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ATS Summer League Microscope - James Harden - Oklahoma City Thunder

The last person under the ATS Summer League Microscope was #3 pick James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was a bit tough to evaluate in this 73-54 loss against the Dallas Mavericks. His team was playing their last game of Summer League. They all appeared tired and disinterested and understandably so. The team was playing their 10th game in 12 days. I know Harden sat out at least one of them, but that is still a lot of basketball. So, take this with a bigger than usual grain of salt.

The Obvious Bad

Whether or not it was because he was tired, he was terribly lazy on the defensive end. This seems to be a condition that affects a large number of rookies. He stood around on the weak side of the defense. He didn't look to box out when a shot went up. He was four steps slow to help on a penetrator. You name it, he was slow to do it if at all on the defensive end. The only time he really hustled was to steal a long outlet pass on a Mavericks break. Of course, he threw it right away.

On offense, he was also fairly uninvolved. Of his 11 points, 9 were created in transition. The only 2 from the half-court offense were when the defense broke down and he was able to drive straight to the rim from the free throw line and draw a foul. He drifted away from the ball. He threw ineffective and lazy passes out of double teams. In fact, almost all his passes were lazy and lacked crispness.

Also on offense, he didn't work to use his screens. He didn't cut hard. He just came around them without any urgency. Thus, the screens never opened him up for shots.

The Obvious Good

Physically, he's a very solid shooting guard. He's 6' 5" and a solid 220 pounds. His entire body is very thick, and especially his upper body. He also has really long arms.

He is a very smooth athlete. On the break, he showed a very slippery move to the hoop with a quick step. His slipperiness combined with his size makes him very formidable in the open court and when attacking the basket on the weak side of the defense.

He also seems to have a natural feel for the game. It is hard to quantify, but when you watch him you know you are watching a basketball player. Not just an athlete. You don't see any mechanical in him.

The Not So Obvious Bad

There are two issues with his shot that I think may cause him some problems.

One, he has a very low release point. He shoots from his shoulder right next to his cheek. This, combined with his lack of superior height for a shooting guard, will allow shorter players to cover him AND allow longer players to really cause him problems. Rodrigue Beaubois of the Mavericks, on the other hand, is only 6' 2" tall but will play MUCH taller offensively because he has a release point above his head and also has very long arms.

Two, he shoots with the ball deep in his palm. I think this will keep him from being a very consistent shooter. Like I said, he has a nice feel for the game and this includes his shot, but I think the mechanics of his shot will lead him to be very streaky.


All in all, there isn't a hell of a lot to not like about him. He'll obviously have to work harder away from the ball and on defense, but that is true of any player. Nothing in his demeanor gave many any indication that he has a bad attitude.