After James Harden rejected Oklahoma City's offer of $54 million over four years, it seemed unlikely that Harden would remain a member of the Thunder for much longer. Yesterday, it had become official, as Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.
If you are in one of the many fantasy drafts taking place on the last weekend before the start of the NBA season, make sure to bump Harden up your rankings.
Before the draft, Harden's expert consensus ranking was 18th overall. Harden was among the most efficient players in the NBA last year. Now that he has gone from the third scoring option to the primary scorer for the Rockets, his offensive output should improve dramatically.
Last year, Harden led the second unit for the Thunder and played the crucial minutes at the end of games, alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Playing with Westbrook limited Harden's output because Westbrook was a shoot-first point guard. Now that he will be playing alongside a pass-first point guard in Jeremy Lin, Harden should easily eclipse career highs in all counting stats.
Sure, his field goal percentage will slip as opposing defenses will be primarily focused on stopping him, but the additional points, threes, assists and steals will more than make up for a decrease in shooting percentage. Harden should now be taken ahead of players like Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving in 2012-13 fantasy drafts.
Kevin Martin takes the biggest fantasy hit as he goes from being Houston's primary scorer to Oklahoma City's spark off the bench. Martin had a disappointing 2011-12 season. It was the first time since 2006-2007 that Martin failed to average at least 20 points per game. He will remain fantasy relevant as he will be great source of threes and free throw percentage, and help in the points category, but he should be lowered from his current position in the expert rankings of 74th overall.
It should also be noted that Jeremy Lin is a big winner from this trade. He should be moved up the draft board as Harden is a big upgrade from Martin, and should result in a slight increase in assists for Lin.
Written by Justin Hasan exclusively for WinMyFantasyLeague.com
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