markkanen – Markkanen looks like he’s going to be a key piece in the punt blocks build for the foreseeable future. During his breakout 2022-2023 campaign, he was one of only five bigs to finish inside the top 20 when blocks didn’t count. The jump in efficiency has led to his line being an almost perfect match for this strategy. When we punt blocks, we will be trying to win points and threes consistently while maintaining competitiveness in FG%. That is not an easy feat to pull off since most of the top scorers and three-point threats are low-FG% guards. Grabbing Markkanen towards the end of the second or during the first half of the third makes ending up in a strong spot in all three categories very doable. During his first year in Utah, the stretch big averaged 25.6 PPG on 49.9 FG% while knocking down 3.0 3PG. Markkanen will also help us win rebounds (8.6 RPG) while being an elite source of out-of-position FT% impact (87.5 FT% on 6.0 FTA). Try to pair the forward with durable options. Markkanen has never played 70 games in a season and is on a team that could take their foot off the gas late in the year.
R3) Dejounte Murray – Murray is going to be close to a must for a lot of punt blocks teams. That is because many of this build’s early-round targets come with weak steal rates. Steals is a category that you want to address early. It doesn’t dry up quite as quickly as points, assists, and FT% impact do, but it is a category that is difficult to find late this year. There are some strong sources of swipes in the final rounds, but most of the best options struggle to produce useful numbers elsewhere. In his first season in Atlanta, Murray averaged an extremely helpful 1.5 SPG. That number should not be considered his ceiling in the category. Steals has the most year-to-year variance of the nine standings categories and big swings are common. It’s very possible that the combo guard ends up closer to the 2.0 SPG that he managed in his final season in San Antonio. Murray should also be a reliable contributor in points (20.5 PPG), rebounds (5.3 RPG), and assists (6.1 APG) while hurting you less in turnovers (2.2 TOPG) than most high-APG options.
R3) Darius Garland – Very few players gain more value when blocks are thrown out than Garland. Since entering the league in 2019-2020, the point guard has blocked only 26 more shots in the NBA than you or I have. He is yet to finish a season averaging more than 0.1 BPG. In this extremely friendly build, he is likely to end up as a top-30 option. Garland will make our goal of finishing the draft in a decent spot in rebounds (2.7 RPG) and FG% (46.2 FG%) more difficult, but he will more than make up for his weak numbers in the remaining big man categories by posting helpful numbers in all of the categories that will difficult to find during the second half of the draft. In his first season beside Donovan Mitchell, Garland averaged 21.6 PPG, 7.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG while shooting 86.3 percent on his 4.7 FTA. Like all of his teammates, Garland has a little extra value due to the team he is on. It is very unlikely that the Cavaliers will be good enough to give their studs many days off.
Other Round 3 Options: Bam Adebayo, Pascal Siakam, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jalen Brunson
R4) De’Aaron Fox – Fox is one of this build’s top point guard options because of his elite out-of-position FG% impact. During his breakout 2022-2023 campaign, the King shot 51.2 percent on his 18.2 FGA. No point guard-eligible player who was consistently rostered in standard leagues topped those numbers last season. During his first All-Star season, he also managed to average 25.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.1 APG, and 1.1 SPG while turning the ball over less often than most early-round guards (2.5 TOPG). Fox’s top-end FG% impact is made possible by a relatively low 3PAr (1.6 3PG) that we shouldn’t pay much attention to. Threes are the easiest category to find during the second half of the draft. You should have no problem offsetting the hit that accompanies Fox. If you can’t manage that during the draft—don’t fret. Threes is also the easiest category to find on the wire.
R4) DeMar DeRozan – DeRozan is a very strong pick in the fourth or the fifth in any build that isn’t punting one of his better categories. The six-time All-Star produces a very predictable line and comes with elite durability. DeMar always scores in the mid-20s while providing a level of percentages impact that is rarely found outside of the first two rounds of the draft. He is also always good for about five boards and five assists per night. There is no reason why he can’t come close to matching last year’s averages of 24.5 PPG on 50.4 FG% and 87.2 FT%, 4.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, and 1.1 SPG. He’s starting to get up there, but he hasn’t shown any signs of decline, and his role isn’t going to shrink this year with the Bulls not making any notable changes this summer. While the numbers are nice, his durability is what sets him apart from a lot of players in his range. If it were not for the two COVID-shortened seasons, DeRozan would enter this year having played 70+ games in eight straight seasons. Don’t worry about his lack of triples. When you punt blocks, it will be very difficult to finish the draft in anything but a great position in the category since most of this build’s top targets are high-3PM guards and bigs that average 1.0+ 3PG.
R4) Zach LaVine – LaVine is one of this build’s top targets. He has a high floor due to his role, produces very helpful numbers in most of the categories that we need to target during the first five rounds, and comes with a well-above-average FG% for his position. Last season, LaVine averaged 24.8 PPG on 48.5 FG%, 2.6 3PG, 4.5 RPG, and 4.2 APG while shooting 84.8 percent from the free throw line. The one issue with his line is his steal rate. The Bull has not averaged more than 0.9 SPG in a season since 2019-2020. LaVine is also a fairly safe investment from a games-played standpoint. He’s averaged 72 games over the past two seasons and plays for a team that won’t be able to give him many days off. LaVine is more likely than most players in this range to be posting big numbers when fantasy championships are being decided.
R4) Nikola Vucevic – Vucevic was arguably the MVP of the punt blocks build last year. He was only a borderline top-25 per-game player in the build in 2022-2023, but because he played all 82 games, he ended up ranked eighth in total value with all the players ahead of him costing at least a second-round pick. We obviously can’t make bank on him repeating last season’s incredible performance. However, last year does make it clear that he has the potential to be an outstanding pick, even if he’s taken towards the end of the third round. Vucevic should once again finish among the league leaders in rebounds (11.0 RPG) while providing solid FG% impact (52.0 FG%) and doing more in the guard categories than most bigs. In his second full season with the Bulls, the Montenegrin averaged a very useful 17.6 PPG, 1.5 3PG, and 3.2 APG while shooting 83.5 percent from the charity stripe.
Other Round 4 Options: Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Jrue Holiday
R5) Deandre Ayton – The Blazers are an outstanding landing spot for Ayton. The big man is likely going to be a top-45 player in neutral builds like punt blocks. He was in that range early in his career before the Suns started to minimize his role on offense. He has a great shot averaging 20 and 10 while being one of the league’s top sources of FG% impact in his first year in Portland. Given this build’s natural weakness in both rebounds and FG%, that makes the newest Blazer one of the top mid-round big man targets for this strategy. The lone downside to the move to Portland is the shutdown risk that now accompanies the center. Ayton will be someone that you may need to sell high on during the second half of the season. Portland will be playing for ping pong balls this year and have not been afraid to shut down their stars in the past. Last season, Damian Lillard, Jerami Grant, and Anfernee Simons were all shut down in mid-March.
R5) Brandon Ingram – From a fantasy standpoint, Ingram is a poor man’s LaVine. Like the Bull, he is a smart pick from a category scarcity standpoint who doesn’t give us much in steals (0.7 SPG). In this build, and in every other build, we need to target points, assists, and FT% impact early and often. The Pelican does great work in all three areas. In 2022-2023, he produced 24.7 PPG and 5.8 APG while knocking down 88.2 percent of his 6.0 FTA. Ingram also does a better job than most high-volume perimeter options in FG% (48.4 FG%) and boards (5.5 RPG). What lands Ingram behind LaVine is his weak three-ball (1.4 3PG) and his very questionable durability. The latter is more of a concern than the former. While LaVine has been able to put together some healthy seasons after struggling to stay in one piece early in his career, Ingram continues to miss major chunks of the calendar. Over the last two seasons, the forward has missed a total of 64 games. If you plan on targeting Ingram, make sure that you play it safe in the early rounds.
R5) Alperen Sengun – Sengun is probably not going to finish as a sixth-round player in punt blocks this year. He would have to improve significantly to hit that mark. In 2022-2023, the center was just a borderline top-100 player when his swats (0.9 BPG) didn’t count. However, we should still consider him in the middle rounds because punting is not about collecting as many high-ranking players as possible. The goal when we punt is to build the strongest team possible, and Sengun can help us do that. The Rockets’ starting center is one of the few bigs possibly available after the first five rounds that can help us in rebounds and FG% without taking a major bite out of our points, assists, or steals. In his second year in the association, the big man averaged 14.8 PPG on 55.3 FG%, 9.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 0.9 SPG. Whether or not he can top last year’s numbers is hard to say. He is a player that needs to be watched closely in preseason. The Rockets’ pursuit of Brook Lopez this summer suggests that Houston is not as enamored with Sengun as most fantasy players are.
Other Round 5 Options: O.G. Anunoby, Julius Randle, Scottie Barnes, Jarrett Allen, Bradley Beal, Tyrese Maxey
R6) Franz Wanger – Wagner is a nice pick in most builds in the middle rounds due to his well-rounded line. However, he is an especially strong fit for the punt blocks build due to his ability to drop 20 a night without hurting you in FG%. Due to this build’s natural weakness in FG%, perimeter options who shoot in the high 40s should get priority over the less efficient options. The third-year man likely won’t produce standout numbers in any category, but he likely won’t hurt us in too many spots either. When his weak block rate is ignored (0.2 BPG), there isn’t much in Wagner’s line to complain about. Given where he is in his career, it would surprising if he didn’t improve on last season’s already very solid 18.6 PPG, 1.6 3PG, 4.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 1.0 SPG.
R6) Khris Middleton – Middleton is still a strong target in punt blocks, even though he’s likely going to lose a couple of rounds of value with Damian Lillard now in town. He’s still worth considering here because he produces a well-rounded line and puts up stronger numbers in the hard-to-find categories like points, assists, and FT% than most players in his range. With Dame in town, Middleton should still be able to average around 18/5/5 and over two threes per game while providing his fantasy managers with strong FT% impact (90.2 FT%). Keep an eye out for news on his knee. Currently, he is on track to play in the opener.
R6) Jalen Williams – Williams looks like he’s going to be one of the primary targets for this build for the next decade. Down the stretch of his rookie season, the former 12th-overall pick produced a line that was tailor-made for this strategy. Over the final three months of the regular season, Williams produced great numbers for his position in this build’s two problematic categories (53.0 FG%, 5.2 RPG) while providing his fantasy squads with elite steals (1.8 SPG) and low-end points (16.4 PPG), threes (1.2 3PG), and FT% impact (85.0 FT% on 3.1 FTA). That steal rate likely isn’t sustainable, as Williams didn’t have a particularly strong steal rate in college and produced only average per-minute numbers in the category early in the season, but the rest of that line is doable this year.
Other Round 6 Options: Josh Giddey, Terry Rozier, Devin Vassell, Tyler Herro
R7) Tobias Harris – Harris will have a place in all of this year’s punting guides as long as he continues to be available at a deflated price. His current ADP is an overreaction to a poor finish to the year. The Sixer is still a high-ceiling player. Despite some ups and downs in 2022-2023, and a slight dip in playing time (32.9 MPG), Harris was still able to post top-55 numbers in punt swats. With Nick Nurse coming in, last year’s drop in minutes should reverse itself. It would not be surprising at all if Harris’ minutes jumped into 35+ MPG range this year. That is around where O.G. Anunoby and Scottie Barnes landed last season. In a role of that size, Harris would have top-30 upside when blocks don’t count. The Sixer should produce a line that doesn’t come with any significant drags. He should score in the mid-to-high-teens while providing you with solid threes (1.7 3PG) and boards (5.7 RPG). He will also be a much bigger help than most players selected during the second half of the draft in the percentages (50.1 FG%, 87.6 FT%). His elite durability adds to his appeal. Over the last eight seasons, the forward has played 72 games or more all but once with that one miss being one of the COVID-shortened seasons.
R7) Cam Johnson – If Johnson can match what he did during his 25-game stint with the Nets last year, he will be a very strong pick in the middle rounds in punt blocks. After the trade to Brooklyn, the sharpshooter averaged 16.6 PPG on 46.8 FG%, 2.3 3PG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 1.1 TOPG while shooting 85.1 percent from the charity stripe. Those numbers were strong enough to get him inside the top 40 in the nine-category version of this build and the top 60 in the eight-category version. The return of Ben Simmons should not have a major impact on Johnson’s outlook since the former Sun doesn’t spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands. Spencer Dinwiddie is the Net who will likely take the brunt of the hit.
R7) Markelle Fultz – Fultz’s weak three-ball (0.5 3PG) is an issue in other builds, but here, it actually makes him more attractive. By not taking many shots from deep, the point guard is able to produce very useful out-of-position FG% impact. That is a trade-off we will gladly take. We will have no problem making up for Fultz’s lack of threes later in the draft, but finding enough FG% impact is almost always going to be an issue when we punt blocks. In his first healthy season since 2019-2020, Fultz was a top-80 asset when blocks were ignored. He managed that respectable ranking by averaging 14.0 PPG on 51.4 FG%, 5.7 APG, and 1.5 SPG. He will be a top target for any team that goes into the second half of the draft in a questionable spot in dimes or swipes.
Other Round 7 Options: C.J. McCollum, Jakob Poeltl, Tyus Jones,
R8) John Collins – Collins is one of those 1.0+ BPG bigs that we need to consider due to this build’s struggle to find enough rebounds and FG% impact. He shouldn’t be your first choice when punting swats, but as you’ll find out when you are doing your mocks, it is very difficult to find suitable bigs for this build during the second half of the draft. In Utah, Collins should receive a usage rate bump. Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson are not low-usage players, but they are not Trae Young and Dejounte Murray either. The former Hawk should be able to score in the mid-teens this year while providing strong percentages impact and decent boards. His 2021-2022 line is achievable. That year, the forward averaged 16.2 PPG, 1.2 3PG, and 7.8 RPG while shooting 52.7 percent from the floor and 79.3 percent from the line.
R8) Kyle Kuzma – Kuzma’s line isn’t a great fit for category leagues, but he will be a solid pick towards the end of the middle rounds for some teams. If you go into the final handful of rounds in a solid spot in FG% and steals, he’ll be worth considering for his excellent popcorn stats. In 2022-2023, the Wizard averaged a nasty 21.2 PPG, 2.5 3PG, 7.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG. Unfortunately, he also averaged only 0.6 SPG while shooting 44.8 percent from the field on significant volume (44.8 FG%). He also comes with a material FT% hit (73.0 FT% on 3.7 FTA), but that is less of a concern here than it is in other builds since punt blocks teams usually go into the later rounds in a great spot in the category. Kuzma is a much stronger pick in eight-category leagues than he is in nine-category leagues due to his ugly turnover rate (3.0 TOPG).
Other Round 8 Options: D’Angelo Russell, Klay Thompson, Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant
R9) Jonas Valanciunas – Valanciunas is a good, but not great late-round target for this build. He may seem like a must-grab for teams punting blocks as one of the few top-end sources of rebounds and FG% that doesn’t have much value tied up in swats, but he doesn’t quite reach that level due to his atrocious steal rate. In 2022-2023, the big man averaged 0.3 SPG. That incredibly low number is a problem because any punt blocks team with championship aspirations needs to be winning steals almost every week. He’s worth considering, but you should only put Valanciunas at the top of your queue if you go into the later rounds in a very strong spot in steals. In 2022-2023, Big V averaged 14.1 PPG, 0.5 3PG, and 10.2 RPG while shooting 54.7 percent from the floor and 82.6 percent from the line. He likely won’t score quite as much with Zion Williamson (hopefully) available for more games this year, but the rest of last season’s line is repeatable.
R9) Wendell Carter Jr. – Carter is an obvious mid-round target for this build. Unlike most high-RPG centers, he has minimal value tied up in blocks. In 2022-2023, the big man managed only 0.6 BPG. Carter will be a nightly double-double threat (15.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG) who scores his points fairly efficiently (52.5 FG%). He’ll also hit from deep more often than many of the bigs in his range (1.4 3PG) and won’t be as significant of a drag on dimes (2.4 APG) as those same bigs. The lone major issue here is Carter’s steal rate. Most centers hurt your steals, but usually not to the extent that the Magic’s starting five does (0.5 SPG).
R9) Keegan Murray – If you find yourself coming out of the first half of the draft in a weak position in threes, put Murray near the top of your wish list. Unlike most three-point bombers found in his range, the King can post a solid number in rebounds while taking only a minor bite out of your FG%. Over the final three months of his rookie season, Murray averaged a promising 12.6 PPG on 46.6 FG%, 2.8 3PG, and 5.4 RPG. It would be surprising if the forward didn’t improve on most of those numbers this year. He should start taking some minutes and touches away from Harrison Barnes in 2023-2024. Murray is an especially smart target for teams that went heavy on high-turnover players early on in order to boost their chances in points and dimes. Even in an expanded role, Murray should average around two turnovers per week (0.9 TOP36).
Other Round 9 Options: Clint Calepa, Ja Morant, Draymond Green
R10) Josh Hart – Hart is arguably the top late-round target for the punt blocks build. He has the ability to produce mid-round value in this friendly strategy (0.3 BPG) and puts up big numbers in the build’s problematic categories. If he can come close to matching the numbers he posted during his short stint with the Knicks last year, he will be a home run pick at his very modest ADP. After the trade to New York, Hart averaged 10.2 PPG on 58.6 FG%, 1.1 3PG, 7.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, and 1.4 SPG. All of those numbers are useful, but the FG% and rebounds are especially valuable here, as the punt blocks build will usually go into the final rounds in an iffy spot in at least one of the two categories.
R10) Zach Collins – Collins is one of this year’s top late-round targets due to his ability to produce decent numbers in the guard categories while providing your punt blocks team with the rebounds and FG% impact boosts it needs. He should play minutes in the mid-20s with the Spurs looking to protect Victor Wembanyama by having the rookie play plenty of minutes at the four. In a role of that size, Collins could be a top-100 player in most builds, including this one. He will lose value when blocks are ignored (1.2 BP36), but that is not a major concern, as he will still produce useful numbers elsewhere. In his 26 starts last year, the center averaged an impressive 14.8 PPG on 50.3 FG%, 1.3 3PG, 7.9 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 0.9 SPG in 28.2 MPG.
R10) Bruce Brown – Brown is a no-brainer late-round target for all builds, including this one. He is more interesting than most of the players who will go towards the end of the draft due to his ability to produce a well-rounded line. Most players in his range are specialists who help you in one or two areas. Brown, on the other hand, has the ability to produce positive numbers in almost every category. His numbers as a starter with the Nuggets give an idea of what to expect this year. Over his 31 starts last year, the Swiss Army knife averaged 13.9 PPG on 51.4 FG%, 1.5 3PG, 4.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.2 SPG. He should at least approach all of those numbers in Indiana in what should be a low-30s MPG role for the Pacers. Brown has more value than his per-game projections suggest. That is because he will be one Tyrese Haliburton injury away from having early-round potential. As we saw in his lone year in Denver, Brown is a good bet to produce a top-50 line whenever he starts at point guard.
Other Round 10 Options: Kevin Huerter, Bobby Portis, Aaron Gordon, Ivica Zubac, De’Anthony Melton
R11) Gary Trent Jr. – Trent is another player who is close to a must-grab towards the end of the draft for any team punting one of his weak categories. In friendly builds like punt blocks (0.2 BPG), he has a real shot at cracking the top 50. The swingman has managed to hit that mark in both of his full seasons with the Raptors. Trent should be one of the strongest sources of points, threes, and steals found towards the end of the middle rounds. He’s a good bet to at least match all of last season’s numbers (17.4 PPG on 43.3 FG%, 2.5 3PG, 1.6 SPG) with the Raptors still extremely light on shooting. It’s hard to see how his minutes don’t get into at least the low 30s with Fred VanVleet in Houston and most of the Raptors’ main pieces being weak outside shooters.
R11) Deni Avdija – Avdija should be one of the best sources of rebounds from the small forward spot in 2023-2024. He will likely play minutes in the low-30s for the tanking Wizards and that should mean over seven or eight boards a night. Over the final three months of the 2022-2023 campaign, Avdija needed only 27.4 MPG to average 7.3 RPG. In addition to the excellent boards, the Wizard will provide his squads with more assists than most late-round picks. After the All-Star break last season, Avdija averaged close to four dimes per game. The rest of his line will be low-end. The forward should score in the low teens while averaging about one three and one steal per night. He is not for teams in a shaky position in the percentages. Avdija will come with minor FG% (43.7 FG%) and FT (73.9 FT%) hits.
Other Round 11 Options: Herb Jones, PJ Washington, Immanuel Quickley
R12) Tari Eason – Eason isn’t going to play 30 MPG this year due to the Rockets’ depth, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t end up posting top-100 numbers in punt blocks. Due to his excellent per-minute production in boards and steals, minutes in the mid-20s may be all that is needed to allow the second-year man to hit that mark. As a rookie, the Rocket produced an extremely impressive 10.1 RP36 and 2.0 SP36. If he plays even 25 MPG, around seven boards a night and 1.4 SPG is very possible. Look elsewhere if you enter the final rounds in need of threes or assists. Eason should be a notable drag on both categories with his assist rate being especially damaging (1.2 3P36, 1.8 AP36).
R12) Kyle Anderson – Anderson’s weak scoring numbers will be an issue in other builds. However, in the punt blocks strategy, they should be just a minor nuisance. Due to who the early-round targets in this build are, the punt blocks strategy will usually have no problem absorbing a points or threes hit towards the end of the draft. Points and threes are the only thing to complain about here. The rest of Anderson’s line should be very useful, even on nights when he comes off the bench. As a reserve last year, Anderson managed 4.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.0 SPG in only 23.8 MPG. On nights when he started, those numbers jumped to 5.6 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.2 SPG. The veteran should get plenty of starts this year. Like Bruce Brown in Denver last season, Anderson is the primary handcuff for all of the Wolves’ starters.
R12) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – KCP doesn’t come with the upside that some of the other late-round picks do, but he does come with a much higher floor. The Nugget is more likely to be on your roster a month into the season than most players that will go toward the end of the draft. Give him a look if you need a threes and steals bump. The two-time NBA champion should be able to come close to matching last season’s 1.8 3PG and 1.5 SPG. His role is safer than ever with Bruce Brown moving to Indiana. If you’ve already locked up swipes, look elsewhere. In that scenario, rostering the shooting guard will hurt you more than he helps you.
Other Round 12 Options: Jusuf Nurkic, Keldon Johnson, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Ausar Thompson, Ben Mathurin, Al Horford
R13) Jeremy Sochan – Sochan is another player who has the potential to put up a very nice number in rebounds while giving you more dimes than most late-round picks will. Just how large his role is going to be isn’t completely clear just yet, but the second-year man should play close to 30 MPG this season. Assuming that proves to be the case, Sochan should produce around seven boards, three or four assists, and a steal per night. He should also score more than most late-round picks despite his weak jumper (0.6 3PG). Over the final 20 games of his rookie campaign, the Spur averaged a respectable 15.0 PPG.
R13) Trey Murphy – Murphy should drop to the final round now that he is dealing with a meniscus injury. Assuming you play in a league with more than one IL spot, he’ll be a no-brainer stash if available that late. Grabbing the Pelican in the final round is a zero-downside move that comes with significant upside. Once he’s healthy, Murphy has a good shot at posting mid-round numbers. He may not reach that mark on nights when both Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are active, but how often is that going to be? Both of the Pelicans’ stars are very likely to miss 20+ games. On nights when one or both of the stars are missing, Murphy will have early-round potential due to his pristine percentages (48.4 FG%, 90.5 FT%), above-average triples (2.6 3PG), and useful contributions in points (14.5 PPG) and steals (1.1 SPG). The third-year man won’t be a perfect fit for every punt blocks team because he isn’t going to provide us with the rebounds that we need (3.8 RPG) and will come with a sizable dimes hit (1.4 APG), but that doesn’t mean you should pass on him if your team is in a rough spot in either category. Upside should trump fit when we reach the later rounds.
Other Round 13 Options: Obi Toppin, Gordon Hayward, Christian Wood, Kelly Olynyk, Kevon Looney, Brandon Miller, Luke Kennard, Corey Kispert, Paul Reed, Amen Thompson, Norman Powell, Matisse Thybulle, Coby White, Cole Anthony
Deep League Options: Alex Caruso, De’Andre Hunter, Jarred Vanderbilt, Naz Reid, Tim Hardaway Jr., Talen Horton-Tucker, A.J. Griffin, Marvin Bagley, Isaiah Hartenstein, Larry Nance Jr., Richaun Holmes, Keyonte George
Below are five punt blocks teams that I created using this guide and the ESPN rankings. The teams are not meant to be thought of as a best-case scenario for the build. They are meant to give you an idea of what a strong punt blocks team will look like.