After Kevin Durant announced he will be moving on and sign with the Golden State Warriors, that decision changes everything. Of course, it made the Dubs instant title favorites, Oklahoma City a second-tier squad, and in the words of one unnamed executive, everybody– including LeBron James– are playing for second place now.
While Durant joining forces with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green made the Warriors the team to beat for the next couple of years (and possibly more if KD decides to ink a max 4-year deal next summer), it also makes our fantasy basketball strategies a little problematic. Not that we don’t welcome the challenge.
Curry Still No. 1?
To directly answer the question, it’s a resounding NO. Remember, the Warriors pitch to Durant was winning championships TOGETHER, easing each other’s load especially on offense. Curry averaged 20.2 shot attempts to get the league-leading 30.1 points per outing but it could go down even up to four attempts with Durant needing his usual 19.2. And we’re not even talking about Thompson’s 17.3 shots a game.
So who’s most likely to replace Curry as fantasy basketball’s No. 1 overall pick? Well, Russell Westbrook, fourth in ESPN’s Player Rater last year, will get the biggest slice of the OKC pie by default with KD’s departure. Westbrook averaged 23.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 10.8 assists for the Thunder last year and should only increase without Durant and armed with the motivation of 2016-17 being his contract year.
Curry and Durant still warrants a first round pick but I expect Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and maybe even Karl-Anthony Towns to go ahead of them in the fantasy pecking order.
Trending Up and Trending Down
Most of the Thunder’s rotation player will have their value up. Steven Adams will have more shots available and that should also be the case with new recruit Victor Oladipo. Oladipo becomes OKC’s second scoring option and the most likely beneficiary of the extra Usage Rate KD has left behind.
On the other hand, Thompson may be the biggest fantasy loser in Golden State and may no longer be a second-round value like he was last year. While Green’s scoring may suffer, he can do so much on the floor that his overall fantasy production could still flourish even with a high usage guy like Durant to share the floor with. Just make sure to pair him up with a high-scoring guard or center and you’ll be alright, especially with out-of-position stats like assists and threes from the Michigan State product.
Curry, Thompson, KD, and Green will still be fantasy forces but given the time and shots share, may not be as good as they were one season ago (with the exception of Green). From a fantasy standpoint, the biggest winner is Westbrook and some experts even think this year is the perfect backdrop to a possible MVP-caliber season.
That is definitely not in the realm of impossibility and with reasons mentioned above, expect Westbrook to be the obvious choice as fantasy basketball’s No. 1 overall pick this season.
Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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