If you had the top pick in a fantasy basketball league that held its draft before Sunday, the chances are very strong that you used the selection to grab Kevin Durant, the obvious pick at that spot as last year’s top overall fantasy contributor.
If you have the top pick in a draft that has yet to occur, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll be going in a different direction after hearing the news of Durant’s Jones fracture, which is a bone break at the base of the small toe expected to keep him out of action for six-to-eight weeks. That means the best player in fantasy hoops will be sidelined for at least the first month of the season.
So the question now is: where do you draft Durant? There obviously is no reason to draft him over Anthony Davis or LeBron James at this point, because while both were (and probably would have continued to be) inferior to Durant from an all-around categorical contribution standpoint, the extra month equates to roughly 20 percent of Durant’s games for the year. Particularly in rotisserie leagues, there’s no way to justify using even a top-three pick on a player like that.
In roto leagues, where the number of games played matters more than per-game statistics, it would be hard to spend any first-round pick on Durant at this point, even in deeper leagues. Depending on what kind of player you started off with, the second round is a more likely landing spot. If he lasts until Round 3, you play with crazy people and it’s time to end the slide.
Head-to-head is a little trickier, though. If you think you can draft a team strong enough to weather the storm and maybe get through November with a 2-2 record without Durant, there’s a lot to be gained by risking a first-round pick on him. The stakes were nearly as high a year ago when most of us tried to figure out when to draft an injured Russell Westbrook. It was a different injury, but those that took the gamble then definitely got their money’s worth.
Davis and James will most often be the first two picks in H2H drafts from here on out, but who else should go ahead of Durant?
Stephen Curry, the consensus fourth-rated player in most Top 200 lists up to this point, is someone I’d personally take ahead of Durant in a standard draft. I’d probably take James Harden and Chris Paul ahead of him, too. Curry wins you three-pointers most weeks. Paul wins you assists and steals. Harden gives you a great shot at points and dips into a lot of other categories, as well. The extra four weeks worth of those guys is worth passing on Durant.
I draw the line at Carmelo Anthony, however, a guy who plays the same position as Durant and is nowhere near as multidimensional. Plenty of drafters are likely to agree, which means that Durant is likely to be drafted anywhere between picks three-to-seven with the four-to-six range most likely.
Something else this injury does is boost the value of Westbrook, who should do huge things the first month of the season in Durant’s absence. He was already the league-leader in usage rate last year playing with the league MVP (Durant, for what it’s worth, was second in that category), so his usage should go through the roof with Durant out, definitely making him worthy of consideration in drafts just outside of the top five or six picks.
As far as who on the depth chart is due for more minutes, there’s not a whole lot there. Reggie Jackson will likely see some more playing time at the one, with Westbrook sliding over to the two and maybe Anthony Morrow or Jeremy Lamb getting some minutes at the three. Morrow seems most likely to see a big boost in minutes, but he’s going undrafted in most leagues and probably is better left on the waiver wire for now. There are higher ceiling flyers at the end of your draft.
At the top of your draft, however, is where this Durant injury is likely to have the biggest impact. Best of luck as you figure out what to do up there, and let’s hope no other potential first round picks get hurt.
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