Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James: Who is the better fantasy draft pick?

Assuming you can't have both on your fantasy team, whom should you draft first: Kevin Durant or LeBron James?

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While Kevin Durant and LeBron James are perennial MVP candidates in both the NBA and fantasy leagues, which one should go first in fantasy drafts? Joe Kaiser and André Snellings debate:

Joe Kaiser: The talented Golden State Warriors roster gives the team the ability to ease DeMarcus Cousins back into the lineup whenever he is fully recovered from his Achilles injury, and the early indications are that he may not be on the court until December. Even then, there's a real chance that he could be on a minutes restriction. So while the addition of a superstar like Cousins will impact the production of Durant and the rest of the Warriors stars, it may not be as severe as some would have you believe.

Durant holds a huge advantage over James in several categories. Let's start with free throw percentage: LeBron hasn't shot better than 73.1 percent from the line in any of the past four seasons, while Durant has made at least 86 percent of his free throws in every one of his 11 NBA seasons. Durant is also a much bigger factor as a shot-blocker (1.8 BPG last season, 1.6 BPG the season before), while James hasn't averaged 1.0 BPG since the 2009-10 season. Lastly, Durant has made at least 1.9 3-pointers per game in each of the past five seasons, a mark that James has never once reached in his storied career.

Finding forwards who can be among the league leaders in free throw percentage, blocked shots and 3-pointers made remains a difficult task. That's true even in today's "new-age NBA" where big men have moved out to the perimeter, and it gives Durant the edge over James as the aging King enters his 16th NBA season.

André Snellings: James is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. It still feels strange to say that, but the new reality has completely revamped the fantasy landscape for two franchises. For the past four seasons, LeBron led the Cleveland Cavaliers in every possible way with a team that was built solely to support his efforts. Last season, after Kyrie Irving was traded and while both Isaiah Thomas and Kevin Love were dealing with long-term injury issues, LeBron was relied upon to deliver extremely heavy volume night in, night out. This resulted in LeBron setting a new career high in games played in his 15th NBA season, a move that doesn't help him in terms of longevity and freshness concerns as he moves into his mid-30s.

Thus, one of the expectations for LeBron is that he likely takes a step back from the "all-in" pace of last season. He is with a new Lakers team that is full of young frontline talent and veteran role players. There aren't necessarily championship expectations in Year 1, and this squad won't require LeBron to carry the entire load every night over the marathon 82-game season. Expect LeBron to play closer to the 72 games that he averaged during the six seasons between 2011-12 and 2016-17.

According to Kevin Pelton's RPM-based projection system, Los Angeles is expected to have an offensive rating 4.0 points better per 100 possessions than that of the league-average team. The Lakers have Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo at the PG slot, both of whom are pass-first guys who distribute the ball above all. So the stated plan is for LeBron to move more off the ball and act as more of a finisher. He's still LeBron, he still loves playing with the ball in his hands and he's never averaged fewer than 6.0 assists in his career, so he will still get his share of dimes. But he likely will average closer to the 6.8 assists he averaged from 2011-12 through 2015-16 than the 8.9 assists per game he tallied during the past two seasons.

The flip side is that LeBron's scoring efficiency, his turnover rates and perhaps even his scoring volume per minute are in line to improve. In the past two seasons, he averaged 35.7 points and 5.5 turnovers per 100 possessions on 54.5 FG% and 70.2 FT% while carrying the distributing load in Cleveland. This season projects more like his last two campaigns as a member of the Miami Heat, when he averaged 37.7 points and only 4.5 turnovers per 100 possessions on 56.6 FG% and 75.2 FT%. Thus, his transition to the Lakers could improve his only borderline rotisserie weaknesses.

To sum up, James likely takes a step back in overall volume this season in deference to his advancing age, the realistic expectations for his team, and having enough young talent and veteran role players around so that he isn't relied upon to do everything. However, he will be playing with the best floor generals he has ever worked with, which likely improves his efficiency and his per-minute scoring volume, even if it comes with fewer assist opportunities. This could also leave LeBron with more energy to improve on his ailing defensive numbers, though those decreases may be as much about age as role, so that's up in the air. Overall, though, he still projects as a clear mid-first-round prospect in both points and roto-style leagues.