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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
ey’re young and they’re great and they have great chemistry there. So I want to go in there and try to help them out.

“I have different paces to my game. I’m not the fastest guy. I’m not the most explosive guy. But I get from Point A to Point B.”

Harden has the potential to slip into the starting lineup immediately between Westbrook and Durant.

Westbrook endorsed Harden in the current edition of ESPN The Magazine when the publication asked a player from each team with a first-round selection which draft prospect they would take.

“He can handle, shoot and he’s athletic,” Westbrook is quoted as saying. “And he was in a good system at Arizona State.”

The addition of Harden, who doesn’t turn 20 until Aug. 26, continues the Thunder’s trend of building with young players. Durant won’t be 21 until Sept. 29, Westbrook doesn’t turn 21 until Nov. 21 and Green will be just 23 on Aug. 28.

“I don’t think it’s wrong when you’re building to play all young players as long as they have high basketball IQ and high basketball character,” said ESPN analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy.

Harden became the first player drafted out of Arizona State in the top five since New Orleans coach Byron Scott in 1983.

“The reason why I like it is because they have guys that love to play the game of basketball,” said ESPN analyst and former point guard Mark Jackson. “You watch them in the off-season, they play together, they work hard. With quality guys, young talent doesn’t matter.”

Harden, a Los Angeles native, sounded excited about the prospects of joining what is widely considered to be one of the most talented young teams in the league. “Just going in there and helping those guys out, Kevin Durant and Russell is going to be a great honor,” Harden said.

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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