As Bill Simmons mentioned in his column today, fans will likely wonder for a long time if Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti made the right call by drafting low-risk shooting guard James Harden with the third overall pick over Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, and Tyreke Evans. Curry and Evans have put up far better numbers than Harden so far, but play the same position as Russell Westbrook, one of the Thunder’s key players. A backcourt featuring any of those three guards alongside Westbrook certainly would have a ton of upside, and could easily have given the Thunder one of the most exciting and dynamic offenses in the league.
However, Harden has been able to come in right away and contribute to an NBA playoff team, which is something that neither Rubio, Curry, or Evans can claim. On Daily Thunder today, J.G. Hastings has a post up that shows how valuable Harden has been to the Thunder, even if he’s been quite a bit less spectacular than some of the point guards the Thunder passed up to draft him.
As Hastings notes, the Thunder have struggled to get any scoring from their shooting guard spot since Harden went down with an injury, and their bench production has also suffered. Harden hasn’t been incredible in any one area over the course of his short NBA career, and has struggled mightily to finish at the rim. However, Harden’s versatility has allowed him to be effective in a number of ways coming off the bench, particularly with his outside shooting and playmaking.
One final thought: If Harden was healthy, he probably would have been the one left alone when the Spurs double-teamed Kevin Durant on the Thunder’s final possession last night. Since Harden is a 37.7% three-point shooter, that may have been a gamble the Spurs were unwilling to take. Instead, 30% three-point shooter Thabo Sefolosha was the one given the open looked, and he fired a brick to give the Spurs the game. If Harden had been on the floor, it may have meant the difference between a win and a loss in a game crucial for playoff seeding in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference.