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Thunder selects James Harden with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft

Darnell Mayberry Modified: June 26, 2009 at 5:32 am •  Published: June 26, 2009
James Harden pounded his cream three-piece suit and bow-tie-covered chest and smiled.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had just made the Arizona State shooting guard the third overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

Harden is now the newest member of the Thunder’s talented young core, joining Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. The Pac-10 Player of the Year seemingly will become the team’s shooting guard of the future and serve as the answer to the Thunder’s perimeter shooting problems last season.

The Thunder passed on Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, who is widely considered the second best prospect behind former Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. In doing so, Oklahoma City avoided a potential predicament in which the 18-year-old Spanish sensation likely would have moved Westbrook to shooting guard.

Rubio, who the Thunder showed increased interest in over the past week, was available to the Thunder when the Los Angeles Clippers used the first selection on Griffin and Memphis passed on the Rubio in favor of Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet.

Harden is regarded as one of the most polished players in the draft. He is touted for having a high basketball IQ, great instincts and excellent decision-making. He led the Pac-10 in scoring with 20.1 points to go with 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 steals as a sophomore for the Sun Devils last season.

Harden is expected to help an Oklahoma City team that ranked 28th in 3-point percentage at 34.6 percent. Harden converted 35.6 percent of his 3-point shot attempts this past season.

Questions about Harden include how capable of a defender he is, whether the left-hander can attack the basket going right and if he can develop a mid-range shooting game. Critics have also said Harden isn’t a great athlete, a notion he proved largely inaccurate during athletic testing at the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago.

“I don’t think I need to prove anything,” Harden told ESPN after being drafted. “I just need to go in there and work hard and try my best to earn a spot on that team.

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Thursday's NBA First Round Draft Picks

1. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma

2. Memphis Grizzlies: Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden, G, Arizona State

4. Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans, G, Memphis

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, G, Spain

6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jonny Flynn, G, Syracuse

7. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry, G, Davidson

8. New York Knicks: Jordan Hill, F, Arizona

9. Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, G, USC

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, G, Italy

11. New Jersey Nets: Terrence Williams, G, Louisville

12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson, G, Duke

13. Indiana Pacers: Tyler Hansbrough, F, North Carolina

14. Phoenix Suns: Earl Clark, F, Louisville

15. Detroit Pistons: Austin Daye, F, Gonzaga

16. Chicago Bulls: James Johnson, F, Wake Forest

17. Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday, G, UCLA

18. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Miami): Ty Lawson, G, North Carolina

19. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague, G, Wake Forest

20. Utah Jazz: Eric Maynor, G, Virginia Commonwealth

21. New Orleans Hornets: Darren Collison, G, UCLA

22. Portland Trail Blazers (from Dallas): Victor Claver, F, Spain

23. Sacramento Kings (from Houston): Omri Casspi, F, Israel

24. Dallas Mavericks (from Portland): B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (from San Antonio): Rodrigue Beaubois, G, Guadeloupe

26. Chicago Bulls (from Denver via Oklahoma City): Taj Gibson, F, USC

27. Memphis Grizzlies (from Orlando): DeMarre Carroll, F, Missouri

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Boston): Wayne Ellington, G, North Carolina

29. Los Angeles Lakers: Toney Douglas, G, Florida State

30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Christian Eyenga, G/F, Congo


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