For all the attention given to Russell Westbrook in recent times, it should be obvious to fans by now that the man from UCLA is not a natural point guard, but a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body.
Fortunately for Oklahoma City, they have a traditional point guard in Eric Maynor as Westbrook's backup. This ensures that whenever Scott Brooks wants to, he can actually bench Westbrook or move him to shooting guard in favour of a solid passer and decision-maker.
Therefore, the player Thunder fans should focus on right now is not Westbrook, but rather James Harden.
Why? Because what Oklahoma City needs to get to the top is a consistent second option offensively, and Harden is the prime candidate to fill that slot.
Ever since the departure of Jeff Green, Harden has been given more opportunities by Brooks to shoot the ball, and he has responded nicely, raising his scoring average from last season's 12.2 points per game to 17.5 points per game in four matches so far.
However, for the Thunder to win it all, that is insufficient.
As critics of Westbrook have pointed out, the third-year point guard makes questionable decisions at times and is inconsistent with his shots.
Also, the current Thunder starting lineup features Westbrook, an elite scorer in Kevin Durant and three defensive players in Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.
The defensive trio accounts for only 18.3 points per game in total, making it essential for Harden to evolve into a 20 points per game scorer, and he is capable of doing so.
Brooks may also have to determine whether Harden has improved enough defensively to become a starter. While Sefolosha is one of the elite perimeter defenders of the game, moving Harden into the starting lineup may allow the Thunder to build a large lead in the first quarter, thus allowing more room for mistakes later in the game.
At the end of the day, just Westbrook and Durant along with some defensive role players are not going to get the Thunder a championship. They will need a third scorer, and Harden looks to be the one to answer the call.
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