NBA Fantasy: James Harden or Russell Westbrook?

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This upcoming season is a bit of a different one when it comes to fantasy basketball. The shift of players, the change of roles, and the new faces in the league are all a site to see. In past years, the question of who to draft with the first pick hasn’t been much of a debate because LeBron James has been the clear cut favorite. There have been other mentions like Kevin Durant or maybe Stephen Curry but the decision hasn’t been that hard. However, with LeBron rising in age and Durant joining forces with Curry in Golden State, the reigns for who to take 1st is up in the air.

The two players to rise in this topic are former teammates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder point guard is now the face of the franchise with the departure of Kevin Durant. The ball will be in his hands majority of the time with a big chunk of the point production coming from him. James Harden is now entering a new system with Houston Rockets’s new coach, Mike D’Antoni. It’s been stated by D’Antoni that Harden will be running the point a lot this year which can mean a huge spike in the assist column. All of these factors are important in determining who to pick if you have the first pick in the draft. So who do you go with? James Harden or Russell Westbrook?

James Harden vs Russell Westbrook
James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook stats for the 2015-2016 NBA regular season via NBA.com

One thing that’s attractive when considering Russell Westbrook is his candid ability to get triple doubles. Just last season, he tied Magic Johnson’s single season record with 18 triple-doubles. I’m expecting to see that same output from Westbrook with an increase in the points category. The absence of Durant plays a major role because now Russell is looked at to score even more as well as create scoring opportunities for his teammates.

The coaching and offense change in Houston favors Harden’s game a lot. With the pace and spread offense that D’Antoni likes to run, James Harden will have a lot of freedom. And it’s been well on display early in preseason basketball as he has averaged, 20.2 points and 10.7 points per game. Also, with D’Antoni placing Harden as a point guard, it does a great justice for those fantasy users who draft Harden. That’s one less point guard that a fantasy owner has to draft because Harden can be used in that position. You can now look at another shooting guard like Jimmy Butler in the next round who can give you big points on any given night.

James Harden
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If I’m given the first pick in a NBA fantasy draft, I’m definitely going with James Harden. I love the triple double ability of Russell Westbrook but his lack of efficiency at times is something that scares me. Harden might not give you all the rebounds that Westbrook does, but he will average just as many points and just as many assists while shooting the ball more efficiently and giving you a bunch of threes from behind the arc. You honestly can’t go wrong with either pick but if I have to choose one, I’m definitely going with James Harden.

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