R3) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – If SGA was on a different team, he would be a must-grab in the punt steals build. His line is exactly what this build needs. He’s going to rank among the league’s top scorers this season (23.7 PPG), be one of the few high-volume guards who produces positive FG% impact (50.7 FG%), and will provide his managers with plenty of dimes (5.9 APG). He’ll also be one of the better sources of out-of-position blocks (0.7 BPG) and will no longer hurt you from three (2.0 3PG). The Thunder didn’t bring in any high-impact players this summer, which is both good and bad for the Canadian’s prospects. It’s good because it makes last year’s line very repeatable, but it’s bad because it makes last year’s record very repeatable. There is an unfortunate amount of shutdown risk here. Any minor injury in March could knock SGA out of the fantasy playoffs. Because of this, he should be paired with safe early-round players.
R3) Michael Porter Jr. – Porter could finish inside of the top 10 in this build. That is not a stretch at all. He just has to improve slightly. Last season, Porter finished 17th in nine-category punt steals on a per-game basis. With Jamal Murray likely out until sometime after the All-Star break, that improvement is very likely to come. We saw what MPJ could do as the Nuggets’ second option down the stretch of the 2020-2021 season, and it was spectacular. After the Murray injury, Porter averaged a goofy 23.5 PPG on 56.0 FG%, 3.9 3PG, 6.1 RPG, and 0.8 BPG while shooting 85.4 percent on 2.4 FTA. Those numbers were good enough to rank him inside of the top seven in punt steals over that stretch. His history with back injuries is a little concerning, so he’s not the best pick for teams starting their draft with Kevin Durant or Joel Embiid, but if your first-round pick is relatively sturdy, I would not shy away from Porter in this range.
R3) Donovan Mitchell – If you value safety in the early rounds, Mitchell is your man. Before an ankle injury cost him the final month of the 2020-2021 regular season, the Jazz’s go-to guy had missed only a handful of games in his career. He’s also safe because there is no chance that the Jazz give him a significant amount of nights off. If Utah is going to do damage in the playoffs this year, they’ll need homecourt advantage, and chasing that advantage should keep Mitchell active during the fantasy playoffs. The shooting guard is one of the few early-round guards who has no value tied up in steals (1.0 SPG). Mitchell earns his keep by producing elite numbers in points (26.4 PPG) and threes (3.4 3PG) while being an above-average source of dimes (5.2 APG) and FT% impact (84.5 FT%). If it weren’t for the material FG% hit that accompanies him (43.8 FG% on 20.6 FGA), he’d be a perfect match for this build.
R3) Deandre Ayton – Ayton is a high-ceiling/high-floor player when steals do not matter (0.6 SPG). He was a first-round player in this build on a per-game basis in his sophomore year and almost cracked the top-25 last season despite getting off to a very slow start. Whether or not he gets back to his top-12 ways is hard to say. It’s not a talent issue. It’s all about his role and how many looks Monty Williams wants to give him. Last season, Ayton’s FGA36 dropped to 11.7 after sitting at 16.5 in 2019-2020. That is a massive drop. Ayton actually got significantly fewer touches last year than he did as a rookie. I would bet on the big man having a larger role this year. I don’t think the Suns envision him as a 14.4 PPG player going forward. However, until the season starts, we won’t know just how much more involved Ayton is going to be, so when drafting him and projecting his numbers, I would assume just a slight bump in usage. If becomes a featured option on the Suns again, that’s great, but I wouldn’t make that assumption when planning out your draft strategy. Ayton is going to once again be a beast in all of the big-man categories, especially rebounds and FG%. The center averaged a double-double last year (14.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG) and was a top-six source of FG% impact (62.6 FG% on 10.0 FGA). He also gave his managers 1.2 BPG, and unlike most of the top FG% anchors in the league, he did a respectable job at the line (76.9 FT%). Don’t expect much from Ayton in the threes (0.1 3PG) or assists (1.4 APG) categories.
Other Round 3 Options: Jaylen Brown, Clint Capela, Kyrie Irving (if vaccinated)
R4) Brandon Ingram – This is Ingram’s best build. If he came with a half-decent steal rate (0.7 SPG), you’d likely have to spend a second-round pick on him. But since he doesn’t, punt steals teams get to use a fourth on a player who could easily finish as a second-round player in their build. Last season, Ingram finished inside of the top 30 when his ugly steal rate didn’t matter. With steals thrown out, there is not a lot to dislike in Ingram’s line. The rest of his counting numbers will be good to great, and he’ll come with elite FT% impact. In 2020-2021, Ingram averaged a very healthy 23.8 PPG on 46.6 FG%, 2.3 3PG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 0.6 BPG while shooting 87.8 percent on 5.2 FTA. Those numbers at the charity stripe were good enough to rank the Pelican inside of the top 15 in the category. Ingram gets extra points for being on the perfect team. New Orleans will not be good enough to give anyone days off and are unlikely to be bad enough to fall out of contention for a play-in spot. Ingram should be dropping bombs for his managers all the way through to the final day of the regular season.
R4) Devin Booker – Booker is very hard to trust with Chris Paul around. Even though this build made one of his main weaknesses in 2020-2021 irrelevant (0.8 SPG), the Sun still finished outside of the top 60 in punt steals. With Paul still there, there is no guarantee that we see the shooting guard bounce back. His assist rate is likely to be disappointing again unless Paul goes down (4.3 APG), and he hasn’t been more than an average bet for triples (1.9 3PG) since 2017-2018. His impact on the percentages and his still excellent contributions in points is what makes him worth considering in this range. Booker will be one of the most efficient guards in the association in 2021-2022 (48.4 FG%, 86.7 FT%), and his high volume (19.2 FGA, 5.9 FTA) will ensure that he has a significant impact on both categories. While Paul did tank his assist rate, his PPG barely budged (25.6 PPG). Booker is best treated as a backup option to Brandon Ingram. Their lines are similar, but Ingram gives you more in threes, rebounds, assists, and blocks.
R4) John Collins – Collins’ floor in punt steals is well above his ADP. Last year felt disappointing, and yet he still finished just outside of the top 25 in punt swipes. I wouldn’t expect a significant improvement in his numbers this year with the Hawks rotation still very deep, but at this price, we don’t need any improvement. The Hawk is nice value here not only because he’ll outplay this ranking, but also because he brings the percentages impact that this build loves. Last season, Collins shot a blistering 55.6 percent from the floor. That connection rate was good enough to rank him inside of the top 20 in the category. That’s an impressive feat, especially when you consider that only one other player ranked inside of the top 20 averaged more threes than Collins did (1.3 3PG). The power forward’s numbers in the FT% category may not seem overly useful at first glance (83.3 FT% on 3.2 FTA), but they are once you factor in his position. There were only a handful of center-eligible players who helped more in the category in 2020-2021. Collins will also score more than most bigs (17.6 PPG) and do good, but not great, work on the boards (7.4 RPG) and in the blocks category (1.0 BPG). If you grab Collins in this range, make sure that most of your other early-round picks are high-assist players. Collins will be a major drag on dimes (1.2 APG), and you will only have until about round six to find reliable contributors in the category.
Other Round 4 Options: Khris Middleton, Christian Wood, Myles Turner
R5) Tobias Harris – Harris is one of the safest picks that you can make and comes with an impressive ceiling. The Sixer has missed only 12 games over the last five seasons and finished inside of the top 25 in punt steals in 2020-2021. Harris does most of his work inside of the three-point arc which leads to a disappointing threes number (1.3 3PG) but also a very helpful FG% (51.2 FG% on 14.9 FGA). He’s also going to bring a level of FT% impact that tends to be hard to find after the first few rounds of the draft, although I wouldn’t expect him to match last season’s 89.2 percent success rate. The forward usually shoots in the low-to-mid 80s. Besides his weak three-ball, there are no serious issues here. Harris also does very good work on the boards (6.8 RPG) and in the blocks column (0.8 BPG) and will be an above-average bet for dimes (3.5 APG) for his position.
R5) Jonas Valanciunas – Big Science is a tricky player to project this season since he’s switching teams and is joining a squad with two very high-usage players in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. His minutes will be safer in New Orleans, but he is very likely to suffer a usage rate drop. Because of the uncertainty, it’s important to pair him with a friendly build like punt steals (0.5 SPG). If you slide him into this build, it is very unlikely that you’ll finish the year mad at yourself for drafting Valanciunas. The Pelicans’ starting center could fall off a bit and still comfortably return value at this price in this build. In his final season with the Grizzlies, the center was a top-15 player in punt steals. When steals were ignored, he was more valuable than players like Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, and Jimmy Butler. With the Pelicans, he’ll still be a monster contributor in rebounds (12.5 RPG) and FG% (59.3 FG%), and unlike most bigs, he won’t hurt you at the line (77.3 FT% on 3.3 FTA). You will need to keep looking for swats if you draft Big V. The big man managed only 0.9 BPG in 2020-2021 and hasn’t averaged more than 1.1 BPG since the 2015-2016 season.
R5) Kyle Lowry – Father Time hasn’t quite caught up to Lowry, but he has gotten a hold of the point guard’s steal rate. After years of putting up flashy numbers in the category, Lowry’s steal rate fell to 1.0 SPG in 2020-2021. But that’s not why we want the former Raptor in this range. We want him for his top-end dimes and threes and underrated FT% impact. In his final season with the Raptors, Lowry averaged 7.3 APG and 2.8 3PG while connecting on 87.5 percent of his 3.5 FTA. He also scored 17.2 PPG in 2020-2021, but that is not a number that is likely to hold in Miami. When Lowry is surrounded by a lot of talent, he tends to focus more on creating for others. His assist rate should come close to holding, even though he’s going to lose a couple of minutes of playing time, but I would expect his PPG to drop a point or two this season. Lowry’s line only has one real hole in it. The veteran is going to make winning FG% consistently more difficult (43.6 FG% on 13.0 FGA).
R5) Malcolm Brogdon – Brogdon isn’t the safest mid-round pick because he is fairly injury-prone and his 2020-2021 top-50 finish was helped by an unfortunate amount of injuries to his teammates. He is not someone that I would pair with riskier early-round picks. However, he is viable in this range because the line that he produces matches up well with what the punt steals build needs. Brogdon will be a strong contributor in both assists (5.9 APG) and FT% (86.4 FT% on 3.2 FTA) and should score in the upper-teens (21.2 PPG), even with Caris LeVert starting the year healthy and T.J. Warren (eventually) returning. When his weak steal rate is thrown out (0.9 SPG), there are no real issues with Brogdon’s line. His threes (2.6 3PG) and boards (5.3 RPG) should also be very solid, and he comes with a very manageable FG% hit (45.4 FG% on 17.5 FGA).
R5) Gordon Hayward – Hayward was made for the punt steals build. Feel free to take him a round earlier than this. He produces above-average numbers in all of this build’s key categories. Before his 2020-2021 season was ended early by a foot sprain, Hayward was averaging a very helpful 19.6 PPG and 4.1 APG while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor on 15.0 FGA and 84.3 percent from the line on 4.2 FTA. The small forward will also do a good job on the boards (5.8 RPG) while providing his managers with about average triples (1.9 3PG). There is not much to say here. Hayward is very safe from a per-game standpoint. We just have to hope that he stays in one piece. The former All-Star has missed 48 games over the past two seasons.
R5) Jusuf Nurkic – Nurkic will come with a very nice steal rate for a big. He produced 1.6 SP36 in 2020-2021 and hit 1.3 SP36 in 2018-2019. However, he still makes sense here due to his deflated price on ESPN and his very helpful out-of-position assists. Last season, in only 23.8 MPG, the Blazers’ big man averaged 3.4 APG. His playing time should get back into the mid-to-high 20s this year, which could send his assist rate north of 4.0 APG. With his minutes back to normal, Nurkic should be a force in all of the big man categories (12.6 RP36, 1.6 BP36, 51.4 FG%) while scoring a little more than most bigs in this range (17.3 PP36). The center is not for teams in trouble in FT%. He did shoot 77.3 percent from the charity stripe in 2018-2019, but that number is looking like an outlier. Nurkic hit only 61.9 percent of his free throw attempts last season and has shot better than 64.0 percent from the line just once in his career.
Other Round 5 Options: Terry Rozier, Caris LeVert, Ja Morant
R6) Kristaps Porzingis – If you come out of the early rounds without any major injury risks on your squad, I would not hesitate to grab Porzingis. His upside in this very friendly build (0.5 SPG) is enormous. In 2020-2021, the Maverick finished as a first-round player when steals didn’t count. 65 games or so of first-round numbers is definitely worth a pick in this range. Scooping up Porzingis is one of the best ways to finish the draft in a dominant position in points. Most of your opponents are going to be getting their blocks through low-PPG options. KP blesses you with the blocks that you need while being a plus-contributor in points (20.1 PPG). That is a very rare combination. He will also be a difference-maker in the threes category (2.3 3PG) and finish among the league leaders in boards (8.9 RPG). Assists will be an issue (1.6 APG) and possibly FG% as well. Porzingis did shoot a respectable 47.6 percent last season, however, that was easily the highest mark of his career. We could be in for some regression and the coaching change is going to change how he is used this year. There is a lot of uncertainty here, so to be safe, I would assume some regression in the category when planning out your draft strategy.
R6) Derrick White – White is primed to make a major jump now that DeMar DeRozan is rocking a Bulls jersey. With DeRozan on the court last year, White produced 16.9 PP36, 2.8 3P36, 3.4 AP36, and 2.8 FTA36. When DeRozan sat, those numbers jumped to 21.6 PP36, 2.9 3P3G, 5.8 AP36, and 5.5 FTA36. A 19/5.5 line with plenty of triples and elite out-of-position blocks (1.0 BPG) is very possible this year for White. The increase in touches and minutes could also turn him into a top-25 source of FT% impact. The Spur shot 85.1 percent from the line last year and got to the charity stripe a fair amount (3.2 FTA) despite only playing 29.5 MPG and having a much smaller role than he will have this season. The only thing stopping White from being a no-brainer grab at his point in the draft is his FG%. The combo guard shot an ugly 41.1 percent from the floor last year. You pair a percentage like that with a bump in volume and you will get a pretty large FG% hit.
R6) Jaren Jackson Jr. – Last season was obviously a very frustrating season for anyone who drafted Jackson, but it wasn’t a complete write-off. There were some very promising developments that came out of that lost year. In the 11 games that Jackson did play in, he produced some elite per-minute numbers. Fewer than 20 full-time rotation players produced better per-minute numbers than Jackson last season. The stretch big produced a mouth-watering 22.0 PP36, 2.4 3P36, 8.6 RP36, and 2.5 BP36. What we like most about that line is the boards. We are dealing with a small sample size here, so we can’t get too excited, but seeing 8.6 RP36 after two years of point guard-like per-minute production in the rebounds category does give me hope that Jackson can produce at least respectable numbers in the category this season. If that rebounding rate comes close to holding, Jackson could crack the top-25 in this build. You’ll need to look elsewhere for positive percentages impact. In 2019-2020, Jackson shot a forgettable 46.9 percent from the floor and 74.7 percent from the line.
Other Round 6 Options: Richaun Holmes, Mike Conley, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton, Robert Williams
R7) D’Angelo Russell – Russell is not a perfect fit here since he is going to come with a fairly significant FG% hit (43.1 FG%), but since dimes are so hard to find here, we can’t be picky. If you are down bad in dimes, grab Russell and figure out the rest later. The point guard should top last season’s 5.8 APG. That number came in below expectations because injuries limited his playing time (28.5 MPG). We should see Russell get back into the low-30s, which should send his assist rate back up to around 7.0 APG. His upside in the points and threes categories isn’t what it used to be due to Anthony Edwards’ ascendance, but he should still be a big help in both areas (19.0 PPG, 2.9 3PG). That’s it in terms of good stuff in Russell’s line. Watch your boards if you draft Russell. Most point guards are drags on rebounds, but only a couple are as terrible on the boards as the 25-year-old (2.6 RPG). Russell is also going to hurt your chances in turnovers (2.7 TOPG) and is going to make it harder to achieve our goal of FT% dominance (76.5 FT% on 3.5 FTA).
R7) Isaiah Stewart – Beef Stew has top-50 upside in the punt steals build (0.9 SP36). With Mason Plumlee in Charlotte, Stewart should approach 30 MPG, and with that much run, he is going to be a force of nature in all three of the big-man categories. His 14 starts in his rookie season give us an idea of what is to come. In those 14 starts, he averaged a very promising 12.7 PPG on 56.8 FG%, 9.4 RPG, and 2.1 BPG in 29.2 MPG. Like most bigs, he projects to be a drag on most of the guard categories, but due to his age and what he showed down the stretch, I would expect some improvement from three (0.5 3P36) and at the line (69.6 FT%). The Pistons’ new starting center showed some surprisingly nice touch last season and trended up in both areas as the season went along. If you enter this round in a tough spot in dimes, I would pass on Stewart. I know that hurts given his upside here, but it’s the right move. Assists are going to be very hard to find after this point in the draft, and if you take another drag in this round, it’s going to be very difficult to end the draft in a competitive position in the category.
Other Round 7 Options: Chris Boucher, PJ Washington, Buddy Hield, Jerami Grant
R8) Bogdan Bogdanovic – At this point in the draft, most of the useful starting point guards are off the board. The odd one will be available late, but do we really want to draft Killian Hayes or Reggie Jackson? Because of this, we need to be searching high and low for sources of out-of-position dimes. Bogdanovic is one such source. In his 27 starts last season, the Serbian averaged a very respectable 4.0 APG. I wouldn’t expect a repeat of last season’s 3PG (3.3 3PG) and FG% (47.3 FG%) numbers. Both were inflated by a ridiculously hot stretch of shooting over the second half of the season, and his final 3P% of 43.8 percent was about seven percent better than what he managed from deep in 2019-2020. If Bogdanovic’s three-point shooting normalizes, he’ll still average close to 3.0 3PG, but he will likely also come with a small FG% hit. The Hawk should also be a solid source of points and a minor positive in the FT% category. Bogdanovic doesn’t get to the line enough (1.0 FTA) for his spectacular accuracy (90.9 FT%) to make much of a difference.
R8) Jakob Poeltl – Due to how this build usually approaches the early rounds of the draft, it is not unusual for a punt steals team to enter the second half of the draft in a very strong position in FT% and below where it needs to be in FG%. If that ends up being the case for your team, Poeltl should jump to the top of your draft board. He will come with a sizeable FT% hit (50.8 FT% on 1.8 FTA), but due to his lack of attempts, it will be a hit that is manageable for a lot of punt steals teams. Poeltl also comes with borderline elite FG% impact (61.5 FG% on 6.2 FGA). Last season, fewer than 25 players did better work in the category, and that number should decrease this year due to the incoming increase in minutes. His 2020-2021 averages are dragged down by the 18 games in which he came off of the bench and played only 19.7 MPG. Once he was moved into the starting lineup, the Spur played 29.2 MPG. In a close to 30 MPG role, Poeltl will be a very strong source of rebounds (8.6 RPG as a starter) and an elite source of swats (2.0 BPG). The Austrian won’t hurt you as much in dimes as most centers will (2.0 APG as a starter), but he will be a serious drag on your points and threes (9.8 PPG, 0.0 3PG as a starter).
Other Round 8 Options: Jarrett Allen, Kyle Anderson, Mitchell Robinson