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.
* Curry no doubt enjoys starting and averaging 34.9 minutes a game in his career. How much would he enjoy not starting and playing maybe half those minutes? Ever heard Harden complain about playing time or not starting? A young player accepting his role is always a huge plus.
* Had Curry been in OKC, would Westbrook have developed into an All-Star reserve in just three seasons? Remember, the more minutes for Curry, the longer it takes Westbrook to grow at the position.
* There is only one basketball. The more shots Curry takes, the fewer shots everybody else gets. That hasn't been a problem for him in Golden State, but it could have been a potentially big problem in OKC. Would Durant have become the NBA's youngest scoring champ last season if he's sharing shots with Curry? Could Curry have adapted to taking 7.9 shots per game (Harden's career average) rather than 14.2 shots (Curry's career average)?
* Curry was runner-up to Sacramento's Tyreke Evans for 2009-10 Rookie of the Year. Harden has since joined the discussion for Sixth Man of the Year. A win-win.
* Where would OKC be defensively with the offensive-minded Curry? Harden often struggles on defense, but there has been some notable improvement.
* If the Thunder had Curry, it likely would not have Eric Maynor, Nazr Mohammed, Daequan Cook or Cole Aldrich.
Because Curry primarily would play point guard for the Thunder, there would have been no trade to acquire a rock-solid backup in Maynor from Utah in Dec. 2009.
There also likely would have been no interest in acquiring Cook, who is shooting 43.4 percent (46 for 106) from 3-point range since Brooks consistently started bringing him off the bench on Jan. 28.
OKC had a 27-win improvement last season, which gave the Thunder the necessary draft assets to trade for the No. 11 pick in Aldrich, which in turn brought in Morris Peterson from New Orleans, which eventually led to the acquisition of Mohammed from Charlotte.
Would Curry also have spurred a 27-win improvement? Maybe, maybe not, but it's hard to argue with what has transpired without him.
The Thunder is 98-56 (.636) with Harden on its roster and will advance to the playoffs for a second straight season.
Golden State is almost the exact opposite with Curry at 58-98 (.372).