James Harden, you are the biggest loser.
No, we're not talking about pounds shed. This is about a possible promotion spoiled.
The third-year guard looks to be the Oklahoma City Thunder player who stands to lose the most in this NBA lockout. Now that training camps have been postponed, and the entire preseason schedule wiped out, Harden could lose out on the starting shooting guard spot many believe should now be his.
Only time will tell which direction Thunder coach Scott Brooks goes in. But with the training and exhibition portions of the schedule axed, and the first chunk of the regular season possibly being canceled Monday, time is not on Harden's side.
If we've learned anything about Brooks, it's that he's huge on consistency and continuity. And keeping Thabo Sefolosha in the first five offered Brooks those two luxuries. They became his safety net.
But Harden's performance in last year's postseason proved his skills can no longer be confined to a sixth-man role or minutes.
Take the Western Conference Finals against Dallas for example. Harden emerged as the ideal buffer between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. When the Mavs shut down the Thunder's offense by sending the house at Durant and Westbrook, it was Harden who could check in and immediately break down the defense. When Westbrook and Durant struggled to make plays, it was Harden who stepped up as a terrific third option.
In the regular season, Harden's presence in the first unit could help put an end to the Thunder's offensive droughts and the first- and third-quarter lulls that became so prevalent last year. In one stroke, Brooks could balance out his starting lineup with another perimeter shooter and better playmaker. It could take a tremendous amount of pressure off All-Stars Westbrook and Durant.