3. Harden sacrificed stardom in OKC
Over the course of Harden’s three years in Oklahoma City, it was clear that he deserved to be a starter. In fact, Harden had a player efficiency rating of 21.1 during his final year in OKC, which was third-best on the team behind only Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Harden had a true shooting percentage of 66 percent, which was second-best in the entire league. Not only that, this was the best true shooting percentage in NBA history among shooting guards. Harden also made 39 percent of his 3-pointers that season, which was second-best on the Thunder. In spite of these feats, Thunder coach Scott Brooks had Harden coming off the bench behind Thabo Sefolosha.
During the postseason that year, Harden was one of only three players on the team to average double-figures in scoring, behind only KD and Russ. Harden also led the team in 3-point shooting, as he made 41 percent of his triples, in a reserve role.
During the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Harden averaged 18.5 points per game, which was second behind only KD. He also made 60.9 percent of his 3-pointers, which was a team-high during the series.
Harden joined Durant and Westbrook as the only three players to average double-figures in the 2011-12 regular season, and he was one of only three players to play in at least 50 games and average 10+ points during the 2010-11 season. Although Harden didn’t play as well during the NBA Finals, he was yet again one of only three Thunder players to average at least 12 points per game.
Harden ultimately made the United States Olympic team, in spite of his less-than-subpar performance in the Finals, which goes to show the caliber of player Harden had become prior to his stint with the Houston Rockets.
It’s clear that Harden would’ve forever remained in the shadows of KD and Russ if he weren’t traded to the Houston Rockets, and he likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show that he was ready to be a superstar.
From this angle, the Rockets trade was the best move for Harden from a career standpoint, as there’s no way he would’ve been given the same type of role he had in Houston. Harden has already proven himself to be arguably the best scorer in NBA history, and that wouldn’t have been possible while playing on the same team as Durant.
It’s fair for Perkins to feel like Harden’s departure disrupted what could’ve been, but this was the best move for Harden. And not only that….
Next: No. 2