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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

NBA: Arizona State star Harden seen as top swingman, may go as high as No. 2

By Eddie Sefko
The Dallas Morning News

Best of the rest.
Is there a more dubious distinction when it comes to describing an athlete?

Either way, it may well describe James Harden, the Arizona State shooting guard who may or may not be the second player chosen in Thursday night’s NBA draft. He most certainly is in the conversation when it comes to figuring out who goes directly after Blake Griffin.
“He’s a ready-made, step-in NBA contributor,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said.
And there just aren’t many of those in this draft. In fact, Harden may be the only one at the swing positions — shooting guard and small forward.
The athletic, 6-5 Harden could go second to Memphis. He could go third or even fourth or fifth. But whatever team gets him, it’s a good bet he’ll be in the playing rotation and probably starting by November.
That’s the sort of rare talent he has, at least relative to this year’s draft class.
Harden has deceptive size and strength and the words insiders use most to describe him are “smooth” and “crafty.” He averaged 20.1 points as a sophomore last season and has been a decent shooter as well as an excellent defender.
So where does he end up?
Most likely, the Memphis Grizzlies will go the traditional route when they draft second and take the best available big man, which will be Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-3 center.
That could leave Harden as the No. 3 pick, going to Oklahoma City, where he would join Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green.
Beyond Harden, the pickings are slim if you’re in the market for a swingman. Memphis’ Tyreke Evans is viewed more as a point guard, which leaves USC’s DeMar DeRozan and Duke’s Gerald Henderson as the best of the remaining shooting guards. DeRozan is getting plenty of attention in the 8-9-10 area.
As for high-quality small forwards, they are even fewer and farther between. Earl Clark of Louisville and Austin Daye of Gonzaga are the only ones with a shot at going in the lottery, and it will be very late among the top 14 if they do. Three interesting names that won’t go in the lottery: Israel’s Omri Casspi, Pittsburgh’s Sam Young and Louisville’s Terrence Williams.
Casspi will probably be the second international player drafted Thursday and the highest player ever taken from Israel, probably near the end of the first round.
Young and Williams are intriguing talents who most experts believe have a solid chance to be long-term contributors in the league.

Ranking the swingmen
Player . . . .........College .......Ht. ......Comment
James Harden ... Arizona State....6-5.......Great skills; similar to O.J. Mayo
DeMar DeRozan .....USC..........6-6.........Didn’t dominate at USC as expected
Earl Clark............ Louisville....6-10.....Crazy quickness for his size
Austin Daye..........Gonzaga.......6-10......Very thin; has potential if he fills out
Gerald Henderson.....Duke.........6-5........Strong hoops IQ; defensive minded
Also of note:
Sam Young, DaJuan Summers, Chase Budinger

Spotlight on 22
A look at a swingmen who could be available when the Mavericks draft 22nd.
Ht./Wt.: 6-6, 215.
Notable: He excelled at three positions in college but will be a shooting guard at the next level . . . He’s an excellent defender with quick hands, but is not a big threat to get to the basket offensively because of limited ballhandling skills . . . Averaged 16.5 points as a senior.