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Just How Good are LeBron James and Kevin Durant?

In a sentence: They have a chance to go where only 1 man has gone before.

It won’t happen this season, but maybe, just maybe, we will witness fantasy history in 2011: LeBron James and Kevin Durant are both very, very close to achieving a fantasy milestone that has only been accomplished by one other player since 1979.

Granted, it’s a fairly arbitrary milestone, but at least according to the way many – if not most – fantasy player raters are calculated (including GMTR’s) both guys have a good shot at becoming only the second player(s) to be above average in all eight of the standard fantasy statistical categories (excluding turnovers) for an entire season. Or to put it another way, have positive fantasy ratings in the points, rebs, assists, steals, threes, blocks, and both percentage categories.

At first glance, it doesn’t sound all that impressive. But considering that Larry Bird is the only NBA player who has done it, LeBron or Durant would be in pretty damn exclusive company. Not even Michael Jordan did it over an entire season. Jordan came oh-so-close about 5 or 6 times, but at the start of his career when he was blocking shots, he didn’t shoot enough threes, and by the end of his career when he was hitting enough threes, he wasn’t blocking shots anymore. Hakeem Olajuwon? He didn’t take threes, obviously. Magic Johnson? He didn’t block enough shots. Charles Barkley? Couldn’t shoot free throws. Kobe came really close in 2003, but his field goal percentage of 45% was ever so slightly below league average. Julius Erving probably did it if we go back to the ABA in the early 70’s, but by the time the NBA instituted the three point shot, Erving didn’t take many of them anymore.

Both LeBron and Durant have positive ratings in 7 of the 8 categories this season and are very close on the final one. LeBron needs to improve his free throw shooting, which currently has him pegged at 0.2 standard deviations below league average. LeBron is hitting 76.7% of his free throws this season when league average for fantasy purposes is more like 78%. Considering LeBron hit 78% of his free throw last season, all it will take is a small improvement is his shot or a little luck and he’ll cross that threshold.

By comparison, Durant is hitting an impressive 89.9% of his free throws on the season while making 47.4% of his field goals. The only area that Durant has to improve on to cross the 8-category mark is his assists, where he is averaging 2.8 a game compared to a league average of about 3.5. So, while he might have a little further to go than LeBron, what are the chances that Durant DOESN’T averaging 3.5 assists per game within the next few years. I put it at 0%.

You might want to know how I’m calculating league average here. For the purposes of the GMTR player rater, the “league” consists of the top 120 fantasy players (a 12 team league * 10 starters per team = 120 players). Yes, you could decrease the league average (and therefore make players have better ratings) if you increase the size of the league to include more teams or more starters. 12 team leagues just happen to be the standard size leagues that I play in.


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