Only one appeared in all 82 regular season games: Harden.
As the Rockets try to claw back to the top of the Western Conference, the team has become increasingly dependent on the production of Harden to remain in playoff contention.
The result was 3,125 minutes, 2,376 points, 720 made free throws and 1,617 shot attempts, all figures led the NBA last season.
A selection of Harden is as close as a guarantee for success in fantasy basketball.
The former Arizona State star averaged 29 points, 7.5 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. Each night, he was solely responsible in carrying the Rockets offense, and he routinely delivered.
Harden scored 20 or more points on 72 occasions, and he scored fewer than 15 points just three times.
Scoring the ball isn’t the only asset Harden brings, as the Rockets completely entrust every aspect of the offense in him. Harden has the ball in his hands for an average of 6.3 minutes a game, the 13th most in the league.
When the ball is in his hands, few players are more explosive. The 27-year-old guard generates 18 points per game just off his passing each night, the sixth most in the NBA.
Many experts believe the first overall pick in fantasy basketball is a tossup between two point guards, but Harden brings the same skill set, with a green light to create plays as he sees fit, making him perhaps the most valuable contributor in all of fantasy basketball.
30. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson– Brooklyn Nets
Ankle surgery early in the season derailed a promising rookie campaign from Hollis-Jefferson. After just 19 appearances, the 6-foot-7 guard out of Arizona fractured his right ankle, an injury that kept him out of the lineup for 49 games. Hollis-Jefferson has the ablity to be the most dominant rebounding shooting guard in the league, as he averaged 7.5 rebounds a night in his 13 starts before the injury. Once he returned, Hollis-Jefferson proved to be a skilled defender, as he registered at least one steal in nine of his final 10 appearances.
29. Iman Shumpert– Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland waited until just five days before the start of the regular season to agree to a contract with forward Tristan Thompson, so there is still a possibility for Shumpert to be replaced in the starting lineup by J.R. Smith. The 2015-16 campaign was the worst of Shumpert’s career, as he averaged 5.8 points on 37.4 percent shooting to go along with 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. The only way for Shumpert to become a legitimate option in fantasy basketball is if he becomes a prominent 3-point shooter from the corner. Shumpert knocked down 30 3-point shots from each corner.
28. Arron Afflalo– Sacramento Kings
The Kings finally added some much needed shooting to their lineup with the signing of Afflalo. During his nine-year career, Afflalo has knocked down 38.5 percent of his attempts from 3-point range and despite his frustrations, as he was benched by interim coach Kurt Rambis, he still managed to match his career average from beyond the arc. Afflalo has shown an affinity for adapting to new situations, as he has spent time in Detroit, Denver, Orlando, New York and now Sacramento during his first decade in the league.
27. Tony Allen– Memphis Grizzlies
The personification of the grit and grind culture in Memphis may have to fight to keep his job in the starting lineup. Aside from his exceptional defense, Allen leaves little reason for fantasy owners to consider him on draft night. Allen finished tied with Jimmy Butler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with 110 steals — the fifth time in his career he has broken the century mark in steals —but he posted just 8.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists a night. The Grizzlies don’t have a clear replacement in the starting lineup, but may be grooming Jordan Adams for the role.
26. Gerald Henderson– Philadelphia 76ers
For the third time in three seasons, Henderson will be playing for a different organization. The shift to Philadelphia places Henderson back into the starting lineup, after he came off the bench in all 72 of his appearances for Portland. Fantasy owners should exercise caution when selecting Henderson, as his production has steadily declined, with his points, rebound, assist and steal numbers last season were the lowest of his career since his rookie campaign. Plenty of uncertainty remains in the back court for Philadelphia, as the team enters training camp with five shooting guards competing for a roster spot and Henderson hasn’t clinched the starting job yet.
25. Courtney Lee– New York Knicks
For New York to develop into the juggernaut Lee is predicting, the team will need a breakout campaign from its newest shooting guard. Lee has carved out a place in the NBA by adapting to any role a team assigns him, the only problem is he has yet to last more than two seasons in any city, making the Knicks four-year contract offer a bit stunning. During his eight-year career, Lee has made stops in Orlando, New Jersey, Houston, Boston, Memphis and Charlotte. Lee is a solid player, but has yet to score 900 points in a single season or top more than 90 3-point field goals, both need to happen for the Knicks to become a legitimate playoff threat.
24. Danny Green– San Antonio Spurs
All season long, fantasy owners were waiting for Green to morph back into one of the most complete fantasy players in the league, only for it to never happen. During the 2014-15 season, Green was the only player in the league to total at least 150 made 3-point field goals, 80 steals and 80 blocks. Those three figures all declined by at least 20 percent last season, as Green shot just 37.6 percent from the field, the third worst percentage in the NBA. If the struggled continue for Green, look for Kyle Anderson to take over as the starting shooting guard.
23. Kyle Korver– Atlanta Hawks
A one dimensional player can be worth targeting in fantasy basketball, but last season Korver quickly went from luxury to a detriment. In his 13th season, Korver’s frequency and accuracy from beyond the arc fell apart, as he shot 39.8 percent (his lowest in seven years) and knocked down 158 shots from 3-point range, 63 fewer than his All-Star campaign from a year ago. The drop from exceptional 3-point shooter to very good 3-point shooter cost Korver several rounds in the fantasy draft, as he is now a late round selection.
22. Rodney Hood– Utah Jazz
Coach Quin Snyder made a surprising decision a year ago, opting to place Hood in the starting lineup over incumbent Alec Burks. Over time, that decision proved to be wise, as Hood emerged as the third option for the Jazz. The 6-foot-8 guard knocked down 99 more shots from 3-point range than his debut season. In 79 starts, Hood posted 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists per game. The only question is if Hood can make consistent contributions, as he totaled five or more assists 12 times and five or more rebounds on 22 occasions.
21. Wesley Matthews– Dallas Mavericks
According to Matthews, the lingering effects from his Achilles injury that hampered his debut season in Dallas are gone. The shooting percentages of Matthews’ plummeted, as his field goal percentage dropped to 38.8 percent and he connected on 36 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Even though he struggled to find his shot, the Mavericks gave him a heavy workload, as he started 78 games and he spent a team-high 2,644 minutes on the court, the third highest total of his career.
20. Gary Harris– Denver Nuggets
Harris proved to be a capable piece of the Nuggets rotation, as he started 76 games, producing 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Denver kept Harris on the floor for over 32 minutes a game, out of necessity due to numerous injuries. The selection of guard Jamal Murray with the seventh overall pick indicates the team still isn’t sold on Harris being a starter on the team. The role of Harris is undefined, as the return of Wilson Chandler from injury means his minutes may be inconsistent next year.
19. Josh Richardson– Miami Heat
The second round draft pick of the 2015 NBA Draft steadily entrenched himself into Miami’s rotation. During the fifth month of his professional career, Richardson submitted one of the most impressive performances in league history. Over a span of 15 games, the former Tennessee star connected on 33-of-56 attempts from 3-point range. The 58.9 percent he shot from beyond the arc was the second best in league history for a month and propped his 3-point shooting percentage to 46.6 percent for the year.
18. Zach LaVine– Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota has quickly assembled perhaps the most tantalizing young cores in the NBA, with the emergence of LaVine coming as a bonus. LaVine thrived following the All-Star break last season, averaging 16.4 points, 2.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds. More importantly, the former UCLA star knocked down 66 shots from 3-point range in a span of 28 games, converting 43.7 percent of those attempts. By shifting LaVine to his natural position, at shooting guard, the Timberwolves have another player poised to become a potential star.
17. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope– Detroit Pistons
Even though he sat out six games, Caldwell-Pope posted the fourth most minutes in the NBA last season, spending 2,789 minutes on the floor. While his minutes dramatically increased, his production steadily climbed. Caldwell-Pope averaged 14.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game. The next step in his evolution has to be a consistent 3-point shot, as he launched 369 shots from beyond the arc. The eighth overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft connected on 30.9 percent of his attempts, only Kobe Bryant shot more than 350 long range shots at a lower percentage last season.
16. Jordan Clarkson– Los Angeles Lakers
The shift from point guard to shooting guard resulted in a decrease in his assists, but exponential growth elsewhere. Clarkson was able to showcase his abilities as a pure scorer, as he registered 20 performances with 20 or more points, as he posted 15.5 points a night. As the Lakers continue to rebuild their team, Clarkson has become one of the most trusted players on the roster, as he spent 2,552 minutes on the floor 266 more than anyone else on the team, equating to more than five full games.
15. J.J. Redick– Los Angeles Clippers
The list Redick joined last season is pretty concise. Redick led the league in 3-point field goal percentage (47.5 percent) and was one of just eight players to sink 200 or more shots from beyond the arc. Only three other players have been able to combine 200 made 3-point field goals while connecting at a 45 percent clip in their NBA career: Redick, Stephen Curry, Glen Rice and Kyle Korver. As a result of his torrid long range shooting, Redick chipped in 16.3 points per game as he submitted 22 performances with at least 20 points.
14. Monta Ellis– Indina Pacers
Durability is one of the primary factors in fantasy basketball and in an era of players strategically resting, Ellis is a throwback. The 6-foot-3 guard has battled through numerous injuries to appear in 80 or more games in each of the past four years. Over the past six seasons, Ellis has appeared in 463 out of 476 regular season games, a staggering 97.2 percent. The 13.8 points he averaged last season were his fewest since his rookie year, but Ellis remains a fantasy basketball commodity because of his ability to distribute and steal the ball.
13. Avery Bradley– Boston Celtics
When Bradley entered the league as a rookie out of Texas in 2010, he received a rude awakening from one of his teammates in practice. Future Hall-of-Fame forward Kevin Garnett cursed Bradley out for failing to convert a layup during a scrimmage. For several weeks, Garnett reminded Bradley about the missed shot and didn’t let it go until the rookie dunked on teammates to end a separate pair of practices. Six years later, opponents from around the league respect Bradley after he posted a career-high 15.2 points per game last season.
12. Evan Fournier– Orlando Magic
Orlando’s primary scoring option in crunch time last season could morph into the first option on the offense in 2016-17. As the Magic continue to overhaul its roster, Fournier could be the most dynamic weapon, with Nikola Vucevic perhaps on the trading block. Entrenched as the starting shooting guard, the 23-year-old is coming off a season that saw him connect 156 times from beyond the arc and knocked down 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. The major problem in selecting Fournier is his inability to contribute outside of scoring the ball. In 251 career games, Fournier has yet to post a double-double.
11. Dwyane Wade– Chicago Bulls
The thought of Wade playing in a jersey without Miami on the front seemed to be unfathomable. The thought of Wade providing major contributions alongside Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo has forced fantasy owners to pause. Without viable 3-point shooting in the starting lineup, opponents can simply crowd the paint, exactly where Wade operates most frequently. Wade attempted 399 shots at the rim, the highest of any location on the floor, with plenty of spacing in Miami last season. Even with the high volume of looks at the basket, the 19 points per game he averaged matched his lowest scoring total of the last 12 years.
10. Bradley Beal– Washington Wizards
Four years in the NBA were enough for Washington to offer Beal a four-year, $128 million deal to remain with the organization. The Wizards have been waiting that exact same amount of time for Beal to prove he can remain on the court for an entire season. Numerous leg injuries have forced Beal to miss 25 percent of the possible regular season games in his career. The former Florida guard averaged a career-high 17.4 points per game, but fantasy owners need to be cautious selecting him prior to the fourth round.
9. Tyreke Evans– New Orleans Pelicans
Only six players averaged at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last season: Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Evans. Ever since Evans arrived in New Orleans, he has been asked to play the point guard position only part time, with Jrue Holiday missing extended periods of time. Holiday’s status at the beginning of the season remains uncertain, meaning Evans could see additional assist opportunities, significantly increasing his value.
8. Khris Middleton– Milwaukee Bucks
The question facing Middleton is just how far can his numbers continue to climb. Since being selected with the 39th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, Middleton’s scoring average has climbed each season. Starting at 6.1 points per game during his rookie year, Middleton subsequently submitted 12.1 points, 13.4 points and he finished with 18.2 points per game last season. Arron Afflalo and Derek Harper share the NBA record for most consecutive seasons to increase their scoring average at seven. Middleton provides much more than scoring, as he also contributed 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
7. DeMar DeRozan– Toronto Raptors
As the league has placed a premium on long range shooting, DeRozan has bucked the trend and attacked exclusively from within the 3-point arc with great success. DeRozan earned his second career All-Star appearance as he posted 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, even though his opponents knew to concede any 3-point shots to him. DeRozan only attempted 139 shots from beyond the arc, 263 less than Stephen Curry converted last season, causing his stock to slip a bit in fantasy, but he is still worth selecting within the first four rounds.
6. Victor Oladipo– Oklahoma City Thunder
As Oladipo enters his fourth season in the league, the shift to Oklahoma City will finally provide him with some stability. As a rookie in Orlando, he was forced to play point guard, the following year, he shifted to the team’s starting shooting guard and last season, he willingly accepted a role as the sixth man. The Thunder are in desperate need of a secondary scoring option alongside Russell Westbrook, a challenge Oladipo is more than willing to accept. Oladipo fell just six assists shy of being only the 20th player to post at least 16 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists a night last season.
5. C.J. McCollum– Portland Trail Blazers
According to McCollum himself, the two-time reigning MVP can’t guard him. McCollum has plenty of reasons to be confident, as he more than tripled his scoring output between his sophomore campaign and his third season. Portland has provided the former Lehigh star with both plenty of minutes (34.8 per game) and shot opportunities (17.9) last season, both ranked in the top-15 in the NBA. Adding McCollum to a fantasy roster will provide plenty of scoring power, but his game isn’t well rounded, as he posted just two double-doubles.
4. Nicolas Batum– Charlotte Hornets
Batum turned out to be the ultimate wildcard in fantasy basketball during his first season in Charlotte. The 6-foot-8 guard registered 17 performances with 20 or more points, 11 double-doubles, two triple-doubles to go along with a trio of three block outings and a trio of three steal performances. The fit in Charlotte has been perfect, as Batum frequently assumes point guard duties, where he excels. Last season, Batum dished out seven or more assists on 32 occasions and his 6.1 rebounds a night were the second most among all guards.
3. Eric Bledsoe– Phoenix Suns
Staying on the floor has been the biggest challenge for Bledsoe in his career. A torn meniscus that required surgery limited the 6-foot-1 guard to just 31 appearances and he has played just 50 or more games three times in his six-year career. When Bledsoe is on the court, he produces in a multitude of ways as he posted 21.5 points, 6.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, figures worthy enough for a top-20 selection in the fantasy basketball draft. No player is more persistent in attacking the rim, as averaged 11.7 drives per game, the highest total in the NBA last season, resulting in 5.8 free throw attempts a game.
2. Klay Thompson– Golden State Warriors
The 276 made 3-pointers Thompson submitted last season were the third most in NBA history, but with his teammate knocking down 126 more shots, his contributions were almost unnoticed. Fantasy owners are well aware of the impact of Thompson, as he shot well from all over the court. On shots inside of the arc, the 6-foot-7 guard hit 51 percent, from beyond the arc he hit 42.5 percent of his attempts. Thompson elevated his rebounding average, but his assist numbers regressed.
1. James Harden– Houston Rockets
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Harden’s game is his ability to get to the free throw line. For the third time in the past four seasons, Harden averaged 10.2 free throw attempts and once he’s at the line, he’s nearly automatic. The 27-year-old guard has converted 86 percent of his free throws in each of the past three seasons. The 720 free throws Harden made was the most any player has converted in the past 28 seasons. Only five players have converted 800 or more free throws in league history: Michael Jordan, Adrian Dantley, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain.
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