Up first was the debate over the best fantasy player in the game. Is it LeBron or KD? Then we asked about Dwight Howard and Kevin Love. Now today, we’re pitting James Harden against Chris Paul. We argue. You decide.
*based on head-to-head format*
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Last season, James Harden confirmed that the Houston Rockets made an excellent decision by trading for him and locking him up with a five-year, $80 million contract. Now, fantasy owners will be able to share that same feeling with the Rockets. Harden is one of the brightest young players in the NBA today, falling under the category of fantasy superstardom with his 25-5-5 stat-line. To me, these guys are the most valuable players in fantasy basketball. Not only does Harden dominate the scoring category, he contributes in nearly every statistical sense imaginable.
Although Harden had exceptional fantasy relevance coming off the bench in Oklahoma City, being traded to the Rockets has sky-rocketed his value to another level. To put it plain and simple, he’s the new Kobe Bryant in the fantasy world. For starters, Harden is coming off a career year in three-pointers, points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking — that’s every category relevant in a match-up. The 24-year-old is only getting better as he gains more experience in the league, so I find it difficult to believe he’s going to have a down year.
Harden finished the 2012-2013 campaign fifth in the league in scoring at 25.9 points per game, a total that gives any team manager a legitimate advantage right off the bat in that category. Not only does Harden’s ability to score the rock place him in the elite set of fantasy superstars, but he hits the three-point shot at an efficient clip, logging 2.3 treys a game, sixth among all fantasy players with shooting guard eligibility.
Not only does Harden find himself on top of the statistical board with his scoring totals, but sticking with the players with shooting guard eligibility, the young stud was 10th in the league in rebounds, and seventh in the league in assists. Harden may not record a shocking number of triple-doubles, but it’s clear that he’s a threat to put up double-digit numbers in every offensive category.
Regarding defensive statistics, I absolutely love what Harden brings to the table. Remember vintage Dwyane Wade in the height of his fantasy relevance? Steals and blocks simply set him apart from the rest. Harden has shown the ability to put up monster stats on the defensive end for a shooting guard, averaging 1.8 steals per game, third among shooting guards and ninth in the entire league. Don’t get me wrong, steals should be a dominant category for a first-round shooting guard, but the blocks is what impresses me. Wade made a career being known as one of the greatest shotblocking guards, and Harden is not too far behind. The Rockets swing man averaged .5 blocks per game, a statistic in fantasy that’s often overlooked. It’s a tremendous boost when you have a player who puts up solid stats in a category they have no business to. Harden’s not coming cheap, but if he happens to be your first-round selection this year, your team will immediately be in good shape.