As the Los Angeles Lakers prepare for the 2023-24 NBA season and fans fervently assemble their dream fantasy teams, LeBron James emerges as a h*t topic in fantasy draft circles. Though he's consistently dominated the hardwood for 20 seasons, recent challenges have raised eyebrows among fantasy enthusiasts.
Many NBA fantasy draft guides now peg James as a second-round choice for the Small Forward (SF) slot, surprising considering his 28.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game average last season. However, his performance metrics aside, availability is where James' appeal wavers.
LeBron's Availability Concerns Mount
Fantasy basketball is ruthlessly governed by players' availability, and LeBron's recent injury history becomes the elephant in the room. With only 55 games under his belt last season and 56 the previous season—despite averaging 30.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, and 6.2 apg—his track record raises concerns.
Dialing back to the 2020-21 season amplifies this apprehension, where a persistent groin injury restricted him to just 45 games. Yet, as the debate around James' fantasy relevance gains traction, other SFs are coming into focus.
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics, for instance, though having had his playoff hiccups, has been a model of consistency. He played 74 games last season and 76 the one before, flaunting career-best numbers of 30.1 ppg, 4.6 apg, and 8.8 rpg.
Tatum's consistent court presence and stellar stats make him a probable first-round pick. Subsequently, fantasy players face a tough decision: Opt for LeBron or lean towards Kevin Durant? Durant, like James, is both a blessing and a puzzle for fantasy participants.
Last season saw him play only 47 games, preceded by 55 the prior season, and a mere 35 during his inaugural year with Brooklyn in 2020-21. Given that availability arguably rivals, if not surpasses, production in importance for fantasy basketball, James' recent injury record poses a legitimate concern.
Despite being one of the NBA's most resilient figures historically, the latter phase of his career hints at a diminishing durability. As the 2023-24 season looms, the fantasy community will be keenly observing how the saga unfolds.