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Can Kevin Durant remain tops in blocks among forwards?

Fantasy NBA, Fantasy, NBA

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.

Thursday's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Kyle Soppe and Jim McCormick, along with ESPN NBA analyst Kevin Pelton.

Right now, Kevin Durant is averaging a whopping 2.5 blocks per game -- more than Kristaps Porzingis (2.3 BPG) and Anthony Davis (2.1 BPG). Do you think Durant will continue to outpace Porzingis and Davis in blocks this season?

Kyle Soppe: "Defensive Durant" is certainly a thing, but when all is said and done this season, I expect both Porzingis and Davis to average more blocked shots. In both of the past two seasons, Durant had a month in which he averaged at least 31 percent more blocked shots per game than he did for the season as a whole. This time around, that month just happens to be coming at the beginning of this season. 

Just take a look back at last season, when Durant failed to block multiple shots in 11 out of 15 playoff games. As the importance of the games increased, so did his value on the offensive end of the court, thus limiting just how aggressive he can be on the defensive end.

Durant has more blocked shots than personal fouls this season, and while his efficiency in this regard has improved over the years, I believe this rate will be tough for him to sustain. Combine that regression with Draymond Green rounding into form and you can expect Durant's block rate to drop below 2.0. That's not going to allow him to keep pace with either The Unicorn or The Brow.

Jim McCormick: Durant had 11 blocks in the first two games of the season. Without these outlier surges he's actually averaging just 1.8 blocks across his other nine appearances. This isn't to say Durant's added value in the block department is a complete aberration, but those first two games will likely end up as his best of the season in this category.

Durant had a career-high block rate -- an estimate of the field goal attempts a player blocks while on the floor -- of 3.8 percent last season in his first stint with Golden State. Over his prior seven seasons with the Thunder, Durant had posted a block rate of only 2.1 percent. So there is something to the idea that Durant has unleashed his rim protection skills more than ever in the Warriors' small-ball approach as compared to the defensive role he served on a more traditional roster with Oklahoma City. 

I don't think Durant will outpace Porzingis and Davis in blocks going forward, but I don't think it's a mutually exclusive idea to also say that Durant is positioned for a career-high number of blocks in 2017-18.

Kevin Pelton: No, I don't think Durant will continue to block shots at this rate. According to an analysis of Second Spectrum data, Durant has blocked more than one-third of the shots he's defended this season that are not jumpers (25 out of 74). Last season, he blocked just 15.6 percent of shots he defended that were not jumpers, which means his rate has more than doubled this season -- to a point that it's not sustainable.

I think it's certainly reasonable to expect Durant to block more shots than he did last season. After all, according to Second Spectrum data, he is quite notably defending more shots per 100 possessions. That said, his block rate will likely regress toward last year's mark as this season wears on.

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