I know, I know. LeBron James is the King, even in the fantasy world. The thought of him rounding out his post game and increasing his efficiency makes me tremble with fear (except in the leagues I drafted him in of course), but in the end, fantasy basketball mainly boils down to which team is most productive in the fantasy playoffs. And where was LeBron over the final few weeks of last season? You guessed it, at the end of the bench.
The Miami Heat play in a division where two of the five teams, Orlando and Charlotte, are looking more forward to Andrew Wiggins than anything else. Another team, Atlanta, gave up two of their three core players over the last few offseasons and aren’t sure if they’re rebuilding or retooling. That leaves the Washington Wizards as the biggest threat to the Heat’s Southeast throne, and given their youth, they’re nowhere near competing on that level.
Sure, there’s much better competition when you look at the Eastern Conference more broadly, but Miami’s three biggest threats are flawed. After the offseason improvements made by the Pistons and Cavaliers, the Pacers and Bulls are all of a sudden playing in a division that features four potential playoff squads. All season long, these teams should be beating up on each other, causing Indiana and Chicago to lose ground on the one seed. The Nets, considered by many to be Miami’s most dangerous Eastern Conference foe, will have their record hampered by the necessary time needed to gain camaraderie at the beginning of the season, especially under a rookie head coach.
The point is, Miami is right on track to cruise to the first overall seed once again. It’s bad enough that LeBron seemingly misses out on fourth quarter stats on a nightly basis due to blowouts, but it’s even worse when the first overall pick is absent during the most important stretch of the fantasy season.
Then, there’s the Russell Westbrook factor. Over nine playoff games without his biggest helper last season, Durant averaged 31.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 6.2 assists, with 2.1 treys, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game. Sounds like LeBron numbers to me. Durant expanded his offensive game last season, putting up a career-high 4.6 assists per, and although it’s scary to think about, at age 24 there’s more room for improvement. Westbrook will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season after undergoing another knee surgery, so the opportunity to produce even more ridiculous numbers than usual will be there to kick off the year, if nothing else. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Thunder brought Westbrook along slowly, or monitored his minutes in order to avoid too early of an exit from the postseason once again.
If you’re lucky enough to advance to your league’s championship, you’re going to need your first-round pick to win it all. LeBron may be the better player, but there’s no excuse for his absence from your squad if you could see it coming from a mile away, which is why I’ll be taking Kevin Durant first overall come draft time.
Who would you take in fantasy?
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