Despite the mid-season change of scenery to a Brooklyn team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving also on it, Harden finished the 2020-21 season as the third-best fantasy player on a per-game basis. There will still be fantasy managers willing to take him No. 1 this season, but there's also cause for hesitation. The Nets' Big 3 spent little time on the court together due to injuries, so Harden's numbers were artificially boosted by it often being a Big 2, or just himself. What will happen if Irving and Durant manage to stay healthy for most of the season? For some insight, we can look at Harden's numbers with that pair on the court. In the 201 minutes the Big 3 shared on the court (regular season and playoffs), Harden posted a shockingly-low 18.3 percent usage rate and averaged only 16.1 points, 11.4 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per 36 minutes. While the three won't often all be on the court at the same time, there's reason for fantasy managers to be concerned that we'll no longer be getting the gaudy numbers from Harden that we've been used to over the past half-decade. He'll always be a threat for 30-and-10, but he's no longer in a situation where that's needed from him on a game-to-game basis.
Harden continued his elite production in 2019-20, finishing as the No. 1 fantasy player in eight-category leagues for the fourth time in six seasons. He led the league in scoring (34.3) while also averaging 7.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 4.4 threes, 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks in 36.5 minutes. The addition of Russell Westbrook didn't significantly affect Harden's numbers, which was a fear of some fantasy managers. Heading into 2020-21, things are changing for Harden. He has asked out of Houston, but all signs are that the franchise wants to start the season with him on the roster. Westbrook wanted out as well, and he got his wish, being dealt for John Wall. Harden's role next to Wall probably won't change compared to his role next to Westbrook, unless new coach Steven Silas has plans to change the offense in a big way. The situation is tense, though, so we shouldn't be surprised if there are some struggles along the way. Still, Harden is an elite fantasy talent who is practically a guarantee to finish top 3.
The runner up for the 2018-19 Most Valuable Player award, Harden put together another dominant offensive campaign. En route to his sixth All-NBA selection, Harden averaged a league-high 36.1 points to go along with 7.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals. He also led the NBA in made threes (378) and free-throws (754), becoming the first player in NBA history to rack up at least 300 threes and 700 free-throws. Unsurprisingly, Harden's 40.5% usage rate ranked No. 1 as well, and it ranked second all-time behind only Russell Westbrook's 2016-17 campaign (41.7%). Ironically, those two are now teammates, as the Rockets traded Chris Paul to the Thunder to acquire Westbrook over the summer in what could end up being the highest-usage backcourt of all-time. While the pair figure to see as little time on the court together as realistically possible (considering that was the case with Harden and Paul), there will be some overlap. How much that overlap will impact Harden's stats is tough to gauge, but it seems likely that Westbrook will sacrifice more, as he's the one joining Harden's offense. Fantasy owners have a right to downgrade Harden slightly with Westbrook coming to town, but he's still worthy of being selected No. 1 overall in the vast majority of fantasy formats.
In an effort to craft a super team to matchup with the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets made a splash and traded for Chris Paul prior to the 2017-18 campaign. There were concerns that Paul's presence could hinder Harden's overall Fantasy value by forcing him to play off the ball, but Harden still wound up putting up monster numbers and was one of the top Fantasy options all year. As expected, his assists per game fell from 11.2 in 2016-17 to just 8.8, which was a direct result of Paul playing the facilitator. His rebounding also took a hit, but was still 5.4 boards per game, which is more than solid production for a guard. On the other hand, Harden took yet another step forward as a scorer, averaging a league-high 30.4 points per game, while also increasing his efficiency across the board to 44.9 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from beyond the arc, which also may have been a result of Paul's ability to take on defenders and create more open looks for Harden. In addition to his league-leading per game scoring, Harden finished fourth in assists and second behind only Steph Curry in three-pointers made (3.7). The only real downfall was that Harden did miss a handful of weeks due to a hamstring injury, which limited him to 72 total games and was the first time in three years that he missed more than just one contest. All of that production allowed Harden to pick up league MVP honors for the first time in his career, while he nabbed his sixth straight All-Star game appearance and was named All-NBA First Team for the fourth time. The Rockets' roster did change a bit this offseason. Most notably, Corey Brewer and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute departed. On the other hand, the Rockets brought in Carmelo Anthony, who adds yet another scorer to a team that loves to play at a quick pace and fire up shots. There's a belief that Anthony ends up coming off the bench, so he shouldn't really impact Harden's usage at all. As a result, look for Harden and Paul to run the show. The 28-year-old will be in contention for a top-5 pick once again and he'll be an elite source of points, assists, steals and three-pointers. He also gets to the line at will -- Harden averaged a whopping 10.1 free-throw attempts in 2017-18 -- so that will give him a fairly high floor on a night-to-night basis for scoring. The fact that he's averaged more than 4.0 turnovers in each of the last four seasons is something to keep in mind for leagues that are negatively impacted by that category, but his elite production elsewhere across the box score more than makes up for it and should put him into consideration for MVP honors once again.
Harden is coming off one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory. While teams across the league were resting star players to keep them fresh, Harden had no intention of sitting out and instead played in 81 of the 82 regular-season games. Nearly averaging a triple-double, Harden finished with 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game, while also picking up 1.5 steals on the defensive end. He finished second in the league in points and first in assists, while also posting personal bests in points, assists and rebounds for his career. His three-point shooting did tumble in terms of percentage, as he shot just 34.7 percent from deep, which was a career-low. However, he took a whopping 9.3 three-pointers per game and hit an average of 3.2, which still made him a fantastic source of threes. While in the past this sort of season would likely have made Harden a unanimous choice for league MVP honors, Russell Westbrook ended up taking that crown, as he completed the season long triple-double average. Still, Harden was invited to his fifth straight All-Star game, he picked up his third All-NBA First Team honors and was a finalist for league MVP alongside Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard. Looking forward to 2017-18, the Rockets could have an adjustment period early on. They made a big splash and traded for Chris Paul, who should immediately jump into the starting lineup at point guard and push Harden to shooting guard. Harden is likely to see his ball-handling responsibilities decline in response to adding another playmaker and that means his assists per game should take a hit. It could be tough for him to match his rebounding numbers as well, but don't expect Paul's presence to stop Harden from being one of the league's elite scorers. Harden is still going to demand the ball and be the team's go-to option, and his ability to get to the free-throw line (9.2 FTM per game) is a thing of beauty. If anything, Paul could help Harden get some more open looks with his elite passing ability, which could help Harden increase his shooting percentages overall. Coach Mike D'Antoni is planning on staggering the playing time of both Paul and Harden, hoping to have one of them on the floor at all times if possible. That should give Harden plenty of opportunities to be the lead guard despite starting at shooting guard, so his usage shouldn't be significantly hurt. That all being said, Harden is locked into a top-5 pick in almost any format. His turnovers continue to be a concern, as he averaged 5.7 in 2016-17, though his impressive ability to rack up multi-category stats elsewhere easily makes up for it. He's also missed a total of just two games over the last three years, so expect Harden to once again fight for league MVP honors, in addition to being one of the top Fantasy targets in the entire NBA.
While Harden’s 2015-16 campaign was generally considered a disappointment, his counting stats actually improved nearly across the board. Harden upped his scoring from 27.4 points per game to 29.0, while also notching career-best rebound (6.1) and assist (7.5) averages. His shooting numbers were nearly identical to what he deliver the season before, too, though he regressed from 37.5 percent to 35.9 percent from beyond the arc on 8.0 attempts per game. Most criticism directed at Harden lies in his sky-high high-usage rate, but that along with his durability and style of play make his a dream come true, from a fantasy perspective. Last season, Harden joined LeBron James and Michael Jordan as the only players in league history to record at least 2,000 points, 600 assists, 500 rebounds and 100 steals in a single season. Harden nearly accomplished the feat in 2014-15 as well, falling just 41 rebounds and 35 assists short. The 27-year-old is also an excellent free-throw shooter (career 85.5%) who gets to the line at an elite rate. He’s ranked third or higher in free-throw attempts in each of the last four seasons, finishing first three times. Harden’s combination of surplus counting stats and high-efficiency shooting make him arguably the top fantasy player in the league. While players like Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry both have strong cases of their own, no matter how you slice it, Harden is a consensus top-five fantasy commodity.
Most of the time, if a player averages less minutes, he doesn't post career highs. That was not the case for the MVP runner-up last season. Harden averaged 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 37 minutes through 81 games played. All of the aforementioned stats besides GP and MPG were career highs. Adding to his season is that these were all done with extreme efficiency as Harden shot 44 percent from the field, 38 percent from beyond the arc, and 87 percent from the stripe. Squashing any of the criticism that was thrown his way, Harden dramatically improved on defense this past season, and gone are the 20-minute video montages of him zoning out on defense. The Beard easily had one of his best seasons, and he did so even though a lot of his supporting cast (Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley, and Terrence Jones) were not available most of the season due to injury. Also, the Rockets went out and acquired Ty Lawson in a trade from the Nuggets this summer. Lawson looks to add something that the Rockets haven't really had in being a true point guard with the ability to score. Whether or not this will help or hurt Harden remains to be seen, and there probably will be a few growing pains at the beginning of the season. That being said, Harden still is one of the best and most efficient players in the NBA being able to score from anywhere on the court.
During the 2013-14 season, James Harden was able to reward the fantasy owners who drafted him and posted impressive numbers in his second season with the Rockets. He finished the year averaging 25.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.4 three-pointers made, while playing 38 minutes per game. Although the loss of Chandler Parsons in free agency initially felt like it might sting a bit, the Rockets bounced back with the signing of Trevor Ariza, so the starting lineup didn't take as big of a hit as originally thought, and the team will still have a decent shooter to open the lane for Harden to drive to the hoop. Harden also continued his consistent shooting last season by slightly improving his field goal percentage from 44 percent in the 2012-13 season, to 46 percent last season. While his field goal percentage increased, it stayed the same from behind the arc, as he shot 37 percent from deep for the second season in a row. Look for Harden to continue to get plenty of shots up again this season, and post scoring averages in the mid to upper 20's, as most of the roster is pretty similar to last year, and the Rockets will be in the playoff hunt once again. While it seems strange to say, Harden could carry an even larger load on offense this season with Jeremy Lin having been traded to the Lakers this offseason.
After failing to sign Harden to a long-term extension last offseason, the Thunder dealt him to the Rockets just days before the start of the regular season, sending ripples across the league. Freed from the shackles of the sixth man role, Harden showed right away why the Rockets chose to build their franchise around him, scoring 82 points over his first two games with the team and finishing with season averages of 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.3 three-pointers per game. With the Rockets' point guard situation somewhat in flux following a disappointing season by Jeremy Lin, Harden figures to assume ball-handling duties more regularly than most shooting guards. Carrying those responsibilities in the fast-paced Rockets offense will continue to make Harden highly susceptible to turnovers (his 3.8 per game led the league last season), but he should only further bolster his assist totals moving forward, especially now that he's able to dump the ball off to the newly-signed Dwight Howard in the post. Although Howard's presence in the low block may cause congestion issues when his teammates attempt to drive the lane, Harden has proven to be an equally formidable weapon from both mid- and long-range and should make the necessary adjustments to accommodate Howard's game. Even if the arrival of Howard forces Harden to sacrifice some scoring volume, the 24-year-old still has room for growth in his shooting efficiency and as a distributor. He's clearly the top fantasy option at his position across nearly every format.
Harden raised his game in 2011-12, achieving career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and all three shooting percentages. Deservingly so, the accolades began to pile up for Harden, as he took home the Sixth Man of the Year Award, helped lead the Thunder to the NBA Finals, and perhaps most impressively, earned a roster spot on Team USA for the London Olympics. Harden�s talent is unquestioned, but from a fantasy perspective, there remains concern about just how high his ceiling can be as the Thunder�s third scoring option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant and Westbrook both attempted a shade under 20 shots per game last season, leaving Harden to settle for about 10 on most nights. Although Harden could still see a small bump upward in minutes (he averaged 31.4 last season) to help him boost his stat line, it�s hard to imagine him ever becoming a 20-point per game scorer with the Thunder unless an injury to Durant or Westbrook occurs. The real coming out party for Harden might be next year. He�ll be a restricted free agent after the season, and with significant long-term money tied up in Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, the Thunder may not have enough cash to keep Harden on board. If Harden were to land on another team as the franchise player or even as the second banana, he�d surely rocket up his value in 2013-14.
After showing great promise as a rookie, Harden enjoyed an increased role off the bench with the Thunder in his sophomore season. Going into this year, Harden is widely believed to have the starting shooting guard job in his pocket, thanks to his inspired play in the postseason – 13.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 three-pointers, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.6 turnovers in 32 minutes per game. It’s difficult to get too excited about Harden’s potential growth, however, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook requiring so many looks, but the departure of Jeff Green in a trade to the Celtics opened up some possessions for him. At a minimum, Harden should offer well-rounded production with a healthy heaping of three-pointers.
Because he averaged only 22.9 minutes per game last season, to understand Harden's production, it's necessary to adjust for the time he didn't spend on the court. With last year's playing time, Harden was an end-of-the-roster type player. But project him at something like 30 or 32 minutes, and Harden becomes a borderline starter in standard-format leagues. No, his scoring wasn't anything special – and with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook only improving, it might not become anything special – but his three-pointers (1.2 made per game), steals (1.1), and his free-throw shooting (80.8% on 3.2 attempts per game) all project as pretty decent. Of course, there's the question of whether Harden will actually play 30-32 minutes anytime soon. Thabo Sefolosha remains with the team and is also a threat for something like 25-30 minutes per contest thanks to his defensive skills.
The Thunder decided to pass on European wunderkind Ricky Rubio with the third overall pick in the draft in favor of Harden to address their perimeter shooting deficiency. Last year at Arizona State, Harden averaged 20.1 points, 4.2 assists, 1.7 treys and 1.7 steals on 48.9-percent shooting from the field. Although he ‘s one of the most NBA-ready prospects in this draft class, Harden still has some holes in his game that he needs to work on – namely the ability to create his own shot, his handles and his midrange shooting. Though highly touted and obviously skilled, he will not be guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup this season. As a matter of fact, he will probably be coming off the bench to start the year behind Thabo Sefolosha. Coach Scott Brooks will likely look for Sefolosha to set the early tone and bolster the team’s defense, then utilize Harden as an offensive spark off the bench who can spread the floor. It’s unlikely Harden will log much more than 22-26 minutes during the first half of the season, so be a bit conservative in setting expectations for him early on. He’ll be the player you want to pick up 40 or 50 games in after an impatient owner drops him, not one that you spend one of your first 10 draft picks on.