In some ways, this is a ridiculous debate. It's like discussing which richly appointed ultra-luxury car you'd like to drive. Clearly you can win your fantasy league with either LeBron James or Kevin Durant as your No. 1 pick.
Nonetheless, James vs. Durant is a fun argument, and two members of the Yahoo! fantasy staff see it differently. Let's play the feud...
Dalton makes the case for LeBron: Let's face it, you can't really go wrong here, and the difference is slight at best with these two. In fact, because of Chris Paul's higher health risk, it could easily be argued LeBron James and Kevin Durant are in a clear tier by themselves. Durant is younger and seemingly still showing growth with each passing year, but James, who was ranked as the most valuable player in fantasy according to Basketball Monster last year, is the clear best player in the league and worth the top pick.
The additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis at the wings in Miami could lead to an uptick in assists for James, while Dwyane Wade's continued health concerns should ensure James sees plenty of run on a team that remains not that deep. James attempted a career-low 2.4 3pt last season, and while that resulted in "only" 0.9 3pt, it also led to him shooting 53.1 percent from the field. 53.1 percent! His performance at the line (77.1 percent) was also the second best of his career, while his 7.9 rpg tied for a career high.
James is one of the most durable players in the league who only continues to get better on the defensive side of the ball. And whereas Wade's minutes need to be monitored (his 33:12 mpg were a career low last season), Durant has to contend with teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who are stars in their own right and have both seen their field goal attempts increase every year they have been in the league. Again, I believe this is mostly quibbling and think Durant is a close second, but give me King James if I luck into the first pick of the draft.
Behrens gives the nod to KD: To be perfectly honest, I doubt I'll convince many of the LeBron zealots that Durant should be the top overall selection. As soon as our preseason top-100 ranks were published, I began hearing from the feistiest of the LBJ supporters, and ... well, let's just say they weren't interested in arguments on behalf of anyone else.
And I get it. LeBron is exceptional, an all-time player, dominant in multiple categories. He's a machine in terms of counting stats — perhaps not 3s, but everything else — plus he's shot over 50 percent from the floor in each of the past three seasons. If you take him first, no one is going to scoff at the selection. It's easy to build a case for James.
Still, if I happen to land the No. 1 pick, I'm making Durant the centerpiece of my fantasy roster, without hesitation.
KD's counting stats are basically as absurd as LeBron's, as most of you know (last year: 2.0 3s/G, 8.0 Reb, 3.5 Ast, 1.3 Stl, 1.2 Blk, 28.0 Pts). But the trait separating Durant from the rest of the player pool is this: He might just be the greatest volume shooter, both from the field and from the line, of the fantasy era. If you build your team around KD, you're going to find it almost impossible to screw up in free throw or field goal percentage.
Over the last 33 years — since the NBA introduced the three-point arc — there have been only 10 individual seasons in which a player has shot at least 45.0 percent from the field and 86.0 percent from the line, while attempting 15.0 field goals and 7.5 free throws per game. Kevin Durant has delivered three of those seasons. He's the only player to do it more than once, and he's done it each of the last three years. Here's the full list. No shooter over the past three decades has been as reliably accurate as Durant, while hoisting shots at such high volume. Other players may shoot a lot, but not this well. Others shoot well, but not as often.
Combine KD's freakish percentages with his extraordinary contributions in other stats, and we have clear top-pick material.