James Harden was finally traded to the Los Angeles Clippers early Tuesday. It’s a significant trade for the Association and for fantasy. Here are the things you need to know.
Tyrese Maxey will be a top-30 player for the rest of the season
He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 30.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 4.6 threes and 1.0 stocks with 50/56/91 shooting splits across three games. He’s been an outstanding facilitator, with a ridiculous 19:3 assist-to-turnover ratio. With Harden gone, he’s going to emerge as not only the leading candidate for Most Improved Player, but he’ll also be on the path to earning a spot on his first All-Star team. He’s far and away the biggest winner of this trade and will be a valued asset in all formats going forward.
James Harden is still that dude
If you grabbed in his preseason free fall, congratulations. The saga ends earlier than many imagined, and now you get a player capable of averaging 20 points and 10 assists back into your lineups. Tallying assists alongside PG13 and Kawhi shouldn’t be a problem, but I’d be concerned that his scoring has dropped in six consecutive seasons. Still, he’s on a prove-it deal, he’s back in LA (his hometown) and fished his wish regarding where he wanted to play. We should see a motivated Beard, and that’s always been profitable for fantasy basketball.
Russell Westrbrook’s fantasy value takes a hit
Westbrook finished last season as a top-100 player in category formats and got off to a good start this season. He’s turnover-prone and bad at free-throw shooting, but everything else was going well for the 16-year pro. However, anytime you add a player who can dribble the air out of a ball like Harden, your production is going to suffer. Now, Harden and Westbrook do have experience playing with one another — 275 games, to be exact. The problem lies in what Clippers head coach Ty Lue does with the rotations. He could opt to start Westbrook, Harden, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Ivica Zubac, but they would get torched defensively. Or, like the Warriors, bring a playmaker like Westbrook off the bench to run the second unit. I prefer the latter option for fantasy because his usage won’t suffer as much should he play with the starters. Either way, it’s another mouth to feed, which certainly doesn’t help his fantasy outlook.
Status quo for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
Their assists might take a slight dip (George was already down to four per game thus far), but their usage rates should remain around 28-30% each. Harden came in to raise their floor in the regular season and offset some of the injury woes that have plagued them in years past. I know Leonard and Lue have said they won’t be load managing as much this season — and while that may be true, it definitely helps when you add a former All-Star and MVP into the mix to put less pressure on the stars to make it through an 82-game season.
De’Anthony Melton is a hold
He was a hold before the trade but even more so now. I know that he’s been struggling from the field but this isn’t the time to panic. More importantly, the Clippers traded a bunch of power forwards to get Harden so there’s no threat to Melton’s minutes or starting role. He’ll improve and remember, he’s mostly a stocks and threes guy.
Philly’s power-forward situation is a hot mess
I initially thought that Paul Reed might get a shot at starting at power forward since Nick Nurse said he could play with Joel Embiid. I’ve backed off that sentiment because Reed has only played primarily as a backup thus far. And the haul from the Clippers was littered with power forwards. Nic Batum, Marcus Morris, KJ Martin and Robert Covington. The Sixers only play two games this week, so there’s no immediate add here anyway, but this might take some time to figure out. Nurse tends to find something he likes and sticks with it, so it’ll be a rotational battle I’ll continue to monitor as we see how the new players integrate into the Sixers' scheme.