First thing’s first, if you’re in a roto league then this guide isn’t for you (because you shouldn’t be actively punting in roto leagues), and if you're in a points league, punting doesn't exist, but if you’re in a head-to-head categories league, then grab yourself a beverage and some snacks, because you’ve got some reading to do.
What’s punting? And why do it?
Punting is when you ignore a specific category in your draft to maximize your chances of drafting players who make your other categories stronger.
Punting a player's worst category can increase their value, making it easier to find players more valuable than where you can usually draft them. Eg. Last season in standard 9 category leagues, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished 10th overall in per-game value, but if you punt/ignore the FT% category he becomes the second best player in the league. This is why you see Giannis drafted anywhere between pick 2 and 5 in fantasy drafts (because the person drafting him is most likely punting FT%).
It’s important to remember that just because you’re punting a category, it doesn’t mean you have to totally ignore players who have a positive impact in that category. All of the elite rebounders are also top performers in the FG% category, so if you’re punting FG% and you need elite rebounding you’re going to end up with a few players on your roster who shoot 50%+ from the field.
And that’s totally fine. In fact, the punt won’t work without it.
Is it OK to punt more than one category?
Yes! Assuming you’re playing in a standard 9 category league, then attempting a double, or even triple-punt is doable. If you’re new to punting then I’d advise against attempting a triple-punt.
Punt pairings that work well together are punt FG% + REB, AST + STL, BLK + FG%, PTS + FT%, and my favorite triple punt, which is FG%, FT% and TO.
More about the triple punt
Punting FG%, FT% and TO remove the categories that can potentially hurt your team by collecting a stat. You don’t have to worry about players missing shots and hurting your shooting percentages or turning the ball over, you just need to worry about them chasing what’s referred to as the counting stats (PTS, 3PM, REB, AST, STL, and BLK).
Only a handful of players are positive contributors to both FG% and FT% with most players inefficient or league-average in one. This build lets you pair players who tank one percentage with the other to maximize your counting stats. Guys like Luka Doncic, Josh Giddey, Russell Westbrook, Andre Drummond (or any other elite REB and BLK guy who has a poor FT%), Kevin Porter Jr, RJ Barrett, and Draymond Green fit perfectly in this build).
When you’re ignoring both shooting percentages it also makes it a lot easier to stream.
Hold up - what’s streaming?
Streaming is when you have a roster spot (or two) dedicated to rotating players in and out of them by adding players on days they’re playing, and dropping them when they’re not.
The more players you have playing, the more stats you collect, increasing your chances of winning your match-up. Just don’t do anything silly like drop a player who’s worth keeping.
If you can punt three categories why can’t you punt four?
Punting four categories is basically the fantasy basketball version of Kings owner Vivek Randive’s idea of playing 4-on-5 defense (and leaving one player to cherry-pick for a guaranteed basket).
Sure, it sounds crazy enough that it might just work, and I’m sure there are people who have pulled it off, but there’s too large of a margin for error to be able to pull it off. And with the potential of so many players missing games, you run the risk of missing games from key contributors, and losing one of your five categories.
Should you know what you’re punting before your draft?
Generally speaking, no, but you should be prepared to go down a few different paths based on your first pick. And you should have a good idea of what you're going to do before you take your second, but you don't want to plan for a double or triple punt too early, because if you do, you run the risk of messing up your draft by taking categories off the table that you might still need. Eg. It’s really hard to find elite assists and points in the middle to late rounds of drafts.
How early is too early to draft a player based on their punt build ranking?
When you punt a specific category, to you, the value of certain players increase, but it doesn’t mean you should draft them based on their value in your punt. Look at their ADP (average draft position), where the platform you’re drafting on ranks them, and our projections, and if you need to, draft them a round or two early.
After all, the value of punting in being able to draft valuable players for your build at spots that make them more valuable. If you draft Rudy Gobert (who’s projected to be ranked 8th in a punt FT% build) at the end of the first round, then you’re getting no value, but if you get him at the end of the third round (he’s projected to be ranked 33rd in standard 9 category leagues), then you’re getting good value.
After you’ve drafted a few players how do you know which categories to punt?
As a collective, you look at the strengths and weaknesses of the players you’ve drafted, and if you’re using a draft tracker, you compare it to the strengths and weaknesses of the players available in the draft pool.
If you’re not using a draft tracker then you can still do it by keeping tabs of available players by adding them to your draft queue and monitoring if/when they go off the draft board.
The idea is to punt the most obvious weakness on your roster.
Examples of potential punts:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Bam - punt FT%
Darius Garland, Zach LaVine - punt BLK
Luka Doncic, Josh Giddey, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Porter Jr, RJ Barrett - punt FG%, FT%, TO