James Harden just was edged out in the MVP race, as he could have won back-to-back awards. He is coming off a career high season in points per game, sitting at 36.1. He averaged 7.5 assists per game, and 6.5 rebounds per game. The Houston Rockets made a shock trade for Russell Westbrook, sending Chris Paul out of town to the Thunder. Harden’s upside was still able to shine through with Paul next to him, but the question now is can it with Westbrook? The former teammates once played in Oklahoma City, but Harden was a 6th man, and not the superstar he was now. Westbrook has been a notable fantasy name, and we will need to examine how the two can play together without limiting upside.
Harden remains a top three pick in fantasy this season, despite the arrival of Westbrook. I am not expecting a tremendous drop off in production, even though Westbrook has historically taken away stats from his teammates, but more of the secondary ones. I’m not too worried, and neither should you. Harden is one of the leading usage men in the league, and produces across all categories. He averaged 2.0 steals per game last season, and has always produced in that category. Given the status of the surrounding teammates, Harden should get similar volume to last season.
James Harden Projected Fantasy Stats
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Minutes are always on the higher side for Harden, and like we saw with Paul, Houston will stagger him and Westbrook at times. This bodes well for Harden to keep his assist numbers in the same range of the last few seasons. Harden averaged 36 points per game last season, which is just absurd. That was the seventh highest all-time. Harden also didn’t play 40+ minutes like most of the other names on that rankings list, especially with Wilt Chamberlin. I have him projected for 32 points per game, as the offense should continue to flow through Harden.
I actually believe Westbrook’s arrival can help Harden’s scoring with more of a focus on Westbrook driving through the paint. That wasn’t necessarily the case with Paul. Given the new look backcourt, I wouldn’t bank on Harden’s assists going up because of the Westbrook trade. His FG% has been quite erratic over the last few years. Westbrook might steal some boards away from Harden, but I still expect them to be in the 5-6 range. The Mike D’Antoni offense is a beauty for fantasy, and Harden’s upside is once again something that can top the league.
There is a reason why Harden is one of the top draft picks in fantasy the last few seasons. He consistently delivers with one of the top floors in basketball. Even if Westbrook comes in and knocks down his stats a few, you are not going to be upset with a 29-5-6 type line, also averaging nearly two steals per game. As mentioned above, his volume is tremendous, and the work he has put in to start generating steals has shown over the last few seasons. You are drafting him high for the consistent floor he brings, because it isn’t far off from his upside. Block out the noise that Westbrook is going to cause, because there will be a negative approach that some project onto Harden’s value this season.
Harden has shot 44% in the last three seasons, and been around the 36% mark from three. I would continue to bank on these numbers moving forward, as he has averaged 18, 20, and 24 shot attempts per game over the last three seasons. He has averaged over three 3-pointers per game, and has taken double-digit attempts in the last two seasons.
What to Expect
You can make the case for Harden number one overall, as he is in line with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis. He is ranked number overall in our rankings for fantasy in 2019. That isn’t a bold take as he is projected to average over 30 points per game again and deliver across all categories. His auction value and ADP are certainly in line, and if you are in a spot to get him, do that without hesitation.
He can return on this type of price tag with no question. His minutes and durability have been there throughout his time in Houston. If Harden can average near that 35 mark like he did last season, we are once again looking at one of the best seasons of all-time. He is a fantasy stud, so treat him as such. He also locks up a shooting guard position that is very top heavy.
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