-- Kevin Durant's decision to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State not only sends shockwaves throughout the Western Conference and all the NBA, it also drastically changes the way we should look at the fantasy values of stars like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
We need to recognize something here -- never before has one move impacted so many top-20 caliber fantasy talents quite like this one.
With Durant on the Warriors, not only is he going to have a harder time finding the 19.2 shots he averaged this past season, but so will Curry (20.2) and Thompson (17.3).
How this plays out is anyone's guess, and it doesn't help that Warriors coach Steve Kerr loses a key assistant in Luke Walton to help with this transition, but it's easy to envision a scenario where the Warriors ride the hot hands on a nightly basis. Notice I said hands - plural.
If the Splash Bros aren't hitting, that's a game where the team can live off of Green's energy and feed Durant. If Durant is cold, then maybe that's a game he turns into more of a distributor and lets Curry or Thompson fire away from 30 feet. Any way you slice it, the pressure won't be on Curry and Durant to save the day all the time as they've had to do in the past, but roles will have to be established.
Who takes the shot with the game on the line? Down one late, do you set up Curry or Thompson for an open three or do you feed Durant on the block and let him go to work with a big size advantage? These are the things Kerr will have to determine over the course of next season and, while it won't be easy, it's certainly a nice problem to have.
But none of this is good for the Warriors as far as fantasy is concerned.
As much as Durant is on upgrade over Harrison Barnes, it's easy to overlook what Barnes' complementary role allowed the Warriors' stars to do in recent years. Barnes, who signed an offer sheet with Dallas for four years, $95 million that now won't be matched by Golden State, averaged 9.6 shots a game from the small forward spot this season after putting up a mere 8 shots per game in 2014-15.
Barnes was shooting fewer than 10 times per game and Andrew Bogut barely ever looked to score (4 shots per game this past season), enabling Curry to take control and earn back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards. The passive nature of Barnes and Bogut was also a big reason why, even with guys like Thompson and Green on the court, Curry was still able to average 20.2 shot attempts in 2015-16.
That changes with Durant in the fold.
There are only so many shots to go around, and there's a good chance that Durant, Curry and Thompson will all see their shot attempts drop by 1-3 per game. All of their scoring numbers are also going to suffer some as well, maybe not to the degree that LaMarcus Aldridge saw after joining San Antonio or Kevin Love experienced in Cleveland , but enough to be concerning.
As such, Curry is no longer a surefire No. 1 pick in fantasy going into next season, with guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook knocking on the door for that top spot. I still wouldn't let him drop past third in any draft, though.
Durant drops a bit as well, going from a second or third overall pick to somewhere in the 4-6 range. LeBron James will be drafted ahead of Durant in some leagues.
Thompson, who may be the most negatively impacted out of everyone, becomes a bit of a reach in the second round. He finished this past season at No. 18 on ESPN's Player Rater, but it wouldn't surprise me if his shots per game dipped into the 14-15 range, which would hurt his scoring and 3-point production -- the two best parts of his game.
Green is the one player I feel less worried about from a fantasy standpoint. He just does so much other than score, and a lot of his scoring comes in ways like transition and put-back baskets that won't be affected by the arrival of Durant. Look for Green's rebound numbers to take a slight dip thanks to the presence of the 6-foot-9 small forward, but his assist numbers should rise beyond the 7.4 he averaged in 2015-16.
I mentioned Westbrook above, and to me he's the other big winner here -- not in real life, where his Thunder won't be the same without Durant -- but in terms of putting up numbers.
Last season, Westbrook's usage soared from 31.8 with Durant on the floor to 40 whenever the star forward was off the court. As he enters a contract year, you can expect huge things out of Westbrook next season. Look for his scoring to approach 30 PPG as he attempts around 22-23 shots per game, even if it means a sizeable drop in his career-high assist numbers (10.4 APG) from last season.
Victor Oladipo might have been a complementary player to Durant, but now he becomes the second scoring option on a Thunder team that is very backcourt oriented. OKC is a better system for his skill set and he has a good chance to put up career numbers after finishing 40th on ESPN's Player Rater last season in Orlando.
More shots will also be available for emerging big man Steven Adams, who looked like one of the game's best centers in the playoffs and is entering his fourth season in the league. He averaged only 5.3 shots a game last season, but his growing confidence on the offensive end and the absence of Durant could cause that number to jump to 9-10 next season.