Brett Deering/Getty Images
Starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha sat out in Monday night's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers due to a foot injury.
Sixth Man-of-the-Year frontrunner, James Harden, started in his place.
Not a bad replacement, right?
While starting alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden looked hesitant and passive.
The super-sub managed to take only two shots in the opening period, while the two superstars combined for 15 of the team’s 21 total attempts. Together, Westbrook and Durant scored the team’s first 21 points, until Nick Collison made a layup with 33 seconds remaining.
To begin the second quarter, the Thunder floored a lineup of Harden, Nick Collison, Daequan Cook, Reggie Jackson, and Nazr Mohammed.
Before Westbrook and Durant returned at the 8:39 mark, Harden was decisive and aggressive. He put pressure on the Clippers’ back court, and drew fouls on three consecutive possessions while driving to the basket, After Durant and Westbrook returned, however, Harden finished the quarter off with a single shot attempt and a turnover.
While I’m not suggesting that his teammates are detrimental to his play, it’s clear that Harden is better served as a bench player who plays "starter" minutes.
Coach Scottie Brooks’ decision to start Harden proved to have a ripple effect.
In his start, Harden logged over 42 minutes of play, but scored only 7 points. In comparison, Sefolosha has season averages of 20.9 minutes and 5.2 points per game.
To account for Harden’s 16.4 points off the bench, the Thunder turned to Cook. Although Cook scored 12 points in his extended role, all of his points came on three-point shots during the 4th quarter – well after the outcome had been decided.
Even though the Thunder roster three dangerous scorers, they seem better suited in their normal rotation.
Harden spent the majority of his playing time on the court with Durant and Westbrook. The duo combined for 49 of the Thunder’s 78 total field goal attempts (62.8 percent).
With those two dominating the ball so much, it’s no wonder why Harden had such a hard time finding his rhythm.