Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
1st Round Rundown
1. Kevin Durant – If you have been reading my work, you know that Durant has 2 major things going for him already. He is SF eligible, and the Thunder have the best schedule in the league. With Westbrook missing time, Durant could feasibly average 35 points a game for the first 20 games of the season. He is a special, fantasy talent that comes along rarely. I have never owned him on my team because people consider him untouchable. They are right. With averages of 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.7 three’s, 51% FG, and 90.5% FT last year, do I really need to say anything else?
2. LeBron James – The King’s goal is to average 80% from the foul line this year. If he is able to accomplish that, his case for the first pick has real merit. As LeBron enters a player’s true NBA prime where explosive athleticism and elite skill level converge, it is scary to think that his numbers can continue to improve. I think any organization in the league would choose LeBron over Durant as the face of their franchise, but this is a fantasy site with passionate analysis and attention to detail. If you are still having doubts, read Kevin’s averages one more time, and say his name 3 times while staring at a mirror in a dark room. You should be elated if you land the number 2 pick. KD and King James are the only truly elite fantasy players in the NBA.
3. James Harden – Shooting guards must be elevated in your rankings this year. If you need convincing statistical evidence, read my very first article, A Great Draft Begins NOW! There are still questions about how Harden and Howard will impact each other’s numbers, but Kevin McHale claims that the Rockets still intend to push the pace. In addition, they have a wonderful schedule as exhibited in A Great Draft Begins NOW 2. D’Antoni envisioned a sprinting Dwight with a nonstop motor, but we saw how that played out. The roster is much different in Houston, so the jury is still out. I see Harden’s averages dipping slightly in almost all categories. However, an improvement in efficiency is almost guaranteed. His field goal percentage will climb, and turnovers will drop. He was a volatile, one-man show last year. Harden, age 24, is much younger than he looks because of his signature, massive beard. Like Durant and James, he is still improving, so draft him with absolute confidence at the number 3 slot.
4. Chris Paul – The former number 1 player in fantasy is ready for a rebirth under Doc Rivers. Doc has historically played his stars heavy minutes. Paul only played 33 minutes a game last year! Although the Clippers are probably the deepest team in the league, Paul should only be riding the pine in major blowouts. In addition, CP3’s backup, Darren Collison, cannot hold a candle to last year’s replacement, Eric Bledsoe. I can hear the Steph Curry fans grumbling now, so before you immediately close out of your browser, give me a chance to explain. Curry played 5 more minutes per game than Paul, and a guy by the name of Iguodala just appeared on the west coast. In the past, Andre has hurt the fantasy production of his point guards. Although Curry’s game is much different than Ty Lawson’s, Iguodala has averaged 5 assists a game for his career. He has the ball in his hands quite frequently, and that should hurt Curry, Thompson, Barnes, and David Lee this year. Whew! I am glad that the Warrior fans are still reading. They are a loyal group. No matter your allegiances, head south to Los Angeles with the number 4 pick. You will not be sorry.
Tune in Wednesday for picks 5 – 8. If you are drafting before then, contact me on facebook. I’m Alpine Fantasy Basketball. Analysis on picks 9 – 12 will be Friday. The first round is your most important pick. The player you choose establishes the foundation of your team. If you make a mistake at the beginning of the draft, you will suffer all season long. We are going to make sure that doesn’t happen. It is great to see some preseason action. We are only 3 weeks away from lift off!