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Fantasy basketball

Posted by Ed Ryan January 1, 2009 05:54 AM

Youre not going to forget about Kevin Durant for much longer.

The No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, a player the Celtics likely would have drafted if they had had the second pick that year, Durant is quietly beginning to put up the all-around numbers he was known for during his one season at Texas.

Its not as if last season was a disaster for Durant. His Seattle team (now Oklahoma City) was terrible, but Durant managed to earn NBA Rookie of the Year honors while averaging 20 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block per game. He was also playing out of position, although for a reason: In order to take pressure off Durant, then-coach P.J. Carlesimo insisted on playing his young star at shooting guard.

Durant wasnt a good fit playing the two. Some of his skills, like rebounding and shot-blocking, were negated because he was standing around on the perimeter, heaving up jumpers on offense, or guarding smaller players on defense. However, Carlesimo was fired in late November, and interim coach Scott Brooks first decision was to move Durant from shooting guard to small forward.

The results have been terrific, and that obviously translates as a plus for fantasy owners. In December, Durant is averaging 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, and hes had three games in December of three or more blocks, too. Most impressive, in the 10 games since Dec. 8, when he unloaded on Golden State for 41 points, Durant has scored less than 25 points only twice, and in those instances he went for 22 and 24 points.

The fact that Oklahoma City is possibly the worst team in the NBA is actually a boon for those with Durant on their fantasy squads. Hes the Thunders best player, and he doesnt get cheated when it comes to shot attempts: Durant is eighth in the league in field goals attempted per game at 18.6 (Dwyane Wade leads at 21.1), and hes been heaving 20 attempts per game in his last seven. Whats more, hes getting to the free throw line six times per game, which is respectable but should improve over time.

With Oklahoma City often playing from behind and Durant finally playing his natural position, hes suddenly becoming one of the most valuable players in fantasy basketball. Im trying desperately to trade for him, and Im making a mental note for next season that hes likely not going to last past the first round of the draft. This season, he was a steal in my league in the third round.

Ed Ryan writes about fantasy sports and betting for OT and can be reached at ed_ryan@globe.com

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