Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
After blasting off in the first two games with his new team, it looks like the Houston Rockets’ big pre-season acquisition is going to settle into what he’ll really be in his first go around as a go-to guy in both fantasy and real life basketball.
That's right folks, James Harden's days of scoring over 30 points a game on a regular basis won't really go beyond the first two games of the season (big shocker there, not even Lebron averages over 30 points a game right?). Keeping that in mind, Harden should still see an uptick in value compared to what he did last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and you've got to be particularly happy if your fantasy draft happened before the trade.
For one, Harden is averaging 39 minutes played per game through the season's first seven contests.,. that's over 20% more playing time then he got with the Thunder last year, which translates into more points, rebounds and assists on a nightly basis. On the other hand, with great power comes great responsibility and in Harden's case that means no more Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on your team allowing you to lay low and get open. Add that to the fact Harden's new teammate Jeremy Lin now faces a similar challenge in his second stop with the Rockets, and it's obvious why Harden's numbers have come crashing down to earth in the last five games.
After shooting an unconscious 64% from the field in his first two games as a member of the Rockets, Harden is shooting just 33% in the past five games, which is 10% below his career average. He's also experienced similar struggles from beyond the arc as he's shooting at just a 25% clip on the season.
It remains to be seen whether Harden can keep his game at a high level for the entire season and be the franchise player the Rockets are probably hoping he will be now that the team has given him his highly coveted contract extension. Some experts out there have come out and said that Harden will challenge the top guards in the Western Conference for a starting spot in this year's All-Star game, but from a fantasy perspective it's important to realize that Harden will more than likely not be THAT good this year (as long as Kobe Bryant is in the mix, he probably won't be winning that glorified popularity contest anyway).
A more likely scenario for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is an average output of about 22 points a game to go with five or six rebounds. His percentages will dip slightly, but that comes with the added pressure and expectations that most young players face when they take their game to the next level. No matter which way you split it, Harden's performances will be under the fantasy microscope for the rest of the season and if you drafted him, you'll be happy with your returns in the long run.
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