Over the coming weeks, we at Today’s Fastbreak will be doing a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2016-17 season. We’ll continue today with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant’s departure this summer cast a pall over the Oklahoma City Thunder’s prospects of contending for an NBA championship in the near term, but it only bolstered Russell Westbrook’s stock in fantasy basketball.
Even before Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder had already completed one fantasy-altering move, sending Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilaysova and the No. 11 overall pick (Domantas Sabonis). Once Durant left, the Thunder were suddenly down two of their three most-used players from last year, opening a chasm of opportunity for Westbrook and the remaining Thunder studs.
Durant and Ibaka weren’t OKC’s lone notable departures this offseason, as the Thunder need to replace Dion Waiters, Randy Foye and D.J. Augustin, too. In their place, Oklahoma City brought in Ronnie Price, Semaj Christon and Alex Abrines to round out its backcourt and wing rotation, while Ilyasova and Sabonis should help fill the void that Ibaka left. Small forward remains a glaring hole, as no one can adequately replace Durant, but the Thunder have plenty of options there between Andre Roberson, Kyle Singler and 2014 first-round pick Josh Huestis.
Let’s take a look at which Thunder players you should target with early-, mid- and late-round picks and who you should leave on the waiver wire. We’ll also highlight one breakout pick or a sleeper who’s likely to outperform his draft position, along with one bust who may end up disappointing this season.
Russell Westbrook, PG: If you need a reminder of what Russell Westbrook is capable of on a Thunder team sans Durant and Ibaka, look no further than after the All-Star break in the 2014-15 campaign. Over those final 28 games, the UCLA product averaged 31.4 points, 9.9 assists, 8.6 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.7 triples in 36.6 minutes per night, finishing as the second-best value on a per-game basis in eight-category leagues over that span, according to Basketball Monster. Since the lone player he finished behind, Stephen Curry, now has to share touches with Durant, Westbrook is a virtual lock for a top-three campaign if he avoids an injury. Owners in nine-category leagues need to shift him down slightly to account for his turnovers, but those in eight-category leagues should grab him no later than No. 2.
Victor Oladipo, SG: Is this the year Victor Oladipo finally breaks out into an early-round fantasy force? Last season, despite Scott Skiles jerking around his playing time and role for much of the year, the Indiana product averaged 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 triples in 33.0 minutes per night, finishing as the 40th-ranked player in eight-category leagues. In July, Oladipo sent fantasy owners’ expectations soaring, telling Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy, “I feel like you’re going to see a lot more from me; I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of how good I really can be.” With he and Westbrook already engaging in offseason workouts together, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Oladipo should come off the board in the third round of drafts this fall.
Enes Kanter, C: Enes Kanter may wind up being the biggest beneficiary of Durant and Ibaka playing elsewhere in 2016-17, as the Thunder will desperately need more offensive production to replace those two. In just 21.0 minutes per game last season, Kanter averaged 12.7 points on a career-best 57.6 percent shooting and 8.1 rebounds, finishing as the 60th-ranked player in eight-category leagues. He provides negligible value in assists, steals, blocks or treys, but he’s one of the rare big men who won’t cripple you in free-throw percentage, as he shot a career-best 79.7 percent from the charity stripe last season. Kanter is more of a specialist than a well-rounded asset, but a spike in playing time could send his fantasy value soaring, making him a worthy eighth- or ninth-round pick.
Steven Adams, C: Much like Kanter, Steven Adams figures to benefit from the departure of Ibaka, as the Thunder now need far more offensive production out of their frontcourt. Last season, the big Kiwi averaged 8.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.2 minutes per game, finishing as the 102nd-ranked player in eight-category leagues. In the playoffs, Funaki teased at what he might be capable of this season, as he averaged 10.1 points on 61.3 percent shooting, 9.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 30.7 minutes per game. Kanter may out-score and out-rebound him, but Adams will likely out-produce Kanter in blocks, assists and steals, making him worthy of a late-round selection for pure upside alone.
Ersan Ilyasova, PF: Despite being shipped to the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline, Ersan Ilyasova still managed to return late-round value in 2015-16, averaging 10.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 triples in 25.4 minutes to finish as the 158th-ranked player in eight-category leagues. Given OKC’s need for floor-spacers in the starting lineup alongside Westbrook, Oladipo and likely Andre Roberson, Ilyasova figures to enter the year as the favorite to slide into Ibaka’s vacant spot. However, the 29-year-old doesn’t provide much fantasy value outside of points and three-pointers, while Mitch McGary and Domantas Sabonis are both lurking as competition for his playing time. Don’t invest too heavily in Ilyasova in drafts, as the odds of him carving out a major role in OKC are relatively low.
Cameron Payne, PG
Ronnie Price, PG
Semaj Christon, PG
Anthony Morrow, SG
Andre Roberson, SG/SF
Alex Abrines, SG/SF
Kyle Singler, SF
Josh Huestis, SF
Nick Collison, PF
Mitch McGary, PF
Domantas Sabonis, PF
Sleeper: Steven Adams
Bust: Ersan Ilyasova
Other team breakdowns
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