James Harden: Time to Fear the Beard

Ernest ShepardAnalyst IIIJune 12, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 31:  James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts in the third quarter while taking on the San Antonio Spurs in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 31, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

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.