Former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus is on the verge of getting the job as head coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBA Development League, replacing Eric Musselman, who left for an assistant’s job with Arizona State.
James Harden is known for his “old school” 1990s playing style. The third-year, 6’5” guard has played a vital role in the Thunder’s success this season. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook garner all of the media attention while Harden goes about his business quietly and out of the spotlight. You can look at what he brings to the table on the basketball court, and body language suggests that James Harden just wants to win.
“Unselfish” was the description on Harden coming out of Arizona State in the ’09 NBA draft. His stat line as a sophomore included a 20.1 scoring average to go along with 5.6 rebounds per game. He had an all-around game in college that has translated well in the pros. The fact that Harden can do it all is why he is considered the X-factor for the Thunder going into the NBA Finals.
Durant offers the scoring punch, Westbrook offers the tenacious defense and James Harden adds a little bit of both plus the intangibles needed for the Thunder to be successful.
He is the floor leader from the very moment that he enters the game. Harden’s assist numbers (3.7 assists per game) is second on a team that runs a lot of isolation that is triggered by the use of screens.
The Thunder were ranked dead last in the NBA in assists per game with an 18.5 average, but with the talented one-on-one players the Thunder have, the assist numbers are misleading. Harden sets up the offense by telling players where to go on the court. He understands his teammates’ hot spots offensively and directs the defense—as well while guarding three different positions.
James Harden is the calm and cool of the Oklahoma City Thunder roster. He is the glue that holds together this very young team. Harden is to the Thunder as what James Worthy was to the Lakers and what Manu Ginobili is to the Spurs.
Players with all of the star qualities of their fellow teammates do a little bit of everything for the sake of winning. Worthy is a Hall of Famer and Ginobili will soon follow. In the case of James Harden, I think it is time to fear the beard.
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The Oklahoma City Thunder have been pegged as a title favorite since before the regular season began, and nothing is changing now that the playoffs have arrived.
Although it’s Russell Westbrook’s name that often gets attached to Kevin Durant‘s when discussing the talent on the Thunder roster, it’s James Harden who will be critical for this team’s chances of winning it all.
Harden, who has emerged as the favorite to win the Sixth Man of the Year award this season, has really created a role for himself as an incredibly efficient player.
After averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game on just 10.2 shots during the regular season (49 percent), Harden has scored 34 points over the first two games of the first round despite taking just 14 shots.
Additionally, Harden is shooting 42.9 percent from behind the three-point line and has made 19-of-20 free throws thus far in Oklahoma City’s first-round series.
But there’s more.
Harden gets touted as a scorer, but he’s much more than that.
The third-year rising star out of Arizona State is critical to making the offense work.
Westbrook is a scoring machine—he has to be for the Thunder. Oklahoma City relies on Westbrook’s scoring and need him to find the bottom of the net because that’s how the team is structured.
And that’s not a bad thing.
There have been jokes and jabs about Westbrook not being a “true” point guard, but nowhere in that conversation has been the topic of addressing what this team actually needs.
Again, Westbrook scoring in bunches is critical, especially in the postseason with a title on the line.
Here is where Harden becomes the key for Durant and the rest of the Thunder.
Harden already has more assists (eight) than Westbrook (seven) through two playoff games.
He’s also got an impressive 13 rebounds through the opening action of the first round, an element of his game that doesn’t get nearly enough credit.
But most importantly, Harden’s ability to space the floor and the success he has enjoyed playing alongside starters is what is going to matter most moving forward.
Harden might be coming off the bench, but he’s going to play heavy minutes throughout Oklahoma City’s title push, as evidenced by the 34 minutes he’s averaged through his team’s first two games.
Both Durant and Westbrook have been prone to off shooting nights previously, and if either one struggles in the playoffs, it’s Harden who will be forced to step up.
If Harden doesn’t produce the way his team needs him to, it’s going to make winning incredibly difficult regardless of what either Durant or Westbrook does.
The majority of attention will be paid to Oklahoma City’s dynamic duo, but it’s Harden who is the key for the team to live up to lofty aspirations and contend for the title.
Without strong play from the bearded one, this team is going to disappoint a lot of people expecting to see big things.
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