Four All-Stars. One basketball. On the surface, one would assume the Warriors may need a few sessions of Sesame Street to properly embrace a “share and share alike” concept, yet one thing is abundantly clear in the wake of Kevin Durant’s Declaration of Independence which left many players, fans and media types (see Smith, Stephen A.) feeling as if the Warriors’ revised fireworks show will have apocalyptic ramifications for the NBA.
The Four All-Stars ended last season ranked among the Top 19 players in Fantasy Hoops. Steph Curry finished first, with Durant right behind him, while Draymond Green (seventh) and Klay Thompson (19th) also performing at elite levels. No chance of a repeat, right?
Know this: while the Warriors are Curry’s team, Durant will be The Man when it comes to Fantasy Basketball, which is why I feel he will remain a Top 5 performer, while Curry, Green and Thompson will also maintain Top 30 status.
KD did not come to the Bay Area as a complementary piece. Durant may not exceed his career 27.4 points per game average, yet don’t expect a significant drop, even if his field goal attempts per night (19.3 last season) takes a dip more toward the 17.1 attempts per game during his rookie season in 2008-09. Even then, Durant averaged 20.3 points on top of 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal per game, and that was as an unpolished 19-year-old on a bad Sonics team on the way out to Oklahoma City.
Durant is third on the active list in true shooting percentage with a .604 mark, ranking him just behind Suns C Tyson Chandler (.621) and new chilly chum Curry (.615), which is why I feel he will remain among the top scorers in the Association despite the abundance of options Steve Kerr has in front of him. With most (OK, all) teams unable to match up properly against the Warriors, KD will get TS% well above .600 for a sixth straight season. His PER (Player Efficiency Rating) will continue to stay above 25, where it has resided for the past five campaigns.
What makes Durant a more scary proposition in Golden State is his penchant for visiting the free throw line. KD averages 11 attempts per night, a number that tops Curry, Green and Thompson (10.2 attempts) combined. One could make the assumption that Durant could reach a career-high at the line, especially on nights where the charter members of the Splash Brothers are averaging above their composite 42.1 percent accuracy from beyond the arc.
There’s little reason to expect Durant won’t continue being a presence beyond his scoring prowess. He has averaged at least seven boards a game in five of the last six seasons while also averaging a steal and a block per contest. He will also hover in the neighborhood of 35 or so minutes per night, a total which could take a dip if the Warriors’ reserves are filling out the bulk of the fourth quarter during blowouts.
Right now, I would rank Durant in the 3-5 range in standard leagues. Jilted ex-teammate Russell Westbrook (who I’d bank on to lead the league in scoring now that he has a green light to jack up shots at will) would be my first overall pick, with Rockets G James Harden second. I’d place Timberwolves F/C Karl-Anthony Towns just in front of Durant, with a healthy and revamped Anthony Davis hovering in the same lofty atmosphere.
Curry stands the best chance to benefit from the arrival from Durant. Even without the injuries which hampered him for much of the postseason, Curry showed signs of fatigue. Make no mistake, he will still drain threes at a blistering clip, yet I see him more of a true point guard this season. Do not expect him to approach the career-high 20.2 FGA from last season, but I feel his assists per game will look more along the lines of the personal-best 8.5 dimes per night in 2013-14.
Coming off perhaps the best Fantasy Basketball season ever, Curry is primed for regression from his 30.1 points per game, yet he’ll stay in the territory of 20-22 points per game while keeping his PER in the 21-25 range. He’s no longer the best Fantasy player available, but Curry should still be a solid mid-to-late first round selection come October. I’d also expect a third straight season of at least two steals per game from Curry, whose all-around numbers could be better, even with the dip in scoring production.
A piece of keeper/dynasty league advice: Curry’s value remains in the stratosphere, which is why I’d suggest floating his name out into the trade market if you own him. The lust for some owners to have a Warriors player can work in your favor. He’s never going to repeat last season and while Curry will stay among the Fantasy elite, throwing him into the trade waters may net you a better long-term harvest.
Green’s hustle on the defensive end will help keep him among the Top 20 players available. His style of play will allow him to get his share of scoring off putbacks and other garbage inside, which is why Green should stay in the neighborhood of the 14 points per game he scored last season. An improved effort from the free throw line (career 69 percent shooter) would add a couple of points per night on top of 9-11 FGA Green will still get in the New Golden Age.
The 9.5 rebounds per game from last year shouldn’t digress much, as he will still be the Warriors’ top presence on the glass, while Green can actually improve on his 1.2 steals and a block per game. He remains one of the game’s most durable players, so anyone who picks him can feel at ease in knowing Green will be in the lineup each night.
If there is one player to be concerned about, the spotlight would be on Thompson, who is the most scoring-driven of the quartet. His value would take a significant hit if his consecutive seasons of at least 21 points per game takes a tumble south. He offers minimal production in rebounding (3.3 per game) and assists (2.3) while registering a marginal blip in steals and blocks. Thompson has four straight seasons of at least 200 3-pointers and could stretch it to five if Durant is able to present him clear looks from beyond the arc. I can see Thompson’s FGA per game being more dominated by his long range touch. He shot from 3-point range 47 percent of the time last season and could easily exceed the 50 percent mark.
Strictly on his 3-point shooting, Thompson will still be a good choice in the first three rounds, but his lack of contribution in other categories could see him fall more toward the middle-to-late second round, if not the early third. You can still win with Thompson, yet he’ll have nights where he will have the best view of potentially the most explosive lineup in recent memory.
The Warriors are going to score, and score…and score some more. Golden State averaged 114.1 points per game last season, and it’s not hard to envision them exceeding that mark. That’s all the reason why all four will force Fantasy Hoops owners to invest heavily on them.