The free agency series will focus on the three biggest free agency moves. I wanted to dig through the stats and take an in depth look at the team/fantasy implications of these free agency moves. Part one will focus on Kevin Durant.
1. Kevin Durant to the Warriors is a matchup nightmare. Coaches in the league right now are sweating trying to put a defensive game plan together to stop this “super team”. However, Durant will need to make a few adjustments to his game to allow for the machine, known as the Warriors, to keep running effectively. Kevin Durant has one of the highest isolation percentages in the league at 15%. This poses a problem because no other Warrior had an isolation rate greater than 10%. Durant will have to play within the system, which should lead to a significant drop off in his isolation opportunities. However, with the much improved spacing he’ll encounter, I would expect his efficiency to improve (if that’s even possible). I think Steph’s points per game will drop off some, but I also expect his assist percentage to jump along with Draymond’s (who acts as another PG of the team). Klay Thompson could benefit greatly from Durant due to opposing teams placing their weaker defenders on him. Also, with so much attention being brought to Durant and Curry, Klay might have a few more open shots this year. It’ll be very interesting to watch what they do in terms of usage rates because I expect Durant’s and Steph’s to stay above 27% or so, which means Draymond Green may lose a significant portion of his shots. The spacing and defensive improvements that Durant brings to a team that already had great spacing and defense will be very fun to watch. The overall fantasy numbers may dip just a little for the starters simply because there isn’t enough usage to go around anymore.
On the other side, the Thunder have a lot of work ahead of them as they attempt to replace some of Durant’s production. They’ve got a couple options that depend on the development of their young guys. Cameron Payne could be a big part of the rebuild as it would add another ball handler and potential scoring threat. Sabonis is the other piece that could help fill some excess production by spacing the floor as a big, which could help replace Ibaka and allow Westbrook to operate in the half court. I like the idea of the Thunder playing small with Payne, Westbrook, Oladipo, Sabonis, and Adams. This lineup only works if Payne and Oladipo become more efficient scorers. If not, teams will simply play off of them and collapse on everything Westbrook does. The last lineup combo that the Thunder may use is the big lineup with Kanter and Adams, but with Kanter being such a defensive liability (-1.5 defensive real plus minus), it’s hard to trust a lineup with the offensively skilled big man. I think Westbrook is in perfect positon to have an incredible fantasy season, especially if the Thunder can space the floor. Over the past year, Westbrook has displayed a 40% usage rate with Durant off the floor. I would expect that number to regress some, but he should definitely lead the league in usage this year. At pick 1.01 in re drafts, I will be selecting Russell Westbrook without hesitation. Oladipo will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself this year. Opposing teams will need to be defensively prepared because Westbrook and Oladipo combine for 15 drives per game. This will put enormous pressure on the bigs of other teams and in turn will lead to significant foul trouble. Obviously Durant’s departure hurts the Thunder, but I’m interested to watch the team develop throughout the course of the season.