Durant's knee injury: fantasy fallout

ByESPN.com staff ESPN logo
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Joe Kaiser, Kyle Soppe and ESPN NBA Insider Bradford Doolittle.

The Golden State Warriors announced Wednesday that Kevin Durant will have his knee re-examined in four weeks, and ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported that Durant is expected to be back for the NBA playoffs. With six weeks left in the fantasy season, would you recommend dropping Durant? Is Matt Barnes (expected to sign with Warriors) or anyone else worth adding off waivers to fill some of the void?

Bradford Doolittle: Durant's value is so immense that I'd keep him on the bench, or in an IR slot, until the bitter end. We've seen guys declared out then miraculously return, and Durant's desire to aid a championship run is so strong I could see him giving it a go. But if the knee is bad enough, there is nothing to be done about it. Still, until we absolutely know he's down for the count, the potential of his return is more valuable than a waiver wire pickup.

I don't look at any of his replacements, whether it's Barnes or Andre Iguodala or someone else, as being particularly valuable. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have all suppressed their games a bit to accommodate Durant, and each can ratchet up the usage to account for his absence. Thompson owners should be particularly optimistic. You might take a flier on someone like Dario Saric or TJ Warren, who are both still available in many leagues.

Joe Kaiser: You really have no other choice but to drop Durant in all redraft leagues, as he won't be back until the fantasy playoffs at the earliest -- and there's no guarantee that will even happen. Keeping Durant and hoping he returns in the fantasy playoffs to provide a boost is a gigantic risk that isn't worth taking. The better thing to do is move on and stream Durant's spot with players who have the hot hand or those who play four games in a given week.

The Warriors are likely to slip a bit on defense without Durant's rim protection. On the offensive end, we could see Curry, Thompson and Green start producing the way they did last season. Expect all of them to get more shots, and for Green in particular to become more offensive-oriented than he's been with Durant on the court. As far as Barnes is concerned, there is some value here, since he still can stuff the stat sheet, but he's no more than the third- or fourth-best offensive option on the court at any given time and is merely a streaming option on this team at this stage in his career -- 10 years after being instrumental in the "We Believe" Warriors' playoff run of 2007.

Kyle Soppe: There are fewer than six weeks left in the regular season, so you need to be aggressive with this injury if you play in a standard-sized league with limited bench space. For me, since Durant will be out at least a month, you have to cut ties, understanding that the Dubs will be positioned fine for a postseason run and are unlikely to tempt fate by pushing their MVP.

As for replacing KD, it can't be done: you're going to take a significant hit somewhere. That said, the small forward position has a few players who are under-owned and can help you control the carnage. Saric is still owned in just 62.9 percent of leagues despite tallying at least 18 points in eight straight games and averaging nearly eight boards per game in February. Tyreke Evans is owned in 38.7 percent of leagues and should continue to boast his impressive usage rate as long as he is healthy. The versatile James Johnson is owned in just 48.7 percent of leagues despite shooting 50 percent in February and averaging 2.5 steals-plus-blocks.

Barnes is likely the Warriors' answer to this injury, but I don't envision him holding more value than any of the aforementioned options. The Warriors offense was kinda good last season without Durant, and while this team looks a bit different, they aren't likely to put Barnes in a position to sustain fantasy value.