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2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Rankings

RotoWire's fantasy basketball rankings for the 2016-17 NBA season.

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1.
Stephen Curry 
Golden State Warriors  PG / SG / G

2016-17 Proj:   78 G   33.7 MIN   27.2 PTS  5.2 REB  7.0 AST  2.0 STL  0.2 BLK  4.7 3PT  

Curry’s 2015-16 campaign will go down as one of the most transcendent individual seasons in NBA history. Coming off of his first championship, Curry soared past his 2014-15 MVP numbers, upping his scoring by nearly seven points per game to a league-leading 30.1, while adding 6.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds. Curry may not be more than an average defender in a real basketball sense, but he averaged an NBA-best 2.1 steals per game and led the league in total steals for the second straight season. On top of the counting stats, Curry remained the league’s best free-throw shooter (90.8%), converted 50.4 percent of his field goals, and shattered NBA records for single-season three-point attempts (886) and makes (402). The question now, of course, is how can Curry possibly follow up such a spectacular season? Unfortunately, for fantasy owners, the answer is a complicated one. After all, it’s not often the best regular season team in history replaces its weakest starter with one of the five best basketball players in the world, but that’s exactly what the Warriors did this summer. The addition of Kevin Durant undoubtedly makes Golden State a more dangerous team, but it threatens Curry’s reign as the NBA’s best fantasy player. Durant’s presence figures to bring an inherent decline to Curry’s usage rate and, in turn, his production -- just how much of a decline remains to be seen. Curry, in the midst of his prime, is still the NBA’s best outside shooter and the odds-on favorite to lead the league in three-pointers for a fifth straight season. His shooting percentages shouldn’t be in much jeopardy -- in fact, it’s reasonable to believe they could rise playing alongside Durant -- but a reduction in scoring appears all but inevitable. Curry’s rebounding numbers could also take a slight dip, though his assist production, which checked in below his career average last season, figures to, at worst, be sustainable.

2.
Russell Westbrook 
Oklahoma City Thunder  PG / G

2016-17 Proj:   80 G   35.1 MIN   27.7 PTS  8.0 REB  9.5 AST  2.1 STL  0.3 BLK  1.4 3PT  

With Kevin Durant sidelined for 55 games during the 2014-15 season with a broken right foot, Westbrook swallowed the Thunder offense whole, tallying 11 triple-doubles and averaging a career-high 28.1 points per game. Westbrook's production was expected to take a step back last season with Durant back to full health, but the point guard somehow managed to outdo himself. While his scoring average dropped to 23.5 points, Westbrook upped his efficiency from the field (45.4%) and set career-best marks in assists (10.4 per game) and rebounds (6.0). He also chipped in 2.0 steals and 1.3 treys per appearance. The jump in dimes and boards helped Westbrook accrue 54 double-doubles and an NBA-leading 18 triple-doubles, making him a feature of many winning fantasy rosters. Following Durant’s surprising decision to bolt for the Warriors in July, Westbrook figures to revert to production similar to what he offered in 2014-15, though the Thunder roster should be a little more balanced this time around. The addition of Victor Oladipo and the presence of improving bigs in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams gives Westbrook some weapons to keep involved with the offense, but despite coach Billy Donovan's comments to the contrary this summer, the team largely figures to crest and fall as Westbrook does. After agreeing to a restructured contract and extension with the Thunder in August that will keep him in Oklahoma City through 2018-19, Westbrook is officially a foundational player for the organization. It's fairly safe to assume that he'll top the league in usage this season after consistently finding himself among the league leaders even when Durant around. The likelihood that Westbrook will have to settle for tougher shot attempts and assume even more ball-handling responsibilities will almost certainly translate into a drop in his shooting percentages and a rise in his turnover rate, but a counting stats bonanza would more than make up for it. He's an easy top-five pick in both eight- and nine-category leagues.

3.
James Harden 
Houston Rockets  PG / SF / SG / G / F

2016-17 Proj:   80 G   37.1 MIN   28.6 PTS  5.8 REB  7.3 AST  1.8 STL  0.5 BLK  2.8 3PT  

While Harden’s 2015-16 campaign was generally considered a disappointment, his counting stats actually improved nearly across the board. Harden upped his scoring from 27.4 points per game to 29.0, while also notching career-best rebound (6.1) and assist (7.5) averages. His shooting numbers were nearly identical to what he deliver the season before, too, though he regressed from 37.5 percent to 35.9 percent from beyond the arc on 8.0 attempts per game. Most criticism directed at Harden lies in his sky-high high-usage rate, but that along with his durability and style of play make his a dream come true, from a fantasy perspective. Last season, Harden joined LeBron James and Michael Jordan as the only players in league history to record at least 2,000 points, 600 assists, 500 rebounds and 100 steals in a single season. Harden nearly accomplished the feat in 2014-15 as well, falling just 41 rebounds and 35 assists short. The 27-year-old is also an excellent free-throw shooter (career 85.5%) who gets to the line at an elite rate. He’s ranked third or higher in free-throw attempts in each of the last four seasons, finishing first three times. Harden’s combination of surplus counting stats and high-efficiency shooting make him arguably the top fantasy player in the league. While players like Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry both have strong cases of their own, no matter how you slice it, Harden is a consensus top-five fantasy commodity.

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