With most things, be it the stock market or fantasy basketball, you generally want to do what most people are NOT doing. You will not win your drafts simply by following the consensus view. You win your drafts by pursuing strategies that maximally exploit the market in your league.
If you are the best general manager (GM) in your league, you can likely win your league by drafting a balanced team. The other managers are unlikely to give you much trouble, particularly if you are in an auction league as your opponents will make gross errors in player evaluation and strategy. However, if your league is competitive then that may not be the case, as most GMs will be fighting over the same players. In that case, you may have to try something that the other GMs haven’t considered.
Generally, points and assists are the cats that players spend the most resources trying to win, so one strategy is to go against the grain by punting them. I will explain five type of punting, and tell you why punt assist is the best strategy:
When punting, you want to pay attention to which stats correlate to which other stats. You want to punt a cat that will give you a corresponding boost in another cat. For example, both assists and points correlate to TO because the high usage players will also have more TO. FG and FT have a weak, negative correlation to each other because the punt FT% bigs generally have high FG%, while the high FT% guards generally have a weak FG%. This isn’t always the case, which is why the correlation is weak. If you punt either points or assists, you will generally have the lowest TO in your league. If you punt FT% by drafting punt FT% bigs, then generally you will win FG% because you are drafting bigs with FG% 60%+.
However, unlike most managers, I don’t advocate punting TO. If you punt TO then you are not automatically favored to win either assists or points, because most players are trying to win those cats as well. I don’t think punting TOs is a strategy, but is rather something most people are inclined to do anyway. Inexperienced players tend to do one of three things:
1) Draft players that they know, who will generally be big name players, often with popcorn stats or high TO, or both;
2) Draft strictly according to the predetermined rankings on whatever interface they are using, such as ESPN;
3) Draft “pet players” just because they like them. Even a lot of experienced players don’t really pay attention to TO.
They will take a high TO player over a lesser player, provided that the high TO player has the counting stats to justify it. Generally the best players are high usage players, so they have high TO anyway. This isn’t always the case, but generally so. So in any given 12 man draft, 11 players are already “punting” TO even if they don’t think that they are. Punting TO is completely contrary to my established principle of trying to exploit market inefficiencies by pursuing strategies that other GMs are inclined to ignore.
When going into a draft, you need to have 3-4 strategies in mind. The key is not only knowing what those strategies are but also when to audible into them. With that in mind, in this article I will cover four possible punting strategies: punt assists, punt points, punt FT%, and punt FG%.
The general philosophy underlying punting assists has been covered elsewhere: by punting assists, you will have the worst team in assists, but the best in turnovers. While other GMs fight desperately for assists, spending an exorbitant amount of resources to do so, you will let them kill themselves. As the old saying goes, “when two tigers fight, one is seriously injured, and the other one is killed.” Don’t be one of the tigers fighting for assists, be the hyena hiding in the grass, avoiding conflict, and picking at the scraps that remain.
If you’re punting assists, you’re not doing so because you entered the draft with the intention of doing so. Rather you are doing so because your first two picks are players who don’t get assists and you reason it’s better to punt than fight an uphill battle. However, I strongly advocate against taking the mindset that you don’t have to focus on guards because you are punting assists. You must start at least two guards and you want everyone that starts to be a good player. You are merely altering what you consider to be “GOOD”. If you are trying to win assists, the definition of good might be a player who gets 5+ assists. If that player happens to get a three and steal, all the better. If you are punting assists, you are completely disregarding assists in favor of guys who get 1.5+ STL and 2+ 3PM or both.
For example, you’re prioritizing Monta Ellis and Kyle Korver over Reggie Jackson. But what you’re not doing is spending your first 5 picks on big men, saying oops halfway through the draft, and starting guards with little value. That is not effective because you will be forced to waste a high pick on a big man that will amount to a streamer because your slots are full, while your guard slots will be filled with 6th and 7th round guards.
Effectively punting assists means that you have targets that you want to hit in your stat line and taking a MoneyBall approach to getting there. The MoneyBall approach has to do with the fantasy anchors we discussed earlier: 17 PPG/7 RPG/1 BPG/1.1 3PM/1.2 STL. There aren’t many players who come close to averaging that stat-line and the ones that do are expensive. However, the MoneyBall approach realizes this and postulates that instead of trying to draft a player who approaches that line, rather try to draft a combination of players who when combined, their averages closely approximate this line. Therefore, I aspire for my starting lineup to have a line that looks like this: 85 PPG/35 RPG/5 BPG/5.5 3PM/6 STL. This ideal line is based on examining in the league leaders in that category over several weeks in several dozen leagues of my mine. By hitting this target you should be able to win in that category in any given week.
There are several point guard eligible players whom I believe will be under-drafted this year that fit the punt assists strategy including: Victor Oladipo, IT2, and C.J. McCollum. George Hill and Darren Collison can be valuable for their efficiency, although their steals and threes are not exceptional. Marcus Smart gets excellent steals and threes if you can stomach his poor efficiency. The beauty of a player such as Oladipo is that he could average 20 PPG and 2 STL next season, meaning they will get more points and steals than a lot of guards drafted in the first two rounds, at a discounted price. Last season Oladipo averaged roughly 18 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.7 STL, and 1 3PM. He also averaged 4 APG but we don’t care too much about that. Later in the season he had a stretch where he was averaging two steals per game. He is young, still improving, and has a lot of upside. He could average 20 PPG/5 RPG/2 STL/1 3PM, making him a steal as your starting point guard if you don’t care about assists. In most leagues, Oladipo can be had for a 3rd round pick. IT2 and McCollum could be excellent for points, threes, and could be a FT% anchor.
For my shooting guards I like to target players who have the potential to make the largest amount of threes and stocks (steals/blocks) regardless of what other value they provide. I am looking first at Danny Green. For some reason, Danny Green is rated 103rd on ESPN. GMs in weak leagues tend to follow these rating systems closely, so Danny Green can be had for around a 7th round pick in many leagues. At that price, he is a complete bargain. The Spurs obtained LaMarcus Aldridge in the offseason, and are also notorious for resting players, which limits Green’s ceiling. However, the Spurs also lost a lot of backcourt depth, so I expect Green to have a larger role when he plays. Last season he only played 28.5 MPG and averaged 11.7 PPG/4.2 RPG/2 APG/2.4 3PM/1.2 STL/1.1 BPG. More importantly, he was very efficient with 43.6 FG%, 87.4 FT%, and only 1.1 TO. In an increased role this season he could easily average 15 PPG/5 RPG/2 APG/2.5 3PM/1.5 STL/1 BPG. He provides elite threes and stocks, and is very efficient, at a discounted rate. After Green, I would consider drafting Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews, but I wouldn’t reach for them due to their injury concerns. J.J. Redick is also an efficient source of threes, although his production in other categories is lacking. Ultimately, there are so many shooting guards that can make 2 3PM that I wouldn’t reach for any particular one, other than Danny Green. The key is obtaining at least two three point specialists who average at least two threes per game each.
For my small forward slot, I target Trevor Ariza often. He can generally be obtained for a 6th round draft pick and no one else has his collection of threes and steals. In many drafts he may even go later than that as many GMs undervalue players who don’t score very much. He will likely repeat season averages of: 12.8 PPG/5.6 RPG/2.4 3PM/1.9 STL. The only downside to his game is that his FG% is low at roughly 40% because most of his shooting is from beyond the arch. He makes up for it with good FT% at roughly 85% and fewer than 2 TO. I would also target DeMarre Carroll. While he doesn’t quite get the steals or threes of Ariza, he should see plenty of run as the starter on the up-tempo Raptors, and he should improve his scoring averages from last season. His line should projects to look like this: 15 PPG/5 RPG/2 3PM/1.5 STL. While he doesn’t shoot free throws very well at roughly 70%, he is efficient from the field at 48%, and somehow only averaged 1.1 TO last season. Other than these two, I would target small forwards who get as many threes and steals as possible. When punting assists, it’s important to focus on forwards who get steals out-of-position, otherwise you will be punting steals as well.
With those players in mind for my backcourt and wings I would focus on drafting as many big men as possible who can hit free throws. As stated in other articles, there are several players who fit this criterion: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, the Gasol brothers, the Lopez brothers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Nikola Vucevic, Gorgui Dieng, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe, and Zach Randolph. As stated elsewhere, when pursuing punt assists your big men are outplaying the opponent not only in terms of quality but also quantity. You likely drafted two of them in the first two rounds, otherwise you wouldn’t be punting assists. I also recommend filling all of your utility slots with big men if you are pursuing this strategy.
With this is in mind, what does a good punt assists team look like? If I was punting ASTs, my starting lineup would like something like this:
- PG: Isaiah Thomas fantasy stats”>(drafted 4th)
- SG: Danny Green (drafted 5th)
- SF: Kawhi Leonard (drafted 1st)
- PF: Paul Millsap (drafted 2nd)
- C: Pau Gasol (drafted 3rd)
It’s reasonable to expect those players to be available in the rounds I posted. If you go by my anchor numbers, then you want your starting five to combine to produce this line: 85 PPG/35 RPG/6 STL/5.5 3PM/5 BPG.
That starting five produces somewhere in the neighborhood of: 85 PPG/35 RPG/7 STL/6.5 3PM/5 BPG. Your TOs would be very low and your percentages would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 45% FG% and 85% FT%. Your rebounds and FG% would be a little low, but you can make that up through being unbalanced toward big men later in the draft. The key being that this starting lineup is about as close as you will get to game theory optimal numbers, assuming you are punting assists, and they are generally going to be available in each round that I posted. Between what I’ve written here and elsewhere, you should have enough information for a punt assists build.
Nothing opens up draft possibilities more than punting points. Most GMs, particularly inexperienced ones, put undue emphasis on points. Nothing goes against the grain more than punting points, which is one of the reasons why I like it so much. Points also has a correlation to turnovers. When you are punting points you are picking mostly defensive specialists, so punting points reduces your turnovers. Additionally, punting points has a lot of hidden value in the percentages. If you pick BPA in the first round you will often nab a high volume/high efficiency scorer such as Stephen Curry or Chris Paul. By punting points in the later rounds, you are allowing his high efficiency to be more impactful because his scoring makes up a greater portion of your overall scoring. There are a lot of players, Kyle Korver in particular, who are extremely efficient on low volume scoring. In punting points, you often become elite in all three of the efficiency stats, as well as enabling yourself to be focus more on stocks/rebounds/assists/threes.
When punting points, I would first BPA in the first round, preferably someone like Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, James Harden, or Chris Paul who will anchor your percentages in a positive way. Kawhi Leonard also fits this bill.
Then in the second round, Rudy Gobert, Serge Ibaka, or Draymond Green are the players that would trigger my desire to punt points. These players all increase in value when punting points. In contrast to punt assists, in this build you are interested in high end blocks specialists. When punting assists, you are unlikely to draft high end point guards, so you must reach for big men such as Paul Millsap who produce steals out-of -position. However, when punting points, you are still drafting little men who get steals. Therefore, there is no need to reach for Millsap, and you can opt for blocks specialists in the second round.
Suppose you were drafting 5th and picked Paul. That means you are drafting fifth to last in the second round and fifth in the third round. That provides tremendous advantage. If I could get two of Gobert, Ibaka, and Draymond Green in the second/third round I would move into a punt points build.
Once you are punting points, so many players are open to you that would otherwise be unappealing. There are a world of possibilities. The punt FT% bigs all increase in value: Andre Drummond, Hassan Whitside, and DeAndre Jordan. Nerlens Noel should lead the league in stocks. Wings that offer a lot of stocks and threes, but few points, become even more valuable. Danny Green goes from a solid mid-round option to the 13th rated player when you are punting points! His line of 2.3 3PM/1.2 STL/1.1 BPG on excellent efficiency with only one TO is unparalleled. Kyle Korver and Trevor Ariza produce top 25 value. However, the most drastic changes happen to defensive specialists: Andrew Bogut, Joakim Noah, and Tony Allen. If you cover the points line with your hand Bogut has Gasol level production: 8 RPG/2.7 APG/1.7 BPG/.6 STL on only 1.6 TO while shooting 56% from the field. His FT% is low, but I would completely ignore that as he only shoots .6 FTA per game. A couple of years ago Joakim Noah produced 3rd round value. With a crowded front court in Chicago, he played fewer minutes. His scoring took a large dip and he will get fewer assists with Rose back at the point as he will no longer play point-center. However, if he sees time off the bench he may still maintain a large amount of out-of-position assists as a lead distributor off the bench. Even in a reduced role, he’s still capable of averaging 9 RPG/4 APG/1 BPG/.5 STL. There are very few players in the league who can produce that line. I would put him on my sleeper’s list if I am punting points. While Bogut and Noah provide blocks, Tony Allen provides steals. Once you no longer care about points, Allen provides great value as a steals specialist who also has excellent rebounds for a guard with a line of: 4.4 RPG/1.4 APG/2 STL/.5 BPG. His FG% is excellent for a guard at nearly 50%. His FT% is a little weak at 63% at two attempts per game, which isn’t a lot of attempts, but enough for him to drop in value. In a punt points build, Bogut jumps all the way to 37th and Allen to 62nd but you can obtain either of them in the last half of drafts! The starting lineup of a good punt points build would look something like this:
- PG: Chris Paul (drafted 1st)
- SG: Danny Green (drafted 5th)
- SF: Draymond Green (drafted 3rd)
- PF: Serge Ibaka (drafted 2th)
- C: Nerlens Noel (drafted 4th)
I’d like to point out a few things. First, Danny Green has excellent value in either a punt points or punt assists build. He is the shooting guard that I’m targeting in all drafts. Second, one of the foundations of my strategy is drafting an efficient volume scorer in the first round. With Chris Paul my percentages become anchored positively. Other efficient volume scorers such as Davis, Curry, Harden, and Leonard will also require a high pick. So it’s difficult to go into this build if you are drafting late in the first round. It may seem counterintuitive to punt any category if you are in the favorable position of drafting early in the first round. However, when the strategy works, the payoff is enormous. Third, this is an advanced strategy that has maximum benefit in competitive money leagues where the payout structure is weighted heavily toward first place because there is a lot of variance in this strategy. When it works you are often first in your league in every category except for points. But when it fails, it fails miserably as you are left with a lot of players who don’t do much. It’s also an excellent approach in auction leagues where a player such as Curry or Paul will deplete a large portion of your budget, but the players who are benefitted most from punting points are inexpensive.
Let’s look at how well this build compares to my anchor numbers. Recall this line from the punt assists build: 85 PPG/35 RPG/6 STL/5.5 3PM/5 BPG. Now take out the points and replace it with assists. The anchor number I like to use for assists is four. If your team can average four assists per game/per player, that will put you toward the top of your league in assists. So the ideal line for the starting lineup in a punt assists team would look like this: 35 RPG/20 APG/5 BPG/5.5 3PM/6 STL. The starting lineup I have posted above projects to produce this line: 35 RPG/20 APG/9 BPG/6.5 3PM/7 STL. This line meets all of my targets and smashes my ideal line blocks. Paul and the Greens combine for great three point shooting, while Ibaka and Noel combine for excellent blocks.
Free throw percentage is the most common category to punt because in years past there was tremendous payoff as there were players such as Dwight Howard who produced like no other but whom required punting FT%. Then Howard went to the Lakers and then again to the Rockets. For these teams he has been apathetic, suffered injuries, and he is no longer the player he once was. For a couple of years it was foolish to punt FT% because there was little payoff. This season punting FT% should experience a resurgence due to Hassan Whiteside and Rudy Gobert emerging as major fantasy players in addition to the old standbys DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, and Dwight Howard. Additionally there are numerous players such as Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors who don’t typically necessitate a complete punt but whom rise in value once you are doing so.
Punting FT% is one of the most obvious strategies, and can have a great pay off, but most GMs don’t do it properly. You’ll see a lot of GMs draft James Harden in the first round then draft DeAndre Jordan in the second round thinking Harden’s positive free throw impact can negate Jordan’s negative impact when it can’t. Most players make most of their free throws so an excellent free throw shooter doesn’t deviate significantly from the mean, but a sub 50% free throw shooter is destroys you. If I drafted Harden in the first round then I would be looking for players that accentuated his positive attributes, not take away from them.
Punting FT% can be complicated because I generally don’t recommend going into a draft with the preconceived notion of punting because you will often find yourself fighting against someone with the same idea. Rather I draft BPA the first few picks and only think about punting once my first three picks lead me in this direction. This can work fine with other punt builds because you don’t have to draft specific individual players for the strategy to work, rather you can select from a certain type of player, among whom there are many individuals. However, in the punt FT% you really need to draft a narrow group of specific players. In most leagues someone will select Jordan or Drummond in the second and third round, making it a difficult strategy to move into.
When putting FT% you want to be the only player in that strategy. There are only a handful of good punt FT% big men and once you have one make no mistake about it, you are punting that category completely. You want to draft multiple of such big men and every big man you draft should be of the punt FT% variety in order to maximize the benefits of such a strategy. I wouldn’t draft any of the punt FT% bigs in the first three rounds, but if they fell to me in the fourth round then I would take that as a signal that the strategy was open and I would use my next few picks picking up all of them.
A lot of GMs will try to skimp on how many big men that they draft when drafting a punt FT% team. They reason that if they take Jordan in the third round, Whiteside in the fourth, and Howard in the fifth then they are set for rebounds and blocks. However, this is isn’t the case. If Jordan averages 15 RPG, Whiteside 13 RPG, and Howard 12 RPG then they will combine for 40 RPG. This is an optimistic projection and they probably won’t average that. Even assuming that they do, you will still need more rebounds. If you recall the target for my team in rebounding is 7 per player, per game, or 70 total for a ten man team. This means that even with three punt FT% big men who combine for 40 RPG, I still need 30 more RPG. While the three big men do account for more than half of my total rebounding goal, getting 30 rebounds of out of seven other players requires they each get four or more rebounds per game, which means I can’t overload on low rebounding guards. My recommendation is that even when punting FT% to not skimp on the quantity of big men that you draft. Play to the strengths of your picks and draft a team that dominates in rebounds and blocks.
Getting three of the punt FT% bigs along with a couple of other big men will generally enable you to win rebounds, blocks, and FG%. Opponents of this approach don’t seem to fully appreciate how much of a boon to your FG% the punt FT% big men are. I generally don’t like punting a category unless it enables me to win a corresponding category and in this case you are punting FT% to win FG%. However, you still need to win two other categories. This gives rise to another issue for drafters.
In order to be among the best teams in your league in assists, you are forced to draft not only good distributors, but a lot of them. Both quantity and quality matter here. This means that your TO will be high, which negates the advantage that a player such as DeAndre Jordan has in that he has low TO. It also often negates the positive impact to FG% that the punt FT% bigs have. Negating two positive features of your team to win one category is not advisable.
Therefore, when punting FT% you are also punting assists, or at least not targeting passers specifically. Punting assists often means a corresponding punt to steals because with few exceptions (Trevor Ariza and his ilk) the best steals specialists are point guards.
Thus, by limiting your TOs you also end up falling behind in assists and steals. TO may be the fourth category that you win, but you still need to win at least one more to win your league. As the punt FT% bigs do not score a ton, trying to win points is not advisable. That means that if you punt FT% you will often be forced to win 3PM, which is paradoxical because the three point shooters also tend to have excellent FT%.
Once way to mitigate the complexities of this approach is by focusing on obtaining stocks rather than punting FT%. When punting a category a lot of GMs focus on drafting players who are bad in that category rather than focusing on what they actually need. I still recommend drafting the same number of big men as you would in other builds, typically four, and all of those big men being punt FT% types. However, you also want to find players to fill your wings and backcourt that accentuate the positive attributes of your big men and shore up the negative. Players such as Danny Green and Draymond Green provide incredible value in this build. You don’t want to take on players with high TO because that will negate the value of your low TO big men. Yet it is fine to take on a couple of players with low FG% as your big men are such huge anchors in that category. The Greens provide excellent stocks in the middle rounds and keep your TO low. Tony Allen also provides great value in this build as late round filler on the wing, providing excellent stocks for a bargain price.
Finally, you are going to need a point guard, and you probably don’t want to punt assists if you are already punting FT%. John Wall is an elite distributor who has the potential to lead the league in assists while also providing elite steals. Despite this, he returns second round value at best due to poor efficiency and high TO. In a punt FT% build you can tolerate his poor percentages because your big men are such incredible FG% anchors and you don’t care about FT%. While his TO are vexing, you can draft one high TO player, if you take special care to limit your TO from the other nine players.
With that in mind the starting lineup for a punt FT% would look something like this:
- PG-John Wall (drafted 1st)
- SG-Klay Thompson (drafted 2nd)
- SF-Draymond Green (drafted 3rd)
- PF-Nerlens Noel (drafted 4th)
- C-DeAndre Jordan (drafted 5th)
You’ll notice that this team seems a little incongruous. It doesn’t seem to make sense to draft Klay Thompson in a punt FT% team. You would be correct that you’re “wasting” a lot of value by having Thompson and his excellent FT% in a team that punts that category. However, if you recall I tend to draft BPA my first couple of picks and only move into a punt FT% build if it becomes apparent that strategy will work because DeAndre Jordan fell to me in the 4th or 5th.
Again, if you go by my anchor numbers, then you want your starting five to combine to produce this line: 85 PPG/35 RPG/20 APG/5 BPG/5.5 3PM/6 STL. The line of this starting five is roughly 75 PPG/40 RPG/17 APG/7 BPG/5 3PM/8 STL. This line is unbalanced in favor of blocks and rebounds while missing the mark in points, threes, and assists. It won’t be terribly difficult to follow up this starting lineup with a point guard and a three point specialist in rounds 6/7 to shore up those weaknesses. The advantage to moving into such a build is that you can take advantage of the fact that certain players are excellent in this build but unviable in other builds. Hopefully Dwight Howard is still available in the 8th as he is really only viable in a punt FT% build. Tyson Chandler is a target for the late rounds as he provides excellent rebounding and FG% at a bargain rate.
The problem with punting FT% is that it becomes awkward as you will often be punting other categories as well. For example, compared to my punt assists build this build has fewer steals, points, and threes while being better in assists, rebounds, and blocks. However, my punt assists builds tend to have dominant FT% and TO while punting FT% will have only dominant FG%. Therefore, my punt assists team would beat the punt FT% team 5-4 in a head-to-head match. This isn’t the best comparison as it doesn’t matter so much how the teams would do against each other, but rather how well the team does against the field. Still, I have done a lot of research and a lot of mock drafts, and the punt FT% teams never end up being my best teams. It is a relatively straightforward and obvious approach, with pitfalls that aren’t so obvious.
Punt FG% is a very interesting strategy as players that most savvy GMs think are bad now become good, meaning that you will not have to fight over them. In a sense this strategy should be similar to punting FT%, except the mirror opposite. However, in reality it’s quite different as there are hordes of players who represent great value once you’re punting FG%, while there are only a handful of punt FT% bigs. Punting FG% is extremely freeing. You aren’t limiting yourself by only drafting certain players. Rather, you’re drafting the same sort of team you otherwise would but with the freedom to take players that you otherwise wouldn’t. You also have the advantage of having a great team in FT%.
The biggest problem in punting FG% is that big men drop in value. Paradoxically, you need big men for blocks and rebounds. Therefore, I would make no change to the big men I drafted. Rather I would draft two power forwards and two centers as I normally would. Chris Bosh and Kevin Love are two big men that rise in value once I’m in this build. Other than that, the only difference that I would make is that I would draft inefficient volume shooters to fill my backcourt and wings. These players typically kill a fantasy teams percentages as not only do they have low percentages, they have low percentages on a high volume so their poor percentages have a greater impact. However, they provide counting stats and once you assemble enough of them each subsequent one has increasingly more value. Furthermore, unless you want to also punt blocks, you will have to find blocks out of position. Both Greens and Kyle Korver are excellent at providing blocks out of position. The Greens tend to go early, but Korver could be a sneaky good pickup in this build.
If I drafted James Harden, Russell Westbrook, or Damian Lillard in the first round I would move into this build. From there, the list of players who go up in value once you are punting FG% is long and extensive. No three players benefit more than Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker, and Trevor Ariza who go from solid mid-round selections to firmly in the top 20 once you no longer care about field goal percentage. Additionally, you can obtain players for a discount rate who are great for your team but whom no one else really wants. Ricky Rubio and DeMar DeRozan go from late round selections to mid-round steals. Kobe and MCW go from being almost undraftable to being solid late round pickups with guaranteed value. Here is what a punt FG% starting lineup would look like:
- PG-Kyle Lowry (Drafted 2nd)
- SG-James Harden (Drafted 1st)
- SF-Trevor Ariza (Drafted 5th)
- PF-Kevin Love (Drafted 3rd)
- C-Chris Bosh (Drafted 4th)
That starting lineup is downright dominant in threes, assists, steals, and points while having excellent FT%. Let’s compare this team to my target line of 85 PPG/35 RPG/20 APG/5 BPG/5.5 3PM/6 BPG. This team projects to produce roughly 90 PPG/35 RPG/20 APG/2 BPG/9 3PM/7 STL. Clearly I am unbalanced toward threes and against blocks, which is to be expected for this build. Once I am in this build I can completely exploit the market by drafting players such as Walker and Rubio in the 6th and 7th rounds, thereby dominating assists, steals, and threes. As I am dominating the little man categories with ease, I can draft big men to increase my blocks with impunity. Jonas Valancuinas and Robin Lopez provide blocks for great value in the mid to late rounds and have excellent FT% percentage. Though they both have excellent FG%, you’re not drafting them for that. Still it doesn’t hurt to go from terrible FG% to mediocre. Roy Hibbert is a sneaky good get in this build as he gets blocks, he has excellent FT%, you don’t care about his relatively poor FG% for a big man, and he comes at a deeply discounted rate. It’s quite possible to draft Valancuinas, Lopez, and Hibbert in the 8th, 9th, and 10th rounds respectively to shore up your blocks and rebounds. Conversely, you could simply punt blocks, and not worry about it opting instead to draft players such as DeRozan and Kobe to shore up your points. Finally, you can use your last few picks to swoop up players such as MCW and Josh Smith who don’t have a lot of value elsewhere but are solid in your build. One advantage to this approach is that you can maximally exploit having drafted a player such as Harden, Westbrook, or Lillard by magnifying their positives and ignoring their downsides. However, this approach is not optimal in auction because a lot of your targets are high volume guards who are expensive despite their low percentages. Overall, this build is liberating, counter-culture, and fun.
Hybrid Punts: Punt Assist/Steals
Now that I’ve covered my favorite punt approaches, let’s cover some hybrid punts. It’s difficult to punt a categories without punting a second category because certain statistics tend to run together. Punting assists often entails punting steals as well, unless you go out of your way to draft players such as Leonard, Millsap, and Ariza. You may not be able to draft these players as they tend to go early, in which case you may have to punt both assists and steals. Punting both assists and steals has the advantage that you need your little men for threes only and there are myriad threes specialists that can be obtained inexpensively. You really only need four three point specialists to dominate that category so drafting IT2, Korver, Redick, and Danny Green would likely be sufficient. You’ll likely need another point guard and small forward so Jamal Crawford and Rudy Gay will provide all the points and threes that you need. You would then have a lot more room for your big men. This starting lineup would look something like this:
Ignoring assists and steals, let’s compare this team to my target line of 85 PPG/35 RPG/5.5 3PM/5 BPG. This team projects to produce roughly 85 PPG/32 RPG/7 3PM/7 BPG. As you can see, the only target I miss is rebounds, but it’s going to be very easy to overcome this shortage by drafting more big men than my opponents in the later rounds. You’ll notice this build is extremely efficient as I no longer am forced to draft inefficient players for their steals. When drafting this approach I’ve gotten my percentages up to 49 FG% and 83 FT%, which generally means I have the best foul shooting team in my league, and second best FG% team behind only the punt FT% teams. You also minimize TO as much as possible.
You’ll also notice I don’t even need a legitimate first round pick to have an excellent team once I ignore both assists and steals. That makes this approach very friendly for auction drafts. In the mock drafts I’ve participated in the starting lineup listed above are underrated and budget friendly. They are going for roughly: Ibaka-$35; Gasol-$25; Gay-$25; Korver-$15; Thomas-$15. That starting lineup only costs about $105-$110 dollars in a typical auction draft. By way of comparison the punt FG% starting lineup I listed costs about $150 in the typical auction draft.
There is a bias toward point guards in most leagues, even leagues with experience GMs. Point guard is the position that provides the most assists and steals while providing a smattering of threes and generally good FT%. It is a position that typically produces versatile lines, but the predominant value of the position is assists and steals. Once you no longer care about either of those categories, you no longer care about the most expensive fantasy players. Instead you can focus on big men who combine for 3.3 stocks and little men whose threes and blocks combine for 3.3 or greater. There are tons of players like this who are usually available in the middle rounds, or less than $20 in auction drafts. In auction drafts I ignore the most expensive players who tend to be overpriced relative to their production and try to draft 10 players who cost roughly $20 each. These are players who typically would be drafted in the early/mid rounds between rounds three and five. While there is significant difference between superstars and second round players, there is virtually no difference between second round players and fifth round players. Therefore, by targeting these players you are able to have ten very solid players. This mitigates against injury risk. There is no easier way to save auction dollars than to simply not care about assists and steals.
Punt FT%/Points or Punt FT%/Assists or Punt FT%/Threes
These are pretty obvious as a lot of the punt FT% bigs don’t score a lot nor do they get threes or assists. Generally, it’s not advisable to punt threes as you can win that category with only a few specialists. Punting points will come naturally if you’re punting FT% as you will be behind in scoring organically. However, there is little upside to a full on punt points approach if you are already punting FT%. I typically punt points because I want to have my team anchored by an efficient, high scoring first round pick. However, if I am drafting the punt FT% bigs then I am punting FT% in favor of winning FG%. Punting points won’t have an impact because regardless I am losing FT% and winning FG%. Therefore, it is a not a strategy I typically employ. If I was punting FT% I would consider punt assists as well. Conversely, if I was punting assists I would consider punting FT% for an extra boost in rebounding. Also, the punt FT% bigs tend to have very low TO and I don’t want to negate that by drafting a turnover prone backcourt. Punting FT% tends to go hand-in-hand with winning FG%. Punting assists goes hand-in-hand with winning TO. Therefore, by punting those two cats I am winning two others. Between FG%, FT%, assists, and TO I would be splitting two of them with my opponent. The only categories in play would be rebounds, stocks, threes, and points. I would have a huge advantage in winning rebounds and blocks because I would be drafting the punt FT% big men and also more big men than my opponent. Not only would I be drafting more big men, my big men would also produce better stats. Therefore, only threes, steals, and points would truly be in play, of which I only needed to win one. If I didn’t care about assists then my entire backcourt could be filled with three points specialists and I should win that cat. A punt FT%/punt assists team would look something like this:
- PG-Isaiah Thomas fantasy stats”>(drafted 5th round)
- SG-Danny Green (drafted 4th round)
- SF-Kawhi Leonard (drafted 1st round)
- PF-Rudy Gobert (drafted 2nd round))
- C-DeAndre Jordan (drafted 3rd round)
Ignoring assists, let’s compare this team to my target line of 85 PPG/35 RPG/5 BPG/5.5 3PM/6 STL. This team projects to produce a line of roughly: 75 PPG/40 RPG/7 BPG/5.5 3PM/6 STL. This team is a little low on points. Dwight Howard can be helpful as he is one of the few punt FT% bigs that can score but he comes with injury risk. Also, you have such a big lead in rebounds and blocks that you can draft a scorer such as Dwayne Wade to make up the points without too much worry. Punting FT% and assists is fairly simple as all you are really doing is punting assists and drafting punt FT% big men for value.
There other punt builds but these are the ones with which I have had the most success. Some, such as punt FG%, work better in snake. Others, such as punt assists/steals work better in auction. There are gross disparities between auction drafts and snake drafts. In auction there are players such as Curry and Davis who routinely go for more than $80. Meanwhile, other first round picks such as Damian Lillard and Chris Paul routinely go for $50. Admittedly Curry and Davis are special players who warrant a higher bid, but with the $30 difference you could get Pau Gasol so it’s not really worth that much of a difference. Another good example is the difference between Love and Ibaka. In snake drafts, it seems many GMs reluctantly take Ibaka in the 2nd round because they know he is worth 2nd round value, and they want to take BPA even if they don’t like him personally. Meanwhile, Love routinely goes late in the 3rd or early 4th round. However, in auction drafts both Love and Ibaka routinely go for $35 each, and often Love costs more than Ibaka. When given the freedom to bid on whomever they desire more people bid on Love as he is the more popular player, despite finishing lower on the player rater.
I much prefer auction drafts and find snake draft to be maddening at times. I like the freedom to choose the strategy I prefer rather than being pigeon holed into BPA. I also don’t like that in snake draft I am often forced to reach for the players who are good in my punt builds. I could wait for them to fall, but if they don’t then my I am screwed as they are that important to my approach.
Winning in auction drafts is about exploiting the market. I recommend doing as many mocks drafts as possible to determine where market inefficiencies lie. GMs generally follow the rater on the interface they are using (ESPN or Yahoo generally) but some players are routinely undervalued. My recommendation is to identify the players who are routinely undervalued and begin to craft a strategy around them. It’s not advisable to go into a draft with the preconceived notion of punting, not even in an auction where you have more freedom. However, once you identify undervalued players, the strategy builds itself.
For example, if Ibaka is grossly undervalued at $35 then you look at what he’s good at, and what he’s bad at. Most of his value is derived from being elite in blocks while being excellent in all three efficiency categories. He has some secondary value in rebounds and threes out-of-position, although his rebounding is weak for a big man selected in the second round, and his threes only provide marginal additional value. His only downside is that he produces neither assists nor steals, not even for a big man.
Another grossly underrated player is Pau Gasol. Last year he finished 13th on the player rater for second round value. There are concerns about his age and playing time but that shouldn’t have him falling further than the third round. This bears out in reality as he has been drafted in the third round of most snake drafts in which I’ve participated. However, in auction he typically goes for around $25. This is inexcusable as there are other second rounds players such as Wall and Melo who routinely cost $50. Even if Gasol cannot replicate last year’s numbers and his line looks like 15 PPG/10 RPG/1.5 BPG on excellent percentages then he’s still worthy of a third or fourth round pick. As these numbers are even worse than he produced his last year as a Laker when he was in the dog house, I cannot imagine him slipping further than that.
When you draft Ibaka and Gasol you can go a couple of different routes. Together, they have excellent blocks and rebounds on excellent percentages and low TO. Gasol provides a small assists boost out-of-position while Ibaka provides an out-of-position three. You could look to pair them with players such as Lowry and Teague whom I also think are undervalued. Or you could punt both assists and steals and dominate rebounds, blocks, threes, and percentages. No matter what route that you go, the important thing is to identify market inefficiencies and exploit them.
In auction it is acceptable to pay money for players whose skills are not replicable. Davis produces elite stocks, rebounds, and scoring on profound efficiency and he has no equal. Curry leads the league in threes. Paul leads the league in assists on incredible efficiency. It is permissible to pay for these players, even if that’s not the strategy I advise. However, it is absolute unacceptable to overpay for players who have stat lines that can be bought more cheaply.
I like to identify certain categories of players who have similar stat lines and among this group of players buy the cheapest one. I like to have balanced teams where I have identified the best bargains and sculpt my drafts around them. This particular year, I think Ibaka and Gasol produce the best bang for your buck. They are second round talents whom you can probably purchase for roughly $60 between the two of them. That leaves $140 for the rest of your team, which is plenty to obtain very solid role players. Having Ibaka and Gasol on my team makes me elite in blocks, rebounding, and all three efficiency categories but provide me almost no assists and steals. Therefore, I am looking at punting both assists and steals in most of my auction drafts.
Previously I had been working on my punt assists builds and a problem arose in that in order to get steals I had to draft players that I didn’t really want to draft. For example, Ariza has been underrated in past years, but this year he costs $20 in most drafts. That’s a lot to pay for someone with poor FG% and low scoring. When you are punting assists and steals, he falls all the way to 75th in value. While he still has value due to threes and rebounding, most of his value is derived from truly elite threes and out-of-position steals. At that price, I would rather have Rudy Gay. Gay scores more points on better percentages and offers half of a block. Provided that you no longer care about steals, he has similar rebounding and only one less three. While you don’t care about his extra assists and he has more TO, I’m willing to take that because getting an elite scorer on decent percentages is a bargain at that price. When you’re punting assists, it’s very difficult to artificially inflate your steals, so I would rather focus on what my team can be good in, and ignore the rest.
Whenever I draft I try to seek the best value. In auction, if I believe that value lies in Ibaka and Gasol then I’m going that direction and envisioning what my team will look like if I draft them. Being frugal with these picks allows me to draft a more balanced team that can absorb injuries because I don’t have too much invested in any one player. If I draft them then that leads me to punting certain categories. It’s not that I arbitrarily decided to punt because I thought it would be fun, rather I tried to be frugal with my picks which lead me down a decision tree that involved punting. When you draft snake, you want to accentuate the positives of your first round pick, while ignoring the categories that he is bad in. This may lead you down a decision that includes punting. This sort of reasoning is what it takes to be successful, whether in auction or in snake. I hope my advice here helps you on your drafts. Happy punting!