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Tramel: James Harden seems to fit in Sam Presti's plan

by Berry Tramel Modified: June 29, 2009 at 8:20 am •  Published: June 29, 2009

James Harden was not necessarily the best player available to the Thunder in the NBA Draft. But he was the best fit.

Fit has been the Thunder's favorite buzzword since Sam Presti took over this franchise two summers ago. It's not very exotic to talk about fit — does the piece fit? — but it's absolutely relevant in the building of this franchise.

And here's why. The Thunder now has four top-five picks from the last three drafts. That's a rush of top-shelf talent almost unmatched in NBA draft history. Only the Chicago Bulls, with four players from 2000-02, have done such an extreme roster makeover using elite draft picks.

Now think about it. Famously talented players who always have been the center of their basketball universe, suddenly grouped into a team that by definition is struggling to win (hence the early picks), carrying the future of the franchise. And only one ball to go around.

That's a recipe for selfishness and discontent. High draft picks are a blessing, but if not used wisely, they can become a curse.

Which is why Harden is the first draft pick in Thunder history and joins Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, chosen when the franchise was in Seattle, in this transforming cavalcade.

"We just feel like James Harden is our type of guy," Presti said. "Complete player. Great skill set. Really has a team-first mentality.

"There's some Jeff Green to his approach to the game."

That's all you need to know. Durant is and is going to be the star of this franchise. No telling how good Westbrook will be, and he's plenty good now.

But Green is the epitome of what Presti wants to build. An excellent player but blue-collar to the core. Willing to play out of position. Willing to play second chair to the prodigy, Durant. Willing to voluntarily come out on a hot summer day and sit on the sideline as Harden had his moment Saturday, introduced to OKC media and fans, supporting his new teammate.

The Thunder won't give much higher praise than comparisons to Jeff Green.

"One thing we value is high-character guys," said coach Scott Brooks. Harden "wants to be part of something special."

During pre-draft interviews, the Thunder was impressed with Harden's humility and modesty.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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