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Oklahoma City Thunder: point counterpoint between WTLC’s Sherman and Broom; Harden 2.0 ripthrough, rule manipulation or smart basketball?

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WTLC’s Site Manager (Sherman) and Managing Editor (Broom) debate the “Harden rip-through,” and more in part 1 of an ongoing series

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Two Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

#1: The James Harden rip move 2.0. A legit move, and how do you defend against it?

Broom: While I respect the talents of James Harden, I find his technically legal "rip-through" move appalling. To me, it equates to nothing more than a blatant manipulation of the NBA's rule book.

I don't have the advanced numbers on hand, but I'm willing to venture that many of Harden's 10.9 FTA's result from his flailing tactics.

Witnessing such an otherwise skilled, and imaginative player throw his limbs into players daring enough to fight over screens is both disappointing and nauseating.

I'm a pretty low-key guy, but I was screaming full blast Wed night as "Big-Game James" only waited behind screens to flout the officials, and NBA public, while amassing 18-of-20 FTM in a contest OKC deserved to win.

Also, as if Harden's theatrics weren't enough, Russell Westbrook, who doesn't fish for calls, cannot get a whistle even when he's hip checked while attempting a patented pull-up jumper.

I counted multiple plays where Russ was deprived free-throws, as Harden bull-rushed his defender and sealed Houston's win from the charity stripe.

Again, while technically legal, the only way to defend such a move is to go under the screen, while maintaining a fully vertical plane.

That stated, next season, the NBA should enact the "James Harden rule" to counteract his brand of offensive flopping.

Sherman: As much as I hate to admit it, I am kind of in awe of the Harden Rip Move 2.0. And it's because it is practically a set play for the Rockets, and a fascinating look at how players can 'hack' the game the way I used to hack Sega NHL '95 by using the passing button to take shots on goal.

In game 2, there was a close-up of Harden and Nene working against Oladipo, I think. Harden came off the Nene screen, Dipo reached, and Harden essentially closed Dipo's arm between the space that was previously between he and Nene, pinning it against Harden. Nene then pivoted forward, which pushed Dipo into Harden, who was already in his shooting motion. The foul call was automatic.

It's sneaky, insidious, and clearly not what the rule book had in mind. But I still kind of respect the way they keep pulling it off.

#2: Does OKC hit the market for a backup PG this summer, or stick with the Semaj Christon project?

Sherman: As many know, I'm not as down on Semaj as most others, and the reason why is because I know that we're in year 1 of a 2 year project. It isn't where OKC ends up this year that matters, it's next year.

While it is true that Semaj doesn't really do anything well at this point, I have to ask, who are we comparing him to? In my opinion, the best backup PGs are all seasoned veterans - Shawn Livingston, Patty Mills, Corey Joseph. Is one of those types of guys out there available? I don't know. I do know that Cameron Payne was a complete bust, and I would be highly hesitant to go into the draft again looking for a guy like that.

And at the end of the day, I think he's earned a shot. He's outlived Ronnie Price, Payne, and is definitely more reliable than Norris Cole. I think he's worth a gamble rolling into the offseason to see if he can develop his jump shot and get more consistent on defense.

Broom: Following an eye-opening 16' Orlando Summer League performance, I openly touted Semaj Christon's heart and combo-guard potential. Therefore, naturally, when Semaj received a camp invite, I was optimistic.

Further, as veteran Ronnie Price was added to the late-summer fold, my pro-Semaj colors ran deep enough to question if mgt. somehow neglected to realize Christon's ability.

However, when OKC's opening-day roster was revealed, with Semaj in tow, I waxed theoretical concerning what the athletic 6"3 guard might contribute-- especially in light of Cam's injury.

As the season opened, I was intrigued, and felt, along with R.K., that though his stats didn't reflect it, Christon handled himself well within a reserve capacity.

But then, amid a short-lived smattering of hype, Payne returned from injury, and Christon was assigned to the Blue.

I’m conveinced that moment proved critical in Semaj' consequent downfall.

For when Christon returned, his demeanor, energy, and overall play plummeted. So detrimental has Christon become over the second-half, that I feel we've sampled enough Semaj to realize he doesn't meet the Thunder’s needs.

Now, concerning Christon, I only wonder what his team might accomplish if it possessed a league-average backup pg, instead of a historically faltering one.

#3: When Billy D said "can't play Kanter," that wasn't a 'context' statement was it? It was a full-on political gaffe.

Broom: I feel Donovan was speaking from a heated, yet lucid personal angst concerning Kanter's defensive liabilities. Coach B.D.'s delivery of opinion was adamant due to the fact that limiting Kanter's minutes hamstrings OKC's offense in a series which requires scoring punch.

Sometimes the tongue gets the better of the brain, and before a world-wide audience, following Enes' weak rotation, thus allowing an easy Capela lob-dunk, Donovan realized the implications of losing Kanter's elite point-generating abilities in light of his inability to guard Houston's mobile bigs.

So to answer the question: full-on, yet unapologetic political gaffe.

#4: Moving forward, should Presti bring in a starting two so Oladipo can assume a bench role. Or, is Victor starting material on a 50+ win team?

Broom: I agree that Oladipo’s skill-set, on a quality team, is best suited toward a sixth-man role. While I’m high on Abrines, I don’t feel his defense is quite ready for prime time.

If Presti decides to make a push up the Western ladder next season, a quality shooting guard/wing will need to be acquired in order to ease Oladipo’s second-unit transition.

As stated, I am a huge proponent of our youth-movement, and Abrines leads the pack.

However, I feel as if Presti will make moves to shore up the perimeter this off-season.

Sherman: I am a big fan of Oladipo moving to the bench. He's had to learn numerous systems in a few short years, and though his skill and athleticism is enticing, he hasn't really found his sweet spot yet. As we have seen in other such young Thunder players as James Harden and Reggie Jackson, providing talented players the opportunity to play against 2nd units - and have an immediate impact on games' outcomes - is a great way to coach them up to greater roles and responsibilities.

My bold prediction - Alex Abrines moves to the starting 2-guard role as he learns the NBA game, particularly on the defensive end. This will free up Dipo to play a key role with the 2nd unit but still get 30 minutes a night as he'll likely have a hand in closing sets as well, just like Harden/Jackson did.


Stick with Sherm vs Broom throughout these playoffs as we will be bringing this new series to you to give you our quick takes on the playoff things worth talking about.