Fantasy Basketball Profiles: 1. James Harden
The 2017-18 NBA season is fast approaching, and thus so is fantasy basketball season.
As part of our preseason fantasy coverage here at Off the Glass, I’ll be profiling my top five overall players for 2017-18 season.
Without any further ado, here is No. 1
1. James Harden
Harden was a perfect fit for Mike D’Antoni’s offense last year, as he set career-highs in points (29.1), assists (a league-leading 11.2) and rebounds (8.1) per game while upping his volume from beyond the arc (9.3 attempts per game).
The arrival of Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers adds another ball dominant guard to the mix. FiveThirtyEight pointed to the uniqueness of the Harden-Paul combination, as both guys were top-four in the league in assist rate last season while both being top-50 in usage rate too. Their combined assist rate (97.5 percent) is significantly ahead of previous pairings of similar players, who had a usage rate of at least 20 percent and an assist rate at least 30 percent in the season prior to coming together.
Something’s going to have to give for both guys this season. But Paul can ease Harden’s workload, and help him turn around an increase in turnovers (5.7 per game last season). Both guys are capable three-point shooters, and surely able to play off the ball at times.
Harden’s assist average is sure to drop some with Paul around, but I don’t think it will be dramatic. His scoring average is at a sustainable peak right now, and Paul should help Harden improve his overall efficiency with less of a burden on him.
Harden has been notably indifferent on the defensive end at times, but he has posted at least 3.5 Defensive Win Shares in two of his three seasons with the Rockets and he has averaged between 1.5 and two steals game in each of those seasons.
I think Paul will have to adjust to Harden more than the other way around, and it will be an interesting situation to say the least. Harden was essentially Russell Westbrook-light last season, and this is the year he closes the gap fantasy-wise. The former teammates could be considered 1A and 1B in this top five, but a proverbial coin flip pushes me to Harden at No. 1.