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James Harden "Dope Sheet" - All The Info For Thunder Fans

With the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected James Harden a 6'5" 222 pound shooting guard from Arizona State. For months here at Welcome To Loud City we have pinned down Harden as the main target for the Thunder with the third pick, among other potential picks. The Thunder desperately needed a shooting guard and a complimentary shooter and scorer with some range to play alongside Kevin Durant. Before we launch into the dope sheet (scouting report, basically), let's link you to all of the previous pieces that we've had involving James Harden in preparation for the draft:

All of those are extremely detailed articles, and so you can see we already have had quite an extensive preview of James Harden, more so than any other prospect. Luckily for us, Sam Presti drafted Harden, so we don't necessarily need to re-invent the wheel. You should find a lot of information in any of those three articles.

The Thunder avoided any drama by passing on Ricky Rubio, who was available at #3 for Sam Presti to take. Apparently, Rubio is not even certain he'll play in the NBA next season after he was drafted by the Timberwolves. If he plays another year in Spain, his buyout will be substantially reduced. And if he plays two more seasons in Spain, then he is free to go whereever he pleases. Also, Hasheem Thabeet was off the board already, as Memphis selected him at #2.

With all of that business out of the way, the good stuff after the jump!

College Numbers

FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2008 - James Harden 35 35.8 6.3 12.9 48.9 1.7 4.7 35.6 5.8 7.7 75.6 1.4 4.2 5.6 4.2 3.4 1.7 0.3 2.8 20.1

As you can see, James Harden was a guy who put the ball in the basket - a lot. Obviously, that's what the Thunder need after finishing in the bottom five in the league in shooting percentage. He shot the ball at a 49% clip which is pretty good for a shooting guard who has range. He also averaged close to 2 treys a game shooting those at about a 36% clip. Perhaps more importantly than the scoring figures, Harden put up a fairly well rounded stat line with 5.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, and 1.7 spg.

Harden ranked 21st in the NCAA (14th of draft eligible players) at 24.5 points per 40 minutes. He was among the statistical leaders in player efficiency rating in the college ranks, and he also had some of the highest usage rates in the NCAA. It's a testament to Harden's scoring prowess that he is able to put up such efficient and gaudy offensive numbers despite using a high percentage of his team's possessions.

Some more statistical views, mainly from DraftExpress:

  • "None of the 5 players who used as many possessions as Harden (Marcus Thornton, Jermaine Taylor, Jodie Meeks, Jerel McNeal, Dar Tucker) were as efficient as he was from the field. Out of those players, only Meeks' PPP was higher than Harden’s, thanks to how many 3's he made"
  • "Harden was a terrific finisher around the basket this season. Not only did he get to the rim more than any other player on our list (8.7 Pos/G), he ranked in first comfortably at 1.25 PPP (points per possession)."
  • "He was terrific on the very few catch and shoot opportunities he received with his feet set (2.4 Pos/G), but really struggled when being contested (.85 PPP) or shooting off the dribble (.73 PPP). In fact, the 27% he shot from the field off the dribble is the lowest of any of the nineteen players in our sample."
  • "Harden created quite a bit of offense by himself in isolation type situations—his 5.2 possessions per game ranks just behind Dar Tucker amongst the 19 we looked at."


Scouting Report - The Positives

  • "Much of Harden’s scoring came off the dribble, where he has great control and cunning to get high quality shots. He loses his man fairly easily with a array of pre-dribble moves and zig-zag, between the legs shakes. Once Harden has his man on his hip, he is quick enough to not be caught and nimble enough to sharply split defenders if there is a help defender on the perimeter...He’ll hit floaters, lay-ups and frequently use the glass. Though not explosive, he is agile and elusive in the air."
  • "One thing Harden does extremely well when penetrating into the lane is his vision to pass to an open big on the weak side or to kick out to a spot-up shooter. Even though he is a true shooting guard, he has a lot of the same characteristics of a point guard when he is a passer."
  • "He has a good stroke, good arc, good touch and a consistent, compact form. He has really good range, able to successfully extend out to the NBA three."
  • "Harden is a pure scorer from the perimeter. A left-handed deadeye shooter"
  • "Despite a lack of height for the position, Harden has a solid build to shrug off some of the best defenders in the league to create space for his step-back jumper."
  • ""He's one of those kids that's a throwback from a different era," one NBA general manager was quoted. "His background came back as clean as it gets. His coach and teammates rave about him. He's all business on and off the court."  --The Oklahoman
  • "Because he's left-handed and has a similar build and perimeter game, Harden has been compared to Michael Redd, the Milwaukee All-Star who played on the U.S. Olympic team."  --The Oklahoman
  • "His game translates very well to the next level because of his length and he anticipates well, whether that's getting to a spot for a shot or defensively. In high school he led us in charges two years in a row."  --(Harden's High School Coach) The Oklahoman
  • "Said one Eastern Conference scout, "He's an above average athlete." .... "He's not slow," the scout said. "He still needs to show me he can shoot it as well as some people think. ... Wherever he ends up he'll be a very good NBA player for a long time." --The Oklahoman
  • "He also ran 11.10 in lane agility, only .01 slower than Hornets All-Star guard Chris Paul ran in 2005. He also displayed good strength (17 repetitions of 200 pounds)."  --The Oklahoman
  • He plays hard on the defensive end and is an above average on-the-ball defender. He's also a pretty good defensive rebounder. With Westbrook, the Thunder might have one of the best rebounding guard tandems in the league.
  • He shows an uncanny knack to get fouled and get to the free throw line. Additionally, he usually makes great decisions, is very efficient, and is a team player.
  • He has a great hesitation move that he can use to get by guys. He likes to drive to the basket, an attacking mentality not unlike Russell Westbrook.

Scouting Report - The Negatives

  • "When weak side defenders are quick to cut him off, especially defenders with size, his efficiency rate goes down dramatically."
  • "Harden’s perimeter shot is more set shot than jump shot, where he barely elevates off the ground. He has been able to get away with this because of how much defenders respect the way he puts the ball on the deck and also because he has a fairly quick release with it."
  • "In the NBA, most two guards are at least 6-6 or taller, which could present difficult matchups on both sides of the floor for the 6-5 Harden."
  • "The scouting report on Harden is to run him off the 3-point line and make him shoot from the midrange. He tends to favor the left side while ignoring opportunities to score from the right."
  • His last appearance on a basketball court - the NCAA tournament - was not his best. Some thought that he folded under the pressure, and that he absolutely did not perform up to his talent level at all.
  • He can be somewhat turnover prone. His turnovers per game stood at 3.4 last year, good for 11th among players eligible to be drafted.

Pre-Draft Combine Numbers

Height: 6' 4"    Height in Shoes: 6' 5.25"    Weight: 222   
Wingspan: 6' 10.75"   Standing Reach: 8' 7.5"    Body Fat: 10.1%  
Stand Vertical: 31.5"    Max Vertical: 37.0"    Bench Press: 17 reps
Lane Agility: 11.10 sec.    3/4 Court Sprint: 3.13 sec.

I'll give you a small taste of what I put in the earlier article, which you can read here. "The two numbers that really caught my eyes were the sprint and the bench press. His sprint time was the 8th best at the combine, and much better than other "supposedly more athletic" shooting guard prospects. I had no idea that Harden was a speedster. His bench press reps are quite impressive as well, as it indicates that he has quite a bit of strength. I imagine that this is part of the reason why he manages to score a lot, because he can muscle into the lane, along with doing a lot of other things well."


I would say that given his talent level and maturity (especially for a guy coming out after his sophomore year), Harden stands a good chance of cracking the starting lineup by the season opener. He should be an excellent complimentary player to the people the Thunder already have, if all of his statistics and scouting reports are accurate. His slashing style and physicality should give the Thunder an interesting guard tandem. Westbrook and Harden will both be great rebounders and great passers, and both will have a tendency to drive to the hoop and kick the ball out. If Green can get more consistent from distance, Durant and Green could have quite a few more open shots in the coming years. We shall see how Harden does in the coming camps over the next few months, but at present it seems like a solid pick by Sam Presti.