Monday, March 23, 2009


James Harden's woefully disappointing performance in the Big Dance almost certainly drops him out of the top 3. He looked nothing like I was accustomed to seeing in the regular season. He was passive, too unselfish, and did not rise to the occasion when his team needed him the most. Harden usually plays it cool in the first half then takes over the game when it's crunch time. His stock should fall a few spots, and perhaps the Warriors will get a chance to draft him at #8 or #9. That all depends on how much weight scouts and GM's put into tournament play.

The PAC-10 Player of the Year is now in danger of being knocked off as the top shooting guard in the draft. DeMar DeRozan, who has come on strong as of late, may be the guy that does it. Harden is hands-down, the best passer among the SG's but his disappearing act the last few games shakes my confidence in his pro future a little. If one judges him by his entire body of work while at USC rather than just the last 3 games, few would have a problem taking him at #8 or #9. Unfortunately for Harden (and possibly to the benefit of the Warriors), those last three games are what many scouts remember the most.

If Harden wants to regain his status as the top SG in the draft, he'll go straight to Tim Grover and go to work on improving his strength, athleticism, stamina, and game.

Tim Grover's A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics Training Center

From Draft Express:

On the other hand, James Harden had yet another underwhelming NCAA tournament performance, concluding a weekend that will raise eyebrows even amongst his biggest supporters, and clearly opening up the discussion for who the third best prospect in the draft is after Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio (if he declares). The concerns around Harden have always revolved around whether or not he has enough of a go-to mentality to warrant being picked in the top-5, as most teams would obviously like to get a franchise caliber talent that high in the draft. This weekend put those questions right back onto the table.

Harden had yet another passive, lethargic start, similar to the way he performed in the first half against Temple. He actually finished the first half without a single point, and wasn’t able to pick up a field goal until the 9:30 mark in the second half. There is no question that Syracuse’s defensive game-plan had a lot to do with the way Harden played, as they adjusted their 2-3 zone significantly to try and deny him the ball, at the risk of leaving other players—such as Rihard Kuksiks (6/13 3P) and Ty Abbot (6/10 3P) wide open.

It was a little bit concerning to see the lack of aggressiveness Harden showed trying to overcome that, though, as he gave up the ball quite easily on numerous possessions without even looking at the rim, and just didn’t display much urgency trying to make things happen. Late in the game (just like against Temple) Harden got a lot more aggressive and immediately started making things happen on the floor, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the free throw line a few times, picking up a nice steal, grabbing a crucial offensive rebound and making some great passes. It was too little, too late, though, and you have to wonder why it took him so long to get going. He also had problems finishing around the basket, which is not surprising considering that he’s not terribly explosive.

Harden’s resume speaks for itself, and there is no question that he is the top shooting guard prospect in this draft. Considering that he’s only 19 years old, he’s only going to improve as he continues to gain experience and understands how to better utilize his incredible all-around talent. His performance here in the NCAA tournament didn’t help his draft stock, though, and definitely opens up the door for him to be leapfrogged by other players. At the end of the day, that might not be the end of the world, as he’s clearly the type of player who needs to find the right fit.

Related Links
Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day Four) - Draft Express
Harden: No decision yet on NBA draft - Associated Press
Scouting the NCAAs: James Harden goes out so quietly you could hear his draft stock drop - Tim Kawakami
Big Dance, bigger mistakes - Ric Bucher
Orange Shut Down Harden, and Sun Devils Follow - New York Times
The transition game, from college to pro - Los Angeles Times
ASU’s James Harden named Pac-10 Player of the Year - Arizona Sports Examiner

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