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RotoBaller NBA Recap: James Harden Triple-Dubs The Dubs

Thursday nights in the NBA always feature a notoriously light schedule, which means the games that are actually being played better be good to keep it from being a disappointing night.

Last night, things didn't start out all that well. The Spurs walloped the Toronto Raptors in Kawhi Leonard's return to San Antonio in a game where the Spurs took a 38-19 lead into the second quarter, which meant our national television hopes were pinned on the Rockets, who were without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, going up against the Warriors, who had their four best players in the lineup, and for parts of the game it looked like we'd be heading for another sleeper. But James Harden is playing enlightened basketball as of late, and a late shot by the Beard gave Houston the overtime victory.

Let's look at the three fantasy basketball takeaways from the games played on January 3rd, 2019.

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Can James Harden Be Stopped?

James Harden has scored 40 or more points in five straight games and 30 or more in 11 straight as the Rockets have gone from being the league's biggest disappointment to fourth place in the West. Harden, last year's MVP, has taken his name right back to the top of the MVP buzz list.

Is there anything that anyone can do to stop him?

Chris Paul's return might put a damper on some of Harden's video game stats, but we don't really know when Paul will return from the hamstring injury that was supposed to cost him two or three weeks and looks like it's threatening to cost him even longer.

Thursday's game was notable for another key reason beyond Harden's 44-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound triple-double though. The NBA world, especially the NBA Twitter world, believes that all Harden can do is go to the free throw line 20 times per game, but on Thursday he shot just nine free throws. Instead, he took to the three-point line, where he finished 10-for-23 on the night. Harden is shooting 45.7 percent from three over the past four games, and while he's always been a good shooter, the elite number he's putting up now suggest that Harden had found another gear. Until Paul returns, Harden should be the top fantasy option across the fantasy landscape, from season-long formats to DFS games. If you're doing a daily NBA draft-style game, Harden has to be the first pick if he's playing.


Is It #JamalMurraySZN?

There was a point earlier in the year where we collectively thought Jamal Murray was making the leap from "yeah, he's good, young player" to "oh my, he's going to be a star." He'd just finished scoring 48 points to beat the Celtics, and it seemed inevitable that he was about to be Denver's best guard, passing up Gary Harris and cementing himself with this team.

We all remember what happened next. Murray didn't hit the 20-point mark again in the next nine games and was sent to the bench when Denver played Atlanta. Since then, he's been good, but also inconsistent.

But over the last four games, Murray has three games with 30 or more points, and while there was an eight-point effort in the middle, it seems that this offense is finally clicking with Murray as its volume shooter. Even with Harris back, Murray led the team in shot attempts on Thursday, finishing with 24 shots and 36 points. He was 6-for-12 from deep.

The Nuggets will eventually be a team that's more complete, able to spread the ball around to guys like Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas. But for now, Murray seems to be taking over the role as the team's top scoring option. Fantasy owners should like what they're seeing, and anyone who bought low on him when he was struggling should be very pleased with their investment.


What's Going On With Iman Shumpert?

Sacramento Kings forward Iman Shumpert was a great waiver wire pick-up for a lot of people this year, but after scoring nothing on Thursday night (right on the heels of eight-point and a nine-point games) has me worried.

Shumpert has never been a great player, but in year eight he's seen his three-point field goal percentage reach a career high. It's hard to judge what something like that means for a player who has been in the NBA that long, to know if it's another step in his development or an anomaly that will end up closer to the sub-30 percent marks he put up last year and in the 2015-2016 season.

The Kings, at 19-19, are far more competitive than expected, but are currently on the outside looking in for the final playoff spot in the West, and despite their improvements, the most likely scenario going forward is that the team winds up plunging under .500 and staying there. And if this team does leave competitive mode, how long is the leash for Iman Shumpert when someone like Justin Jackson is on the bench and could be given a chance to show off what he can do in more extended minutes? (Sure, Jackson is likely not that good compared to the average NBA player, and he has the third-worst PIPM on the team behind two rookies, Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles, but there's still a better chance he's part of this team's future than Shumpert is.)

So, what do we do with Shumpert? In deeper leagues, I still like him for now in case he breaks out of this slump, but if you picked him up in a 10-teamer? Cut him loose! Move on! Find someone else on the wire who is actually performing right now.


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