The classic free throw punting strategy isn’t quite what it used in this new era of bigs who can rack up the swats at an elite level while also hitting their free throws, but if you miss out someone like Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Town, etc. you may not have much of a choice but to invest in some poor free throw shooting big men in order to remain competitive in blocks.
Perhaps the new, more attractive punting strategy in today’s NBA of shoot-first point guards would be to forgo the assist category, which conversely has the added benefit of making your squad pretty competitive in the turnover department. While I wouldn’t recommend pursuing a punting strategy in rotisserie or 8-cat formats, I can get behind the idea in 9-cat, head-to-head leagues.
The ideal pairing for a free throw punting strategy to work is to go with some sort of Andre Drummond/DeAndre Jordan/Hassan Whiteside/Rudy Gobert/Clint Capela pairing, as two of those guys combined will make you ultra competitive in rebounds and blocks, while giving you a nice bump in field goal percentage. Also, because your FG% will be so lethal in this setup, you’ll have some wiggle room when adding solid 3-point shooters that perhaps shoot a less-than-stellar percentage from the field. Draymond Green, Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball get a big bump under this strategy, and those are the sorts of players you should go after as you round out your roster. Now, there is some risk that comes with this strategy. If someone else in your draft is also eying to tank their FT% you could end up overpaying for/fighting with that person for the same players, and the strategy may not pan out. However, if you are able to pull it off, you can have a truly monstrous team.
The “punt” of assists isn’t an outright punt. You’re going to draft guys who accumulate dimes, it’s just that you won’t be particularly strong in the assist category, but the benefit here is that it makes you very competitive in the turnover department. With this strategy, you should target high-scoring, low-turnover point guards such as Kyrie Irving, Jamal Murray, Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard, etc.
If you draft Russell Westbrook/John Wall/James Harden/LeBron James, go ahead and just punt the turnover category, as rostering any of these guys essentially guarantees you an L in turnovers every week. If you’re going to be punting turnovers, you really need to try and dominate the assist category. Partnering one of the aforementioned players with another assist-heavy guy like Draymond Green, Ben Simmons, Jeff Teague, etc. would be recommended.
Don’t Punt FG%, 3PM, Rebounds or Blocks
I really can’t get behind punting FG%, 3-pointers, points, rebounds or blocks. Winning teams are teams that covet statistically rare categories, so to simply concede on a category like blocks almost never pans out.
As for 3-pointers, there’s really no need to punt this category as you can find quality 3-point shooters throughout the draft, and the same can be said for rebounds.
Punting away FG% is basically like asking to lose. There will be teams in your league that dominate that category, but in general, it’s a 50-50 win if you play your cards right. You’d never throw away easy money, so why throw away a shot at a 50-50 win?