James Harden dazzles in Rockets debut

November, 1, 2012

There was no shortage of big storylines in the NBA on Wednesday night, but James Harden's performance for the Rockets in their win over the Pistons was the biggest. If you were wondering what the ceiling was for Harden's potential in fantasy leagues this season, it seems like maybe there isn't one. Harden's combination of shot-making and distributing means that he is going to be an even more valuable fantasy player than he was last season, when he finished 13th on the Player Rater. If this performance -- 37 points, 6 boards, 12 assists, 4 steals and 4 3s -- is any indication of the type of player he is going to be this season, he could end up being a top-five player by season's end.

Looking Back

• There were some truly bizarre lines from the Pacers in their two-point win over the Raptors in Toronto, but I'm encouraged by David West's 25 points, Paul George's 15 rebounds and Roy Hibbert's five blocks. I'd be more worried about the fact that West had just two boards in 28 minutes, but it seems like George's 15 probably cut into the available rebounds to be had.

Kyle Lowry had a great night filling up the stat sheet for the Raptors, but I'm more intrigued by the fact that Jose Calderon played 26 minutes, sharing the floor with Lowry at times. Calderon had an efficient 15 points and three assists and should be worth more in fantasy leagues than we thought if he can continue to play in the high 20s in minutes.

• It looks as if the 76ers haven't missed a beat on the defensive end of the floor without Andre Iguodala. Going up against their old teammate and the Nuggets, the 76ers allowed just 75 points even though they were missing their new starting center, Andrew Bynum. It looks as if this is a defense you want to avoid if you have mediocre players going up against it.

• Speaking of the 76ers, Spencer Hawes had a huge night off the bench, finishing with 16 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals and 2 3-pointers. The league isn't exactly flush with players capable of that kind of line, and given Hawes' history of starting the season strong, there's real reason for optimism.

• The Hornets didn't get the win against the Spurs, but it was a great debut for Anthony Davis. He had an extremely efficient 21 points on just 12 shots (9-for-9 from the line) to go along with seven rebounds in 29 minutes of action. That wasn't even the most exciting line of the night for the Hornets, though. Al-Farouq Aminu used his athleticism to rack up 17 points (including quite a few highlight dunks), 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks. Given the potential in steals and blocks alone, he is worth picking up in most fantasy leagues, especially those that are 12 teams and deeper.

• On the Spurs' side, it was a great start to the season for Kawhi Leonard. He finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 3s, and his defense felt like a major factor for most of the game.

Marvin Williams had an impressive debut for the Jazz in their win over the Mavericks, finishing with 21 points in 30 minutes on 7-for-13 shooting from the floor and 5-for-5 shooting from the line. He is not going to give you much in most categories (only three rebounds), but he has the potential to be a great source of 3s and steals this season.

• Damian Lillard's debut lived up to the preseason hype for the Trail Blazers, as he finished with 23 points and 11 assists in a big win over the Lakers. Lillard showed an impressive ability to get to the line and had the best plus/minus of any Blazer in the starting lineup. Steve Nash left the game early with a leg contusion (day-to-day), so Lillard didn't have the stiffest competition, but it was still an extremely promising first game for the rookie.

Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 29 points off the bench in their win over the Grizzlies. Crawford has a long history of coming off the bench and scoring, and he'll have plenty of opportunities to do so this season.

Looking Ahead

• Opening night in Brooklyn was postponed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, so there will be only one game in the NBA on Thursday night: the Thunder at the Spurs. It will be interesting to see how the Thunder respond to losing James Harden, especially considering the huge night Harden had for the Rockets on Wednesday. On the other hand, new addition Kevin Martin torched the Spurs in four games last season to the tune of 24.3 points per game on 50 percent shooting You'll want to make sure he is in your lineup, even though he'll be coming off the bench.

• On the Spurs' side, look at picking up and playing Danny Green. He was a bit ineffective Wednesday night against the Hornets, but he played 33 minutes. If he gets those minutes against the Thunder, he has a good chance of being effective. In three games against the Thunder last season, Green averaged 11 points, three 3s, two steals and a block per game.

Fastbreak Player of the Night

Normally, Kevin Durant would be my choice, but with the Thunder backcourt in a state of confusion, the time is right for Russell Westbrook to have a huge game. The Spurs aren't known for forcing turnovers, so Westbrook should be able to keep the negatives to a minimum.



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