Fear The Beard
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Fear The Beard

Why Harden will be fantasy's best baller.

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Fear The Beard
Fox Sports

Russell Westbrook is an incredibly talented basketball player who's going to put up monster numbers on a team where he's now the undisputed number one option. But he shouldn't be the number one pick in fantasy basketball this year. And the reason is that there's another player who's both already deadly with the ball in his hands and getting even more versatile over time. While his stats are great in a number of categories, his positional versatility is lacking. That gives the advantage to an old teammate.

James Harden is undoubtedly a top 2 pick in drafts, and I thought at first that Westbrook was clearly better, but there's a real argument to be made for The Beard. It starts with his new position. According to new Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'antoni, Harden is the team's new point guard. That means he'll qualify at both backcourt positions, which gives owners incredible versatility. You don't have to draft based around a shooting guard. It's important to get an elite point guard if you can, and now he joins that exclusive group.

With more ball-handling responsibilities, Harden's assists should go up, while Westbrook lost KD and probably at least an assist a game with him. That's without even considering the changes D'Antoni will make to the Rockets' game plan. They'll be looking to push the pace whenever possible, which should generate more shots and more rebounds, also boosting assists in the process. Westbrook's advantage comes in rebounding, which is easy to replace compared to Harden's greatest strength. The Beard shoots the 3 incredibly well, which is harder to replace and is a very competitive category in most leagues. His 3's will probably go up in D'Antoni's fast paced offense, making his strength even stronger.

Defensively, both players should show more effort this season. Westbrook will be out to prove he's capable of carrying a scrappy Thunder team to the playoffs, which will require a greater defensive effort than he's given in the past. Meanwhile, Harden has gained an unfair reputation as a defensive sieve. This year's iteration of the Houston Rockets is going to have to make a great defensive effort to be competitive. Their roster is made up of players who aren't known for their defensive prowess, but they do have some tools. Harden is an intelligent player who could have a positive impact. He won't be on the same level as backcourt-mate Patrick Beverly, but a renewed effort on the less glamorous end of the floor could lead to a huge payoff for the Rockets. It doesn't hurt that early reports from Rockets' practices are saying that their new coach, known as an offensive innovator, is heavily emphasizing progress on the defensive side of the ball. If things go right on defense, Houston could be a dark horse in the Western Conference playoffs.

Based on changes made to their schemes and personnel, Houston could be dangerous this season. Those changes make James Harden, already a fantasy stud, a real contender for the number 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts. Sure, there will be plenty of people who pick Westbrook, Curry, or even Karl-Anthony Towns first overall. And there are plenty of upstarts shooting up draft boards, guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and D'Angelo Russell. But only one player is both a prior stud and a breakout candidate, and that player is James Harden. Long live The Beard!



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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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