Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Shaun Livingston made a bold proclamation when asked the impact James Harden might have this season.
"He has the type of ability he could run away with Rookie of the Year, depending on what that guy in LA does,” Livingston said. "That shows how much confidence I have in him, how much I believe in him.”
Reminded "that guy in LA,” Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick who played at OU, is a local icon, Livingston said: "I don’t want people around here to be mad at me. But (Harden) is the No. 3 pick and I still think he’s underrated.
"The kid is experienced beyond his age. He has a point guard’s feel for the game in a two-guard’s body. He can score, play defense, get you a big stop, get you a rebound. And he can really pass the ball. I think he’s going to bring a lot to this team.”
Griffin is the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award. But several Thunder teammates, having played with Harden during voluntary workouts the past few weeks, raved about the Los Angeles native entering training camp, which started Tuesday.
"James gives us a shooter,” said veteran Nick Collison. "We really missed a good, knock-down perimeter shooter. I think he can become that. And he can score, slash and do other things.”
A 6-foot-5 left-handed shooting guard, Harden is best known for his perimeter shooting. But general manager Sam Presti selected Harden because of his all-around skills and knowledge, especially for a 20-year-old.
"James displayed in summer league he can do a lot of things well,” said coach Scott Brooks. "Obviously, he can score the basketball. But that’s not his main focus. His main focus is being a playmaker, defending and helping his teammates get better.