Harden is Set for Blast Off
All it took was one game with the Rockets for Harden to cement himself as a legit fantasy superstar. Just look at his line from his Houston debut Wednesday against the Pistons: 37 points (14-of-25 FG, 4-of-10 3Pt, 5-of-6 FT), 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals, and one block in 44 minutes.
Imagine what he'll do after he actually has time to practice with his new teammates.
Now, of course, everyone knows that Harden won't be able to post numbers like that on a regular basis, but he should immediately be considered a top-10 fantasy option, if not top-5. If I redrafted today, I would grab him at the No. 3 overall pick without hesitation.
Harden will be the focal point of the Rockets' offensive attack each and every game. And why shouldn't he be? Outside of Jeremy Lin, there aren't any household names on that roster. His usage rates will be through the roof.
With those increased usage rates, we should expect a fair boost in his turnovers, but no one should be too concerned with his overall efficiency, as Harden was one of the best shooters in the league last year.
Owners who were lucky enough to grab Harden in the second or third round of their fantasy drafts prior to Saturday's trade are in prime position for championship runs. And, unfortunately, for all the owners who missed out on him in drafts, it'll probably be next to impossible to pry him away via trade at this point.
The Rockets still aren't going to be that great of a team this year, but Harden will make them a League Pass favorite. Enjoy the ride.
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 game every now and then - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, rotation role, or performance.
Gerald Green, G/F, IND—Danny Granger is out indefinitely with a knee injury, which has opened the door for Green to step into the Pacers' starting lineup. Many basketball fans probably remember Green as the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest winner. Back in those days, he was an uber-athletic wing who was known for jumping over tables and blowing out candles while dunking, but he never made much of an impression on the hardwood during actual games. After flaming out with multiple NBA squads, spending some time overseas, and a short stop in the D-League, Green finally got a real stab at playing time last season with the Nets. He quickly established that his game consisted of more than just fancy dunks this time around, showing off an improved jump shot, including three-point range, and better play on the defensive end of the court. Ignore his struggles from Wednesday night's season opener (2-of-7 from the floor, six turnovers) and focus on his ample playing time (37 minutes). As long as Granger is out, Green is worth a look in most formats.
Dion Waiters, G, CLE—After getting the full rookie treatment from Cavs coach Byron Scott during the preseason, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Waiters get named to the starting lineup for the regular season opener. Scott, after all, is the same coach who toyed with the idea of bringing Kyrie Irving off the bench last season. Fortunately for Waiters, and those who gambled on him in fantasy drafts, Scott opted to go the same route he did with Irving and plugged the rookie into the starting lineup immediately. Waiters responded with 17 points, two treys and three steals in his NBA debut. Like most rookies, expect growing pains from Waiters, but he's an interesting fantasy option as a member of Cleveland's starting five.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, TOR—Valanciunas is another rookie who had an impressive season opener. Working as the Raptors' starting center, Valanciunas racked up a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) in just 23 minutes of run against the Pacers. Keep in mind that he was going head-to-head with Roy Hibbert, who is one of the few legit centers left in today's small ball era. At 6-11, 231, with a legit low-post game, Valanciunas should be able to hold his own against most opposing big men. And as long as the Raptors are dedicated to giving him the necessary playing time to develop on the court, he'll be a nice fantasy option.
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI—We got our first look Wednesday of Hawes being deployed in what Sixers coach Doug Collins referred to as a "Pau Gasol role", and the results were tremendous - 16 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, two assists, two threes, and two steals in 31 minutes off the bench. Hawes teased us in last season's opener, when he narrowly missed out on a triple-double, but his play eventually tapered off as he dealt with injuries and inconsistent playing time. He's healthy this year and should see ample playing time in the frontcourt alongside Thaddeus Young and (eventually) Andrew Bynum. Don't sleep on the Sixers big man if you need early frontcourt help.
Marvin Williams, F, UTA—Williams was traded to the Jazz this offseason, moving from the reserve role he played in Atlanta to a starting gig in Utah. Despite selecting him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2005, Atlanta never asked much of Williams, usually slotting him in as the fourth or fifth scoring option on the team while asking him to focus on defense. In Utah, Williams is locked in as the starting small forward. He scored 21 points in his Jazz debut Wednesday night and was heavily involved in the offense, launching up 13 attempts from the floor. We don't expect him to get that many looks every game, and Williams certainly won't knock down 54 percent of his shots all season, but he is in a prime position to be more involved on the offensive end of the court than he was in Atlanta the past couple seasons. Williams will never live up to his draft pedigree, but he's in line to post one of his better fantasy seasons. Owners in deep leagues should snatch him up.
Danny Granger, F, IND—The aforementioned Granger missed Wednesday's season opener with a sore left knee. He's officially out indefinitely, which means no timetable for his return is available. Granger is still able to run and jump, but he lacks explosiveness, so the Pacers opted to err on the side of caution and hold him out for the time being. He's far too valuable of a player to cut loose in fantasy, so all Granger owners should do at this point is stash him on the bench and wait for more details to surface. Gerald Green and Paul George figure to see the biggest boosts in value while Granger is on the shelf.
Steve Nash, G, LAL—Nash suffered a lower leg contusion in just his second game with the Lakers. Early indications are the injury isn't too serious, so look for the veteran point guard to find his way back onto the hardwood in short order. Combine this injury with his slow start, and now would be the perfect time to try buying low on Nash.
Danilo Gallinari, F, DEN—The Nuggets' sweet-shooting small forward missed Wednesday's season opener with a lingering left ankle sprain. He's on the mend but still having trouble cutting on the court. Gallinari will likely be a game-time decision in the short term, but we expect him to return fairly quickly.
Amare Stoudemire, F/C, NY—Stoudemire's knee injury took a turn for the worse this week, as his timetable for a return was extended from two-to-three weeks to six-to-eight weeks. He'll undergo left knee debridement, which involves the removal of dead or damaged tissue to spur the healing process. That will put Stoudemire on the shelf for anywhere from 20 to 28 games if the timetable holds. Carmelo Anthony is expected to spend extra time at the four with Ronnie Brewer and Steve Novak sharing duties at the three in Stoudemire's absence.
Eric Gordon, G, NOH—Earlier this week Gordon admitted to suffering a setback to his ailing left knee prior to training camp. This helps explain his notable absence throughout the preseason. He's currently out indefinitely, but more details should surface after the Hornets' doctors report on his latest batch of MRIs. There's no debating Gordon is a tantalizing talent, but it's hard for fantasy owners to rely on a player who has missed an average of 27 games per season through his first four years in the league.
Kevin Martin, G, OKC—Here's the flipside of the coin from the James Harden trade. Martin went from starting at shooting guard and being one of the primary scoring options in Houston to likely being the sixth man and third scoring option in OKC. Due to his prowess beyond the arc, Martin will still hold fantasy value, but owners shouldn't be expecting him to approach the scoring numbers we saw from him with the Rockets.
Derrick Favors, F/C, UTA—Favors received a lot of love this preseason, often being selected in the ninth or 10th round of most standard leagues. Unfortunately for owners of Favors, he'll probably be the basketball equivalent of a running back handcuff this season. With both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap set to receive big minutes as the Jazz' starters, Favors' playing time is set to be limited. This much was evident in Wednesday's season opener when he saw just 18 minutes off the bench. Of course, there's plenty of upside with Favors, but we'll have to wait until Jefferson or Millsap get hurt or traded for that potential to be realized.