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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Not since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in the summer of 2010 did one free-agent move leave as many shockwaves around the league as Durant's choice to bolt for the Warriors last offseason following nine seasons with the Thunder. With three All-Stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) already in the fold, the addition of Durant, the 2014 MVP and a five-time All-NBA first-team selection, was expected to take the Warriors over the top after they failed to repeat as NBA champions the season prior. Though the Warriors had some initial hiccups in integrating a new superstar into the mix, it didn't take long for Durant to quickly find a niche as a devastating outside shooter and finisher, which was certainly aided by the bevy of playmakers surrounding him. Durant wrapped up the regular season with averages of 25.1 points, 4.8 assists and 1.9 three-pointers in 33.4 minutes per game, all of which were lower than his 2015-16 marks, a development that was fully expected given the upgrade in his supporting cast. However, due to an uptick in shooting efficiency and a more intense focus on defense, Durant arguably maintained Fantasy value, with his 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game both representing career highs. A 19-game absence due to a left MCL sprain in March and early April threatened to derail Durant’s campaign, but he was able to get a few tune-up games in before the regular season ended and then took over as the Warriors’ alpha dog in the playoffs. Just as the Warriors planned, Durant proved to be the difference as Golden State avenged their NBA Finals loss to the Cavaliers from a year earlier, with the forward averaging 35.2 points and 3.6 three-pointers in his team’s five-game series victory to earn Finals MVP. The Warriors have retained all of their core stars heading into 2017-18 -- including Durant, who signed a two-year extension -- so it’s difficult to imagine the 29-year-old’s averages noticing a dramatic change as he begins his second season by the bay. However, with a year of familiarity with his teammates already under his belt, it’s not out of the question for Durant to notice more improvement in his marks from the field (53.7 percent) and 3-point range (37.5 percent) this season, which would only further aid his Fantasy stock.
Few moves in recent memory have rivaled the anticipation and subsequent backlash created by Durant’s July 4 decision to sign with the Warriors. While the NBA’s rich got richer this offseason, the rest of the league is left wondering just how to go about stopping a team loaded with three of the best shooters in the world, not to mention the league’s most versatile defender in Draymond Green. For Durant, the move represents his best chance at an immediate ring, but it doesn’t come without individual sacrifice. Playing alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Green will force the four-time scoring champ into perhaps the most reduced role of his basketball career. Of course, by Durant’s standards, that probably still means he’s among the four or five favorites to win his second MVP award, but for the first time since entering the league in 2007, he won’t be his team’s undisputed No.1 offensive option. Perhaps playing alongside Russell Westbrook has partially prepared Durant for what’s to come, but how he’ll coexist with two more All-Star starters in the starting lineup remains to be seen. Even if Golden State’s Big Four coalesce seamlessly, Durant’s numbers, particularly his scoring, are likely to decline by default. However, his shooting efficiency shouldn’t be in much danger, and it’s not hard to imagine Durant becoming even more efficient with the constant threats of Curry and Thompson at his side. Ultimately, Durant’s fantasy value is somewhat of an unknown, but even if he experiences an overall statistical drop off, he’ll remain worthy of a mid-first-round pick in fantasy leagues.
Durant broke his right foot last October during the preseason. He was initially ruled out for just six-to-eight weeks, but a series of setbacks lead to Durant playing just 27 games before shutting himself down for the season. He ended up undergoing three separate procedures on his right foot, inlcuding a controversial bone-graft procedure that has emboldened Durant and left him feeling confident he'll be back to his normal self. He's only under contract with the Thunder through the 2015-16 season. There are going to be a lot of questions regarding his place on the Thunder and whether or not he'll re-sign with the team next offseason, but all of that chatter is just lip service. If Durant is healthy, he should be himself this season. In the 27 games he was healthy enough to play in last season, Durant averaged 25.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 blocks in 34 minutes per game while shooting 51 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Those stats may sound impressive, but for Durant, those were his worst statistics since 2008-09. While he has an almost unmatched scoring ability, many of his weaknesses lie in his defense, and he's still not very strong in the post at a skinny 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds. At 27 years old entering his ninth year in the NBA, Durant largely is what he is, but with a new head coach in Billy Donovan, the Thunder may ask Durant to play differently this season to accomodate giving other players touches on their deep squad. Despite the positive comments from Durant regarding his injury, fantasy managers should exercise some level of caution when drafting Durant this season. Even though he has the upside to be the best fantasy player in the game, there's also the possibility that Durant will suffer further injury to his foot.
Fresh off winning his first MVP award, Durant enters his eighth year in the league as a superstar in every sense of the word. Durant played 39 minutes per game in 2013-14 and had his best scoring season (32.0 points per game) ever, while also dishing out a career-best 5.5 assists per contest. He also averaged 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game and shot 50 percent from the floor, 39 percent from beyond the arc (while recording a career-best 2.4 three-pointers per game), and 89 percent from the charity stripe. Still only 25-years-old, the best may be yet to come from Durant. That's a scary thought for the rest of the league, and Durant should also be well-rested after withdrawing from Team USA for the FIBA Basketball World Cup this summer. The five-time NBA All-Star enters the 2014-15 season as the consensus number one overall fantasy player yet again, and with his ability to stuff the box score in practically every way imaginable, Durant will justifiably be the first player taken in a majority of drafts.
Durant's shooting percentages all improved last season, and his 51 percent field-goal percentage and 91 free-throw percentage both marked career highs. His 42 three-point shooting percentage was his best rate since his sophomore season and easily marked his most efficient rate since he started attempting four-plus threes per game in 2009-10. Unfortunately, this jump in efficiency coincided with a dip in attempts, going from 5.2 hoists from long range in 2011-12 to 4.1 attempts per game last season. His attempts were down across the board last year, and not surprisingly, he dished out a career-high 4.6 assists per game, as he handled the ball a lot more with James Harden out of the picture. All this slight role change means is that Durant is as valuable as he's ever been in fantasy, and with the departure of Kevin Martin, the onus to carry the team for long stretches at a time will be even more enhanced in 2013-14.
Durant won his third-straight scoring title last season, averaging 28 points per game while shooting a career-high 49.6 percent from the floor. He also had career highs in three-pointers per game (2.0), rebounds (8.0), assists (3.5), blocks (1.2). All of the Thunder’s key rotation pieces remain intact, and they will undoubtedly be hungry to return to the NBA Finals behind Durant and Russell Westbrook. What’s scary is that Durant is clearly still improving, and there’s no reason he can’t put up even better numbers in 2012-13. He played in every game last season. Doing so for the second time in the last three years. Durant will surely be No. 1 on many draft boards this year, and it’s hard to argue that he’s not as valuable as any other player in fantasy due to his across-the-board contributions.
Durant was the top-ranked fantasy player last season and should be the first player taken in almost all league formats this year because he contributes above-average stats in virtually every category. He was one of only two players to average over one block, three-pointer, and steal per game last season (Rudy Gay was the other). Durant’s also a gamer; it takes a significant injury for Durant even to consider sitting out, and only four other players averaged more minutes last season. And for the second straight season, he led the league in scoring. But beyond his gaudy counting numbers, Durant is also efficient with the ball, shooting 46 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the line last season. He’ll be just 23 years old this year, meaning there’s still room for his game to grow. It’s legitimately possible that Durant could improve his rebound, assist, steal, block and three-point numbers over the next few seasons.
Although some owners might be moving Durant up a notch in their draft lists because of LeBron's departure from the Cleve for a star-heavy situation in Miami, LeBron's situation doesn't really matter at all here: Durant was the better fantasy option last season, too. Of course, that's not to say it wasn't close – and, depending on league formats, there are probably instances where LeBron was more valuable – but given his performance in 2009-10 and that he's very likely still improving, Durant is now inescapably the number one player in fantasy basketball. Instead of looking at his obvious strengths (scoring, rebounding), it probably makes sense to address what might be Durant's only weakness: assists. Over his three years in the NBA, the Durantula has stayed pretty static here, recording 2.4, 2.8, and then 2.8 again per game. Will that number increase? Likely not by much. Thing is, it doesn't really need to improve for Durant to reign supreme in fantasy rankings – and that's because of his greatest strength. No, it's not scoring, but free-throw shooting. Last year, Durant not only shot 90 percent exactly (756-for-840) from the charity stripe, but he also led the league with 840 free-throw attempts on the season – or, just over 10 per game. Overall, between his ability to get to the line and his efficiency once there, Durant proved to be the best overall player in the free-throw shooting category, considerably outpacing players like Dirk Nowitzki and Chauncey Billups.
Credit head coach Scott Brooks for realizing that the ‘Durantula’ was much better suited to small forward than shooting guard. The move allowed Durant to open his game up considerably and utilize every weapon in his offensive arsenal, vaulting him to an unprecedented level of production. During the 43-game stretch between his move to small forward and his ankle injury in late-February, Durant was flat out dominant, averaging 27.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 treys, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks on 49.3-percent shooting from the field and 43.8-percent shooting beyond the arc. The improvement in his shooting proficiency was astounding as his effective field-goal percentage on jumpers climbed from an anemic 39.7 percent in ‘07-‘08 to a respectable 45.2 percent last season. Durant also showed marked improvement on the glass where he upped his defensive rebounding percentage from 9.9 percent to 15.1 percent. We are witnessing the makings of a superstar here.
Durant entered the NBA with high expectations last season, and he fulfilled them by averaging more than 20 ppg on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. Durant struggled in the first half of the season as a volume scorer that shot only 40.2 percent from the field, but after the All-Star break he found his footing and averaged 21.9 points on 47.6-percent shooting from the field and 88.5 percent from the line. Durant is a long 6-10, with excellent range on his jumper and the ball-handling ability of a guard. He projects eventually to be an NBA small forward, but he played last season at shooting guard due to his lack of physical strength. Look for Durant to venture down low a bit more this season, which should help him maintain his good percentages while also adding to his rebound total (4.3 rpg). Durant is also a solid defensive contributor, averaging 1.9 combined steals/blocks as a rookie. Durant should be among the leading scorers in the league this year, and if adds a bit to his defensive contributions he could soon join the fantasy elite.
Durant is this year’s prohibitive favorite to run away with the rookie scoring title and Rookie of the Year honors. He boasts the height and length of a power forward with the outside shooting touch and handle of a big guard. This year, his likeliest position is small forward, where he should be able to go over smaller defenders and around the bigger guys off the dribble. And he’ll have plenty of opportunities to score on a Sonics team that lost Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis this summer. But scoring isn’t the only entry on Durant’s impressive resume. As a freshman at Texas last year, he was among the NCAA leaders in rebounding, and his quick hands produced 3.8 combined steals and blocks. The one area of concern is upper-body strength. Durant got a lot of attention for his inability to bench 185 lbs. at one of the pre-draft events. Expect him to get knocked down regularly, and to struggle at times on defense, until he fills out a bit and gets stronger.
More Fantasy News
Takes backseat to Splash Brothers
Durant finished with 17 points (7-13 FG, 3-6 3Pt), nine assists, two rebounds and a steal across 35 minutes in the Warriors' win over the Timberwolves on Tuesday.
Scores 24 points in Monday's loss
Durant recorded 24 points (9-18 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 6-6 FT), five rebounds, and three assists in 36 minutes during Monday's 111-105 loss to the Spurs.
Will play Monday
Officially questionable for Monday
Out vs. OKC
Durant (ankle) is out Saturday against the Thunder, Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News reports. "Most likely he'll play in San Antonio," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said about Durant's availability for Monday's game. "Just feel more comfortable to give him a couple of days to rest."