Durant and LeBron are fantasy's most reliable stars

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Year after year, top drafted running backs tear ACLs, outfielders strain hamstrings and a certain Russian winger suddenly falls from his perch as hockey's most prolific scorer.

Simply put, fantasy sports are unpredictable and top stars are often undependable.

So regardless of who proves to be the better man between Kevin Durant and LeBron James Tuesday night as the NBA Finals kick off, the fantasy world will be celebrating. Because an NBA title doesn't change what King James and KD are: the two most reliable superstars in all of fantasy sports.

To prove that, one must look no further than the overall rankings the past three seasons. In each campaign, Durant finished as the No. 1 overall player in standard category Yahoo! leagues.

James followed behind Durant each season, and though he didn't finish No. 2 at the end of all of those campaigns, he was pretty close -- No. 2 in 2009-10, No. 4 in 2010-11 and No. 3 in 2011-12.

The past three seasons, Durant has played 226 out of a potential 230 games, averaging 28.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game in that span. He also averaged 135 3-pointers per season and shot 47.7 percent from the field and 88.3 percent from the foul line.

James meanwhile, suited up in 217 of 230 games, averaging 27.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in that span. Where James lags behind Durant is in the number of 3-pointers he makes -- 92 per season -- and his free-throw percentage -- 76.5. However, James did shoot better, registering a field goal percentage of 51.3 over the three seasons.

When you get an opportunity to draft Durant or James, you know you are going to get a full season of elite numbers in multiple categories and a guaranteed top-5 ranking. You can't say that with any certainty in any other sport.

Just look at some of the top drafted position players in baseball this season. Matt Kemp has spent most of May and all of June of the disabled list with a strained hamstring, Albert Pujols' was one of baseball's worst hitters in April and Jose Bautista is hitting .228. In fact, among the top-10 players in the Yahoo! preseason rankings, only Ryan Braun is currently in that group.

It gets even worse when you expand it to include the preseason top 20 -- only Braun, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto are currently ranked inside the top 20 of that group of hitters. Nobody else is even ranked in the top 40.

It's even more inconsistent in fantasy football due to the contact nature of the sport.

Last season, players like Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Andre Johnson, Michael Vick, Rashard Mendenhall, Darren McFadden and Steven Jackson were drafted in the first two rounds. None of those players played a full season, with Charles playing just one full game and McFadden missing nine.

Even if you don't play fantasy hockey or follow the sport at all, you probably realized that the Russian winger mentioned earlier is Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Ovechkin was ranked second overall in the preseason, but he had the lowest point total of his career by 20 points despite playing 78 games. Overall, Ovechkin finished 36th.

That type of fall hasn't happened and likely won't happen to Durant or James.

In a virtual game in which nothing is guaranteed and everything that can go wrong likely will, Durant and James are the two anomalies who make life easier for owners who are lucky enough to draft either of them.

Beginning Tuesday night, that dependability will be showcased on one court in the NBA Finals.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

Powered by The Sports Network.