My first fantasy basketball season was Kevin Garnett's second in the NBA (1996-97). That season, as a 20-year-old, he busted loose for 17.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.4 steals a game, with 49.9 field goal and 75.4 free throw percentages. He quickly became the backbone of every high-end fantasy squad I had. I spent years chasing him in trades. I always wanted him on my team.
Consider his peak production in 2003-04: 24.2 PPG, 13.9 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.2 BPG, 1.5 SPG, 49.8 FG%, 79.1 FT%.
He had such a complete stat line -- especially factoring in weighted percentages -- with no holes in it, that KG will always be the 7-foot stick by which I measure other fantasy players.
And guess what?
Anthony Davis already measures up, and the Unibrow's game isn't done growing.
Let's just start with his stat line from last season: 24.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 53.5 FG% (17.7 FGA), 80.5 FT% (6.8 FTA).
Consider that only three of the top 20 players in field goal attempts last season shot at least 50 percent: Kevin Durant (17.3 FGA, 51.0 FG%), Blake Griffin (17.1 FGA, 50.1 FG%) and Davis, who topped both of them.
He is the only player who blocked 2.0 or more shots per game and averaged more than 14.5 PPG, and the only player among the top-14 shot-blockers to average more than 18.5 PPG.
The only hole in his game is not shooting 3s, but he has been working on that, having hit three of his four attempts this preseason.
My point here is that you can get all of the production you desire from an elite big man -- huge field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks -- plus the great free throw percentage and steals of a quality guard all rolled up into one player who could well lead the league in scoring. Taking him first is a no-brainer to me.
In case you haven't noticed, it took me more than 400 words to get to the only other player who could enter the conversation at No. 1: Stephen Curry.
There are a couple of reasons why I didn't need to bring him up until now. First, he already is one of the great fantasy players and better than the likes of James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Durant for all of the reasons that Joe Kaiser points out when making his case for Curry at No. 1. I can't really add anything to that -- watching Curry ball is like watching somebody rolling on the "arcade" level of a video game.
But that brings me to the other reason. This isn't about Curry. It's about the epic heights that Davis' stat line could go this season.
Do we really think that Curry's numbers will expand this season on a team that is talented and has set roles? Surely Curry could lead the league in scoring, but what are the odds he suddenly cranks out 19-20 shots per game this season after averaging 16.8 FGA last season?
Plus, what does Curry really offer that Davis doesn't? Primarily 3-pointers and assists. But you can get most of those 7-9 assists per game by picking a point guard later in the draft, and everybody shoots 3s in this era (39 players last season averaged at least 1.8 3-pointers a game or exactly half of Curry's 3.6 3-pointers a game pace).
One more big sticking point for me is Alvin Gentry. You remember, the man who orchestrated the Golden State Warriors' potent offense last season -- the man who is now coaching the New Orleans Pelicans. Last season, they ranked 27th in the NBA in pace at 93.7, while the Warriors led at 100.7 -- 1.4 more than the second-place Houston Rockets.
It's safe to say that Davis' volume of attempts from the field, free throw line and 3-point line are all going to rise this season, as will his rebounding and assist opportunities.
The only genuine concern in my eyes is durability -- it's a legitimate issue, because he has played just 64, 67 and 68 games during his first three seasons.
I'm not going to sweat it much, though, because he already has an NBA-ready body and hasn't had any serious injuries to date. Most players take time to adjust to the rigors of being a heavily used player in an 82-game campaign. You need to look no further than Curry himself to find an example of a superstar who battled injuries when he was younger but turned into an iron man.
Regardless, I would rather risk missing Unibrow for a few weeks this season than miss out on what I expect to be an epic fantasy performance that could surpass the best we ever saw from guys like KG and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Draft Davis No. 1, and you will give your team a statistical backbone that will put you way ahead of the pack before you even draft your second player.