Wow, a true blockbuster trade. James Harden is a Houston Rocket. I’m happy to let experienced NBA journalist Chris Bernucca explain why (short version: money) and declare a real-life winner, but in the world of fantasy hoops, Harden just got even better. No longer a sixth man and third banana, he’s the focal point. Minutes will increase from 31 last year to at least 35, while his production in the counting stats should rise accordingly.
Kevin Martin will join the Oklahoma City Thunder, so he’s thrilled. His clashes with former coach Kevin McHale were one reason (injuries were the other) for a disappointing 2011-12, now he’s a key part of a championship contender. While he may take a slight minutes hit if he slides into Harden’s vacated role, Kev-Mart destroying the second unit of weaker teams will be great for his rate stats.
Of the throw-ins, SG Jeremy Lamb loses the most value. As a Rocket, he was a sneaky late-round flyer because Martin was on the block, a rookie with a chance to start after the inevitable trade. With the Thunder, he becomes a long-term project who might see most of his minutes in garbage time.
Houston gets three spare parts, the biggest and best being Cole Aldrich, who should take over the backup C role. His arrival is not good news for Greg Smith or Donatas Motiejunas; the latter appears to need more time to adjust to this league anyway. Daequan Cook, kind of a third-stringer in OKC, can slide into Lamb’s role as backup SG and 3-point specialist, so the deal makes him more draftable in fantasy. Lazar Hayward goes from completely irrelevant as the 13th man for the Thunder to possible longshot in very deep leagues. The third-year SF is now competing for bench minutes in Houston with veteran Carlos Delfino and rookie Royce White. That’s preferable for him to being buried behind Kevin Durant and Perry Jones III.
The draft picks involved (reportedly two first-rounders and a second) make the deal more palatable for OKC in terms of both finances and talent. While fascinating, that stuff doesn’t affect us here in the fantasy department.
In other NBA news, a lot of players who were training camp filler got released. None was a major surprise, and only a few have a chance to catch on elsewhere. Banged-up guys who skipped Saturday practice include Kobe Bryant (foot), Wesley Matthews (knee bruise), Tyson Chandler (knee), Matt Barnes (ankle) and Austin Rivers (ankle). The usual list of injury question marks — like Andrew Bogut and Andrew Bynum — hasn’t changed, and you already know about the longer-term issues. The original 2-3 week projection for Amare Stoudemire to recover from a ruptured cyst in his knee may have been optimistic; beware.