Despite only a handful of games the opening week of the NBA season wasn’t short of headlines. First there was the James Harden trade, then were some controversial extension decisions, the Lakers have started 0-3 and Danny Granger and Eric Gordon were shut down.
Every Saturday afternoon, we’ll examine the Week That Was, then review our Depth Chart Updates, the Upcoming Schedule and our picks for Sits and Starts.
The Week That Was
Lesson #1: The James Harden trade
In my Northwest Division preview, I said that Harden’s ADP priced in some improvement either in minutes or play and that I didn’t see either. Oops. I didn’t see a trade coming but maybe I should have — the Serge Ibaka extension was a strong hint. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Harden, but he was so good last year, I didn’t see how he could improve or why Scott Brooks would change the way he used him.
Following the trade, Harden is going to see about six additional minutes a game and will go from slightly above average to one of the highest usage of a team’s possessions. Since Harden is so efficient and effective, the additional minutes and usage will have a dramatic effect on his fantasy value. I expect his efficiency to decline, but we will hardly notice among all the additional goodies.
My first reaction was to re-value Harden as a top-15 guy. On further reflection, I am now putting him in the top 8, right along with Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams. He won’t average 40 a night but 25-5-5 with good percentages is well within reach. For those playing on FanDuel, at his current $6,600 salary, Harden is a must-start every day that Houston plays.
In addition to Harden, there are other affected players on the Rockets. One, Jeremy Lin gets a much needed reprieve from being Linsanity to just being Jeremy Lin. If his knees hold up, the risk that he will implode is much less. Another is Carlos Delfino. He is coming off two disappointing seasons after a very good year in 2009-2010. Both injuries and a crowded rotation kept his minutes and effectiveness low. His value goes way up because his main competition for minutes, Jeremy Lamb, is gone and coach Kevin McHale, now with playoff ambitions, will lean heavily on his experience. With Harden and Lin constantly driving to the hoop, Delfino is a great source for open look 3’s and steals.
For the Thunder, Kevin Martin should adequately fill Harden’s minutes, but the real winner is Serge Ibaka. I still don’t think that he is worth a mid-20’s ADP, but like it or not, GM Sam Presti has hooked his wagon to the Ibaka train and is effectively banking on him to take another large stride forward this season. This means more minutes and more shots for the league’s best shot blocker. Ibaka has worked on his jumper including adding 3PT range. He hasn’t been particularly effective in the Thunder’s first two games but after 82 games, in addition to all the blocks, we can probably write in 12+ points, and 8+ rebounds per game.