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Rapid Reaction: James Harden Traded to Nets (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)

Jan 14, 2021

The basketball world was (sort of) shocked yesterday when maligned superstar James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a three-team deal. It was no secret that Harden was unhappy in Houston, and a parting of ways seemed to be a question of “when,” not “if.”

The deal featured a lot of moving pieces, and the fantasy basketball landscape has understandably shifted dramatically. With so much going on, we brought in our featured experts to break it all down from a fantasy hoops perspective. Here are Brad CamaraAlex BurnsAaron LarsonDan Titus, Dave Kluge, and Zak Hanshew with their reactions to the huge moves made yesterday in the NBA.

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Harden officially gets his wish granted and is reunited with Kevin Durant after three seasons and a Finals appearance together in Oklahoma City. With three All-NBA players together in Brooklyn, they easily become the Eastern Conference favorite for the remainder of this season. While they gave up quite a haul (Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and four first-round picks) the organization believes this puts them in a position to win-now. At 31- and 32-year-old respectively, Harden and Durant will play with 28-year-old Kyrie Irving in a rather short championship window. While some players maintain a high level of production into their 30’s, most pundits would agree that a player enters their prime around age 27, meaning this core of players is already on a ticking clock. Harden showcased his scoring abilities to start the season, averaging 37.0 points over the first three outings. Since then, he’s averaged just 17.4 points per game while dragging his season average to over 10 points less than he has scored during the last two seasons.

There’s hope that Harden, who has looked disengaged and out of shape with the Rockets, can bounce back to an elite level of play now that he’s with Durant and Irving. With Durant averaging a whopping 29.9 points per game and Irving have a career-year with 27.1, it’s expected that the arrival of Harden will cut into their usage rate and lower their fantasy output. Nevertheless, the Nets will be must-see basketball as these future Hall of Famers make a run at the 2020-2021 championship.  -Kluge

James Harden was traded to the Nets on Wednesday in a four-team blockbuster deal sending the NBA into a complete frenzy. He gets wish and is reunited with star forward Kevin Durant, who he spent two seasons with as teammates for the Oklahoma City Thunder. It will be interesting to see how Harden coexists with new teammate Kyrie Irving, who is currently away from the team. From a fantasy perspective, there will be a usage hit between the Nets new big three. I believe Kyrie Irving will take the biggest hit among all three superstars. Irving has already missed time and is currently under investigation for attending a family member’s birthday party without a mask on. Back to Harden, his fantasy value should remain the same, but should be highly motivated now that his trade demand out of Houston was granted. The Nets are all in this season and if the new big three can all coexist, an NBA Finals appearance is not out of the question.  -Camara

Where to start? First of all, Harden’s arrival in Brooklyn immediately lowers the fantasy value of his Net teammates. He’s averaged a 35% usage rate over the past six full seasons and I wouldn’t expect it to come crashing down now that he forced his way out of Houston. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (if he ever returns) will still be top-tier fantasy options but their ceilings have taken a major hit. With all of Harden’s leaving Houston, it opens up massive opportunities for John Wall, Christian Wood, and the newly acquired Victor Oladipo. The offense will run through Wall, who never averaged less than 7.6 assists/game before joining Houston. He currently sits at 5.1 assists/game through the first seven contests but you can expect that number to climb.

Meanwhile, Wood should continue to post career-high numbers and has a chance to average a double-double on the season. Jarrett Allen‘s fantasy value takes a hit in the short term now that he’s slotted behind Andre Drummond in Cleveland, but it may only be temporary. Cleveland is a young team that isn’t chasing a title this season. It wouldn’t be shocking if they traded away the free-agent-to-be Drummond sometime this season, thrusting Allen into a huge role. As far as Caris LeVert, he should finally get the chance to be a full-time starter on a strong Indiana team. His fantasy value goes up his ceiling is still capped playing alongside Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis, who are both having career seasons themselves.  -Larson

James Harden is officially headed to Brooklyn in way of a four-team, blockbuster trade that sent shockwaves throughout the league. With four top-100 fantasy producers landing on new teams, this massive transaction certainly has the ability to alter the current fantasy basketball landscape. For starters, I am expecting the trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to all see a slight dip in fantasy value as there doesn’t appear to be enough room for all three to produce top-15 numbers while on the same team. Durant is the least ball-dominant player of the group and I would expect his value to be impacted the least. We’ve seen Durant play on a team with other high-usage stars during his tenure with the Golden State Warriors and his usage rate hovered just under 30% during those three years. That would still be an elite number and more than enough usage for him to produce top-10 numbers as he’s one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history.

As for Harden and Irving, I believe both of their ball-dominant tendencies could potentially cap each others fantasy upside. Through eight games alongside the ball-dominant John Wall this season, Harden is boasting a 29.3% usage rate, his lowest in the last six years. That trend should certainly continue if and when Irving returns to the court. Speaking of Irving, he’s averaged 20.1 field goal attempts per game this season, the second most of his career. That trend cannot be expected to continue with Harden added to the mix. From 2015-2017, during his time on the Cleveland Cavaliers superteam, Irving averaged 17.6 field goal attempts per game. Now surrounded by offensive juggernots in Durant and Harden, it would be shocking to me if Irving was even able to find that many shot attempts going forward. All in all, Harden and Irving’s similar skill sets will lead to each of them seeing a slight decrease in fantasy value while Durant should be able to sustain somewhere close to his current averages. Both he and Harden should be fringe top-10 options across all formats while Irving falls just outside of the top-30 for me.

As for some of the other guys, Caris LeVert is probably the biggest winnner of the day in regards to fantasy value. He’ll go from being the sixth-man on an offense with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to the starting shooting guard on a Pacers’ team with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis. Victor Oladipo is vacating 33.3 minutes per game along with a 26.7% usage rate and LeVert is a good bet to pick up all of it. For comparison, LeVert was able to boast a 30.4% usage rate in only 27.8 minutes per game through 12 games with the Nets, though it’s possible that a few games without Durant and Irving in the lineup could have inflated that. Nonetheless, a more consistent role and less competition for shots has resulted in me moving LeVert into the top-60 in my rest of season rankings.

Looking at the Rockets’ situation, Harden’s move to Brooklyn does wonders for Christian Wood‘s fantasy value as it’s likely that Houston runs the offense through him. He now moves into my top-25 in my rest of season rankings. John Wall should also be the beneficiery of a slight uptick in production and value as Harden’s ball dominant ways are gone. Oladipo is a great off-the-ball player and the two should compliment each other’s skill sets. Speaking of Oladipo, he should be able to produce similar numbers to what he was this season. He’s staying put in my rest of season rankings at the moment. Lastly, Jarrett Allen has landed in Cleveland and it appears that he will backup Andre Drummond. With each of them being traditional centers who don’t stretch the floor, both of their fantasy values should take a hit. As a result, Drummond has fallen out of my top-30 and Allen is staying put just outside the top-80 in my rest of season rankings.  -Burns

The markets reacted swiftly to the news of former MVP James Harden joining the Nets. Brooklyn’s championship odds shifted from +600 to +300, with only the Lakers having lower odds to win it all. The fantasy community also had to adjust, with Victor Oladipo heading to Houston, Caris LeVert going to Indiana, and Jarrett Allen packing his bags for Cleveland. Wednesday’s epic four-team trade impacts each of these players’ rest of season value, so let’s begin with the Nets and James Harden. Kevin Durant is safe. He’ll continue to be the top-scorer for Brooklyn and will likely finish as a top-12 player as the focal point of the Nets’ offense. The question that remains is who will cede touches and become the third wheel? I think it’s going to be Mr. MIA, Kyrie Irving. Durant’s been one of the most efficient scorers of this era and has put up 18 shots attempts per game while playing with superstars for most of his career. Harden’s averaged close to 20 shot attempts per game with Houston, so expect that number to slightly decrease to 16-18 per contest – with Irving settling in at 15-17 per game. Don’t get me wrong, 22+ points with at least five assists are achievable for each player. But with Harden in town, I expect Irving’s role to transition into a facilitator and playmaker.

The Nets have the luxury to stagger their minutes and rotations to have at least one certified bucket getter on the floor at all times. All of their usage rates are north of 29% this season, and Caris LeVert leaves behind a hefty 32.5% usage rate. With such a thin bench and frontcourt after making the trade, it’s hard to imagine Nets HC Steve Nash not rearranging his lineups to get each player their fair share of opportunities. While some foresee a significant drop in production for either Harden or Irving, I think they’ll develop enough chemistry for Harden to sustain top-10 value and Irving to be top-25. I’m also banking on Irving coming back to the team within the next two weeks. Should he not, James Harden and Durant become even more valuable.

Victor Oladipo‘s outlook is looking favorable, becoming the starting shooting guard for a Rockets team surrounded with injury-riddled talent. With Harden gone, he’ll fill the void left by Harden’s 29.1% usage rate and should be the second option on offense behind Christian Wood. Oladipo’s usage rate as the third option in Indiana was 26.7, so he has an opportunity to get more touches in his new destination. He’s averaging 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists this season, and there is no reason he can’t do that, plus some in a Rockets uniform. I don’t see John Wall‘s role changing much to accommodate Oladipo’s arrival. Caris LeVert finally gets his chance to be a starter, joining an efficient Pacers team as their new shooting guard. LeVert’s been balling out of his mind in the wake of Kyrie Irving‘s absence, but his value will take a dip playing in the Pacers system. Indiana runs a slower tempo offense, ranking 13th in pace (102.9) through Thursday. Let’s not forget Jeremy Lamb‘s imminent return, with T.J. Warren coming right behind him. While LeVert should see fewer turnovers with Brogdon taking the reigns at point guard, I don’t think he’ll maintain his current top-40 value in H2H formats with the Indiana Pacers.

Lastly, Jarrett Allen took the biggest hit of all of the players involved in the blockbuster deal. Allen was doing work with the Nets, averaging a solid double-double with 11.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, along with 1.6 blocks per contest. Now, he’s in Cleveland, stuck in a logjam vying for playing time as the backup center behind Andre Drummond and JaVale McGee. Fantasy managers’ only hope is for Drummond to be traded. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, either. Drummond is in the final year of his contract and makes an attractive trade target with his money coming off the books after this season. He’s an ideal candidate for any playoff contender searching for a defensive minded, double-double machine. At only 22 years old, Allen has upside potential as the Cavs big man of the future to pair with “Sexland.” Now, it’s on the Cavs to make moves and create a lane for him to get some significant playing time. There’s little chance he sustains his current top-30 value as a backup center for a 5-7 team.  -Titus

All of the Nets’ superstars take an immediate hit in fantasy value with this move, as all three of Harden, Durant, and Irving (if he returns anytime soon) will likely cannibalize each other’s value. All three will remain obvious top-tier studs, but any of them returning top-10 value seems a bit farfetched if all three are on the court. DeAndre Jordan is the biggest benefactor for Brooklyn, as he should command starter’s minutes at center with Jarrett Allen out of the picture. Jeff Green should see an uptick in minutes in a thin frontcourt.

And what of Allen? He finds himself in a crowded Cavs’ frontcourt and will likely play behind Andre Drummond. The move suggests strongly that Cleveland will try to trade Drummond and keep the younger and less-expensive Allen in the fold and get a solid return for the veteran. Until that happens, Allen’s value sinks significantly… as does that of JaVale McGee, who’s been serviceable off the bench for the Land thus far.

Caris LeVert gets a boost in value, and he should be a key starter and offensive catalyst for the Pacers. Ditto Victor Oladipo, who will be counted on for scoring and defense in Houston. John Wall (if healthy) could pay huge dividends to fantasy managers, and Christian Wood‘s rocket to stardom was just re-fueled in earnest. Expect a bump in value for Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins as well.  -Hanshew

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