Every week, we’ll be pitting our two die-hard Larry Bird fans in a duel to the death on a fantasy debate.  Hopefully this will become as infamous as Burr vs. Hamilton.  Look what it did for Broadway!  This week, we’re taking a look at who is fantasy’s number one player.  After a slow start from Curry, Adam is going for Kevin Durant, with Billy sticking with Harden.  Let the vitriol fly!

Adam:  So why KD over Harden?  There is no doubt that Harden is putting up fantastic counting stats this year.  However, with the increase in usage, he has become a bigger turnover machine than Westbrook!  5 turnovers per game for Harden and only 2 per game for KD.  That is a massive difference.  The other huge stat in Kevin’s favor is his FG%.  With all star teammates, Durant has averaged 57% shooting through the first 4.  I don’t see this dropping under 55%, since he was over 50% in OKC where there was a lot of pressure.  Plus, he is in a slump from deep to start to the year – averaging less than a trey a game on 23% shooting.  Clearly that will improve.   On top of the better offensive efficiency, KD can now focus on defense and the added effort has really shone through in his stats.  3 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game.  I could see the steals coming down a bit to closer to 2, but the blocks should hold, especially since Durant is the primary shot blocking big man on the team.

Given this information, I would argue that Durant is better than Harden, given his consistency and lack of weaknesses.  With KD, there are no trade-offs, whereas with Harden, you get more volume, but you do pay the price for it.

Billy (wheyen3):  Harden will turn the ball over; I can’t argue that. He’s controlling so much of his team’s offensive fate that it’s a foregone conclusion. However, that shouldn’t turn people away from what Harden can do for your team. He gets to the line more than anyone in the league, and still shoots above 85% every season. With a lot of his scoring coming from the line, his field goal percentage isn’t as poor as one might think; many games, he simply bails out his poor shots by drawing a foul on them. Let’s move beyond that; KD and Harden will both score, they’ll both hit threes, they’ll both make their free throws. However, the place Harden definitively wins is assists. He already has 15- and 17-assist games this season, and he’s only played four games. In those two games, he’s also put up 41 and 34 points, respectively. Think about that… A good point guard might get you the double digit assists, and a good scorer might get you those point totals; Harden does it all by himself. It frees up a whole different spot to specialize in any defensive specialists you might need, instead of needing that pass-happy point guard to go with your great scorer. He creates a lot more flexibility in how you achieve any categories you want to dominate.

That is why I would go James Harden number one. His potential for monster scoring and passing games, with strong free throw percentage and three-point shooting, he will lead your team to glory.

Adam:  While I agree that Harden does not have FG% that will hurt you at all, KD has Lebronesque shooting potential this year, except with much higher three ball percentage than Bron Bron.  On top of that, KD is getting to the line at a much higher rate than previous years, and he is converting with his usual 90%+ efficiency.  Durant will also take it in rebounds, as well as defensive stats.  This leaves points and assists to Harden, which I will certainly grant.  KD will be significantly shorter in the assists area (about 4 per game vs 10+), but he should be in the same ball park scoring wise.  The icing on the cake is the huge turnover deficit.  Granted, Durant’s may come up a bit, but he should still win by a 2 TO margin.  All of that being said, I can see the argument for taking a high volume guy with the first pick, however, Durant gives slightly less volume, with significantly higher stability.  I could see a draft strategy of pairing Harden with a good big in the second round, but I think Durant lends much more flexibility to a team.   Personally, I don’t want to lose any stats coming out of the first round, and that’s why KD is the clear choice. Harden is certainly a dominant player, but given the better efficiency, improved free throw volume, high end defensive stats, solid rebounding, and low turnover rate, Kevin Durant is the best player in fantasy.

Billy:  I can see the argument for a balanced player, or a player who doesn’t set you up to be behind, in the first round. If I take Harden, I think he wins me multiple categories as long as I surround him with decent players. I don’t know if Durant can single-handedly win you anything, what with scoring being inconsistent on a Warriors team with lots of options; I think Harden can carry you to wins in points and assists. To each their own, but I’m gonna take the guy I think gives me the best shot at winning categories, and not necessarily just a good start in them.

 

Who wins this round?!  And if you have any ideas at what the Birds should fight over next, shoot your comments below!

  1. Zinger says:
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    I think both can be your personal #1 by building around them correctly

    • Adam

      Adam says:
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      @Zinger: If we just said that, there wouldn’t be a lot to debate about haha. It’s essentially about, what player leads to a superior build.

    • wheyen3

      wheyen3 says:
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      @Zinger: You’re not wrong.

  2. Jeremy says:
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    Westbrook number 1 cuz he’s shooting 46% thus far, which was the only concern. Both him and harden are punt TO anyways

    • Adam

      Adam says:
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      @Jeremy: Well that wasn’t really the only concern with Westy – The FG% simply isn’t going to stay this high, plus 6 TOs a game is insane… He’s going to have to prove that he’s more efficient for a bigger sample size if we’re going to jump to that conclusion. If he does, I’ll give it consideration, but at the moment, he isn’t there.

      https://basketballmonster.com/PlayerRankings.aspx

      He’s at #10 on basketball monster and even if you punt TOs, he still comes in 4th. There’s a better case for AD, but I think the injury history takes him out of contention for this year.

    • wheyen3

      wheyen3 says:
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      @Jeremy: I thought about making the argument for Westbrook. Felt his situation was less sustainable

  3. Threekola says:
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    Curry not getting consideration?

    I think Curry has something up his sleeve for us. I think Durant’s usage is higher than it will be, and Curry’s is lower than it will be. The first few games, I think Dubs were focused on getting Durant comfortable. Making him know he is welcome to shoot by almost forcing the issue and forcefeeding him. If you’ve been watching, Curry isn’t even looking for his shot off the pick. I don’t see it continuing. I see them losing a few games to good teams, games where Durant shoots a lot, causing them to fall back on their guy. You know…back to back MVP and all. Curry will definitely go on a ridiculous run sooner or later. I think it is up to Curry who is more valuable. He runs the show.

    We saw just last game he can still go off for 20+ in a quarter, even if it was an off game before that, which it was. 5 point first half, 23 point third quarter.

    Just wait.

    • Adam

      Adam says:
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      @Threekola: For adding another superstar, Curry’s shot attempts are not down significantly. The assists will be lower, just based on having another a high usage guy on the team. The 3 point efficiency will likely improve for him, but I think they’ll try to get Thompson more involved before Curry starts launching again. On the plus side, Curry will have a lower TO rate.

      Kevin and Steph are shooting about the same number of shots per game – I’m just not seeing where the extra usage is supposed to come from. If the Dubs play it right, everyone should just be getting a few less shots, but easier ones.

      • Threekola says:
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        @Adam:

        The extra usage is gonna come from him feeling comfortable pulling from 30 feet when he gets hot again instead of constantly trying to get Durant acclimated.

        He can have a 100% usage rate if he chooses to pull up every time he dribbles down. (not sure if that’s how usage works but you get the point) He runs the show, and from this point, Durant’s numbers will drop and Curry’s will increase.

        By the way, absolutely no chance Durant’s steals stay above 2, he’s a career 1.2 per-36, and he won’t get 36 min.

        • Adam

          Adam says:
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          @Threekola: http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/glossary.html – for usage rate. Pulling up when he comes down is just not how that offense is supposed to work. He will get some of that in transition, and it will improve, but the problem is, he simply won’t have the ball in his hands as much as last year. Durant on the other hand, touches the ball more than he did in OKC, and he’s getting better looks. Ultimately, the Warrior offense works best when the ball is moving, and nobody is “running the show.”

          I wouldn’t be surprised if his steals were below 2, but I also wouldn’t bet against against a career year in blocks and steals. The fast paced Warrior play simply generates more turnovers for and against them, and on the subject of blocks, Durant is the only thing close to a legitimate shotblocker on that team. Draymond has his moments, but no length.

          • Threekola says:
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            @Adam:

            Draymond has been a better shot blocker than Durant his whole career and by a good margin, 1.4 to 1.0 per-36.

            Anyway, I get what you’re saying with the offense moving. But when Steph is in his zone, he is the offense. We’ve seen Durant get in that zone a few times already, taking bad contested transition threes from 30 feet and making it. We haven’t seen Curry do that yet.

            And, even with Durant going off, Curry is still putting up good scoring numbers. His back to back 3 assist games seem like anomalies and I’m confident he gets those up past 6 again. His rebounding is also weirdly low. He’s at 2.0 and he’s never averaged less than 4. Obviously we know the steals are gonna shoot up very soon, but 0.8 right now? Cmon Steph, you just got done leading the league last year!

            Anyway, I am not 100% convinced Curry will finish #1. Just saying, I’m not convinced KD will either. I don’t think Harden/Westbrook really have a chance cause of metrics.

            • Adam

              Adam says:
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              @Threekola: Very true, but they were on different teams with different schemes. Moving to the same team has a big impact on everyone’s game. If Durant played more conventional 4 in OKC, I think we would’ve seen more blocks. If you have a longer 4, KD is going to be the one to guard him, not Draymond.

              Curry will no doubt get hot, but he will get hot less. Same goes for Klay, it tends to take them a lot of shots to get into their respective grooves. Again, what basis for the assist claim? Usage rate, and assists go hand and hand. He has the ball less, therefore less assists. I’m seeing 4 or 5 range.

              Rebounds are just a totally fluke stat for most guards, so nothing to read into that really. Harrison Barnes never was a huge rebounder, while Durant is, so that may play a small part.

              I genuinely think Davis and Kawhi have a better shot at the #1 spot, than Curry, and maybe even Durant, just based on the benchings they’re going to get, once chemistry is in place. If anyone has an easy path to value on that team though, it’s KD.

              • Adam

                Adam says:
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                @Adam: Plus, for the first time since Harden was on the team, KD can play with only one defender on him. There’s no telling where his ceiling is with teammates this good.

                • Threekola says:
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                  @Adam:

                  I see what you’re saying, but Curry’s assists will not be lower than 5 and I’ll put my house on that. 11 tonight and that was with most of the team missing shots.

                  “total fluke” is a little much. I get guards than aren’t elite rebounders like Westbrook just rely on lucky bounces most of the time, but there is some consistency from gaurd to guard. Curry is on the higher end of guard rebounders. Law of averages kicking in tonight too with those 8 boards.

                  Also…0/10 threes…there goes his streak. All the other stats were there, and even in such a bad game for the team, if he hit 4 or 5 of those 10 treys which he normally should, we have a Curry game from last year.

                  But even when Curry is back in form, my stat line predictions are very close in value.

                  The efficiency is very similar. Counting stats:

                  Steph: 2 more threes, 2-3 more assists(this is where we disagree), and 1 more steal

                  KD: Higher Ft volume, 3 more boards, 1 more block.

                  • Adam

                    Adam says:
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                    @Threekola: I don’t think we disagree much with his line. My main contention is that KD was a 50-40-90 guy on a team where he got bad looks – his situation improved tremendously, and he isn’t losing any usg rate. Curry is still the same player, he will just have the ball a little bit less. Even if it’s just a tiny bit.

                    Perhaps I’m biased by Curry being overrated in real life. He’s a fantastic offensive player, but it bothers me that he never guards the better guard on a team haha.

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