Still wishing the Thunder had taken Stephen Curry instead of James Harden?

BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 28, 2011

For the last year and a half, Thunder reserve guard James Harden has suffered the slings and arrows of not being Golden State golden child Stephen Curry.

More than a few fans have publicly wondered and often preached how much better the Thunder would be had it taken Curry rather than Harden with the No. 3 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

This hypothesis reached its peak Dec. 5 inside Oklahoma City Arena when Curry, who was drafted at No. 7, exploded for 39 points while shooting 14 for 20 from the field, 4 for 7 from 3-point range and 7 for 7 from the line. He also had six assists, two steals and played 46 minutes.

Harden had a solid game, though not nearly as flashy with 12 points, 2 for 3 from 3-point range, 4 for 4 from the line, two rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes.

Curry and his fellow Warriors (32-42) once again visit the Thunder (48-24) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

In two games against OKC this season, Curry has averaged 42.0 minutes, 31.0 points, 9.5 assists, 2.0 steals and is shooting 63.2 percent from the field. As a rookie last season, he averaged 21.0 points, 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

General manager Sam Presti and coach Scott Brooks obviously won't discuss what the Thunder might be with Curry on its roster, which would be disrespectful to Curry, Harden and all teammates.

However, Presti and Brooks freely confirm Curry and Harden are superb fits precisely where they are. Harden particularly has excelled since the Thunder's trades 16 games ago with Boston and Charlotte.

The 21-year-old Harden is sandwiched between a pair of 22-year-old All-Stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the league's third-youngest roster.

The 23-year-old Curry plays alongside a should-be All-Star in fellow guard Monta Ellis.

To those longing for a Curry-Harden swap, a reality check: You can't simply swap stats.

Statistically, Curry dwarfs Harden. But this is the NBA, not a fantasy league. Players have to blend, feed off each other and make each other better. It's about chemistry, not raw numbers.

A few things to consider had OKC selected Curry rather than Harden:

* Curry wouldn't start for the Thunder. Westbrook is the starting point guard. You can't start Westbrook and Curry in the same backcourt. They're both 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. Starting two players that size works fine in college. Starting two that size in the NBA begs for a match-up problem. Harden is 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds.

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