By: Nick Divago
It is interesting and a little sad to say goodbye to one of the best young teams to never win a championship. Seriously, how do you draft Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and SergeIbaka in consecutive drafts and not turn it into a title? Make bad trades, be in a small market, and avoid the luxury tax like the plague, I guess. It makes me worried for the Bucks and Timberwolves, who are both assembling good, young rosters that they may never keep together. Poor fans in Minnesota, they have no idea that a great collection of young talent can simply fall apart. Anyway, always start your analysis with a digression.
Last week I broke down the Utah Jazz offseason moves as an up-and-coming team. Today we look at a team headed in the opposite direction but with plenty of fantasy-relevant talent.
Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka
We all know Westbrook has gone crazy anytime Durant is not on the floor with him. That will happen a lot this year. You know Westbrook; along with Harden, he is one of the top 2 players in non-keeper leagues. You have to punt turnovers, and possibly FG percentage now that Durant is out, but Westbrook actually has an outside shot at averaging a triple double. His style of play, however, screams injury risk, so there’s that.
Victor Oladipo is hard to judge. He’s on a brand new team, and last season he struggled with injuries and at times didn’t seem to fit the roster. I’m not sure he is a better fit in OKC. Westbrook is going to have the ball and Oladipo is not a great shooter. The rest of OKC’s roster doesn’t look set to space the floor either. Oladipo is talented, though, and he and Westbrook will create havoc on D and in transition. If he had gone to a better fit, I would expect a jump this season, either in points or FG percentage, possibly both. On OKC, I expect something similar to his numbers the last 2 years. That said, there is more upside than downside. Billy Donovan is a good coach and he might get more out of Oladipo than I can foresee.
The Thunder’s 2 centers, Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, also deserve looks later in fantasy drafts. Adams has gotten the most press after playing very well in the playoffs, but I think Kanter will benefit more than Adams from the losses of Durant and Serge Ibaka. I think both players will get increased minutes this season, because the Thunder have a lot of youth and/or garbage at power forward. Adams is quick enough to play defense as a power forward, and it will be hard to go small against them. Not many players are both quick enough to hurt Adams on offense and strong enough to either keep Adams off the boards or cover Kanter in the post. Kanter is a black hole and a terrible defender, but he can score in the post.
Those possible mismatches and extra minutes are part of why I like Kanter this year. In twenty-one minutes per game last year, he averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds. He shoots high percentages from the field and the line. He even takes some threes, and one of these years he might hit a few. Those numbers would make for a solid center if he did anything else, but he doesn’t, so they will need to improve. I think they will. He will get more minutes, both because of the Thunder’s weak power forwards and because Kanter is now the Thunder’s second-best scorer, better than Oladipo. 2 years ago, Kanter averaged 18 and 11 after coming over from the Jazz. He won’t get to that, but he should see a decent uptick from last season.