Originally written on Fantasy Sports Locker Room  |  Last updated 11/17/14

So, you’ve landed the first overall pick in your NBA fantasy draft and you think you’ve got it made. LeBron…Durant…does it even matter? You’re laughing all the way to the bank regardless, right? LeBron or Durant? Well, this year the classic LeBron vs. Durant debate has a new twist, and it’s Russell Westbrook’s injury. Westbrook is expected to miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season, and while that isn’t a huge chunk of the NBA schedule it’s definitely significant in the shortened fantasy season. It’s significant because Kevin Durant is a different player without Russell Westbrook. The numbers show how, but there are a couple of different ways of looking at them. First let’s use some stats from nbawowy.com. Looking there you can see that Durant’s shooting percentage during the regular season last year actually jumps from .503% WITH Westbrook on the floor to .548% WITHOUT Westbrook on the floor. Russell Westbrook’s absence might not be such a bad thing. But, I think a more telling way to look into the impact Westbrook’s absence has on Durant’s game is KD’s numbers in the playoffs post-Westbrook’s season ending injury. It’s one thing to play a little better while your star teammate’s getting a breather on the bench, but it’s another to play better when your star teammate’s not in the lineup and the opposition is game-planning solely around you. Here are Durant’s numbers in the 9 playoff games after Westbrook’s injury (yes, it’s a small sample size): 31.8 PPG, .461 FG%, .810 FT%, 2.1 3PT, 9.8 RPG, 6.2 APG. Other than the percentages – and I don’t think free throw percentage has any relevance to playing without Westbrook – they’re all significantly increased from his regular season stats: 28.1 PPG, .510 FG%, .905 FT%, 1.7 3PT, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG The drop in field goal percentage is the only category that could be worrisome. Not only is Westbrook not there to run the pick and roll or draw double teams by taking the ball to the hoop and opening up Durant, but Kevin Martin was lost in free agency as well. His sharp shooting skills (42.6 3PT%) were useful for spreading the defence. But in fairness, when deciding between LeBron and Durant, KD never has a better field goal percentage so it doesn’t make a big difference.   As for LeBron, there’s no way to expect anything less than last season, if not a bit better as his efficiency numbers have been climbing every since leaving Cleveland. Durant is still ranked #1 in Yahoo leagues and rightfully so. While defences will be able to game plan around stopping him and only him, the Rockets and Grizzlies weren’t able to do it effectively in last year’s playoffs, so why should we expect anyone else to? Durant may lose a couple notches in FG%, but his raw numbers are going to be up everywhere as he tries to do everything for the Thunder without Westbrook. If you’ve landed the #1 pick in your draft, take Durant and just hope that he doesn’t tear his meniscus like Westbrook from carrying the weight of his team on his back. The post The Great Draft Debate: With the first overall pick do I take LeBron or Durant? appeared first on Fantasy Sports Locker Room.

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