• Brad Berreman

Fantasy Basketball Outlook: Russell Westbrook and Paul George Teaming Up

Facing the certain prospect of losing Paul George for nothing next summer, the Indiana Pacers took what they could get (Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis) from the Oklahoma City Thunder. He will obviously now team up with Russell Westbrook, for at least one season, and George has carefully not ruled out signing long-term with the Thunder.

Westbrook became a stat sheet monster last year, joining Oscar Robertson in averaging a triple-double for a season. He obviously has experience playing with another star in Kevin Durant, so can he and George similarly both be fantasy studs next season?

First, let’s look at Westbrook’s averages from the last two seasons, with Durant and then without.

Westbrook led the league in scoring and usage rate last season, which he also did in 2014-15 when Durant played just 27 games. With a just over 10 percent increase in usage rate last season, an increase in turnovers (5.4 per game) also came compared to 2015-16 (4.3 per game).

Now, let’s compare Durant in 2015-16 to George last season with the Pacers.

George was 20th in the league in usage rate last year, after finishing 10th in usage rate in 2015-16 (30.4 percent). Durant was ninth in usage rate in 2015-16.

Free from having to share the workload with another star, Westbrook’s numbers exploded last season. But George should still fit well next to Westbrook, and Westbrook’s efficiency should improve.

Westbrook will still be the first pick in most fantasy drafts this year, and he should justify that lofty status. But a historic 2016-17 season is not going to be repeated, with or without having a co-star of George’s status. Westbrook will fall back toward the pack in usage rate, with a slight drop in scoring relatively in line with that. But otherwise, elite level across the board production will absolutely remain.

George is still a top-20 player in fantasy playing alongside Westbrook. He’ll still average 21-24 points per game, as he has done in each of his last three full seasons, with underrated contributions in rebounding and assists. There’s even an argument for a slight uptick in assists, with a scorer like Westbrook around him.

Durant and Westbrook co-existed as fantasy studs for a few years, and there’s every reason to think George and Westbrook can do the same in 2017-18. Using first and second-round draft picks on the duo is a viable, if aggressive, plan to consider.

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