Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve punted assists quite often in 9 cat H2H leagues, with mixed results. I have won leagues punting assists and I have failed miserably doing so. I have also won several roto leagues in which I haven’t punted assists. So I can’t claim punting assists is the end-all and be-all. Still I’m known as the “punt assists guy”. The two biggest advantages to punting assists in 9 cat is that punting assists generally allows you to win TO and that assists is probably the most expensive cat given the preference for point guards that most GMs have. You want to exploit that by taking the opposite approach and seizing under-valued assets cheaply. I’m here to tell you-it has never been a better time to punt assists in 9 cat. As the 2016-2017 draft nears I would like to impart to you my punt assists strategy for this year.

I’ve brought it up before and I’ll say it again…while Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, and DeMarcus Cousins all provide gaudy production, they are efficiency killers, particularly in 9 cat. I like to start my draft with high volume/high efficiency players because they will buoy my percentages throughout the draft particularly if I’m drafting lower scoring players in the later rounds. High volume/low efficiency players sink your efficiency and you can’t really recover later on because the efficient players go quickly. Therefore, it never really made sense to me to spend a lot of auction dollars on a player who is bound to kill my efficiency.

This leads me to conclude that the only players I consider to be truly viable first-round picks are players whose hallmark rests on efficiency. Additionally, if you are going to punt assists then you will also be forced to punt steals unless you can draft two types of players: 1) Cheap guards who may not produce many assists, but still produce steals; 2) Players who get out-of-position steals. Fortunately, one of the most efficient players in the NBA also produces out-of-position steals-Kawhi Leonard. With a line of 21 PPG/7 RPG/1.8 3PG/1.8 SPG/1 BPG and efficiency splits of 50/87 on only 1 TO per game, he ranks second in the league once you are punting assists. At the cost of around $70, I think the market is accurately evaluating him or perhaps even slightly overvaluing him. However, the key to winning in H2H through punting assists is to find elite high efficiency production on low TO, and Kawhi Leonard is absolutely critical to accomplishing this. The good news is that once he is the foundation of your punt assists team, the other pieces fall into place quite easily as the market is completely undervaluing players whose production rests outside of assists.

In addition to Leonard, Paul Millsap is another elite producer of out-of-position steals. With a line of 17 PPG/9 RPG/1.8 SPG/1.7 BPG/1 3PG he produces the sort of multi-cat production I drool over while the only real difference between him and Kawhi is that he is less efficient. He is a complete bargain for around $40 in any league in which you are punting assists.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll also want elite shot blockers who don’t turn the ball over. Hassan Whiteside is a complete beast who provides unmatched blocks. He has the capability of producing 4 BPG this season when the next best center may produce just more than 2 BPG. On top of that, he’s a rebounding machine who also anchors your FG% and scores more than most centers at splits of somewhere around 14/12. His FT% isn’t extraordinary, but he improved to around 70% late last season, which means he doesn’t warrant a complete punt. He’s the 5th best player in fantasy once you are punting assists and if you can get him for under $50 then he will provide great value at that price.

Finally, Serge Ibaka is a player who is hugely undervalued this season. Admittedly, there are strong arguments working against him. His blocks have been declining steadily for a few years and outside of blocks his general stat line doesn’t wow you with big numbers. However, I am expecting big things out of him this year. He seemed disenfranchised in OKC and Orlando traded significant assets to acquire him. You don’t trade away a player like Oladipo without intending to give Ibaka more run. He has been amazing in the preseason, showing offensive prowess that he wasn’t allowed to show in OKC with two high usage players hogging the ball. He’s a perfect pairing with Vucevic: the efficient big man in the post with the stretch four; on the other end of the ball, he covers for a lot of Vucevic’s defensive short-comings. I think 16 PPG/8 RPG/2 BPG/1 3PG is entirely possible for Ibaka to achieve with shooting splits of 50/75. Of course, he produces almost nothing in terms of assists/steals but that makes him a fine fit for punting assists. I’ve seen him go for under $30 in most auctions, which is a steal.

The other key to winning with a punt assists build is to find cheap point guards who produce in categories other than assists, and this year Jeremy Lin and George Hill project to do just that. With Lin starting in Brooklyn he has the potential to score in the high teens and he has always produced at least a steal and a three whenever given minutes. Hill doesn’t typically produce many assists but in punt assists-who cares?! Hill is a perfect player to man the point in a punt assists build as he’s really a shooting guard at heart. With Gordon Hayward out and not a lot of scoring on the Jazz roster, I am predicting a career year for him with a rough line of 15 PPG/4 RPG/2 3PG/1 SPG.

In sum my ideal 9 cat punt assists team would look something like this:

  • PG: George Hill ($4)
  • SG: Waiver Wire
  • SF: Kawhi Leonard ($70)
  • PF: Paul Millsap ($40)
  • C: Hassan Whiteside ($50)
  • G: Waiver Wire
  • F: Serge Ibaka ($30)
  • Util: Waiver Wire
  • Util: Waiver Wire

Another strength to this approach is that the two easiest things to find on the waiver wire are shooting guards who make at least 1.5 3PG and big men who can get 8 RPG/1 BPG. While it’s almost impossible to find viable point guards on the wire. Punt assists is perfectly tuned to exploit this hole in the market. You can always find viable, low TO shooting guards and big men on the wire so you can more aggressively pursue your targets during the draft.

I’ve experimented with both stars n scrubs and balanced approaches in auction drafts. My conclusion is that the best approach is somewhere in between. Rather than blowing most of my auction dollars on 2-3 players or spreading it out evenly among 10 players, I like to draft an ideal “starting lineup”. The most successful approach I’ve had is spending $150-160 divided roughly evenly among my starting five, leaving me with a few dollars for each player on my bench. I’ve found that you really want to save a few dollars for all of your bench players because a few dollars is never more valuable than it is toward the end of the draft. A few dollars could be the difference between picking up someone like Hill or not picking him up and having to scour the waiver wire for your point guard. You never want to do that, even when punting assists. Conversely, I’ve found the balanced approach to be suboptimal in the sense that it doesn’t maximize potential value on the waiver wire. My strategy with punting assists is more closely aligned with my current auction strategy as there are four players who you really want to target when punting assists: Leonard, Millsap, Whiteside, and Ibaka.

Punting assists is a fun and viable strategy that turns typical fantasy rhetoric on its head. This year there are certainly good targets to pursue when doing so. If there was ever a year to punt assists, it’s this year!

Posted in Strategy