First off, congrats to Chris Arrnold who won our Daily Thunder MockTest! He got both Thunder picks correct (Harden at No. 3 and Beaubois at No. 25), was within one of Rubio going to Minnesota and also got Curry to the Warriors correct. Congrats. Technically it was a three-way tie for first with 40 total points, but I gave Chris the victory due to a made up on the spot tiebreaker which said most correct Thunder picks won. Nick Johnson and Kyle Dahlgren were the runners-up, but neither had a correct Thunder pick.
Source: Oklahoma City is reportedly high on James Harden. What’s that? The draft’s over? Oh awesome. No more of that crap.
Somebody wasn’t that happy with the Harden pick: “Where to start, this pick was awful. I always thought Sam Presti was smarter than making a choice based on team need when a special player was available. James Harden could be good, but I don’t ever see him being more than a middling NBA starter. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Snyder, except not as athletic … I am still clinically depressed about the #3 pick. Ninety minutes ago I had visions of Ricky Rubio firing up this young team and novice crowd with alley-00p passes and leading the Thunder to a surprise playoff birth next season. Now, I’m questioning whether Sam Presti can make good decisions in free agency and pull off trades that take advantage of the cap space.”
Chad Ford: “We knew for months it was probably Harden or Rubio, and about 15 minutes before the draft we changed our mock draft to put Harden here. He’s a great fit in the backcourt with Russell Westbrook and one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. Obviously the Thunder couldn’t make a trade with a team wanting Rubio. And you have to ask yourself, did Russell Westbrook make this pick for Sam Presti? He was fighting hard against Rubio and looks like he won.”
Chad Ford on the 25 pick: “The Mavs are trading this pick to the Thunder for No. 25 and a future second-round pick. The Thunder have been looking to get Mullens for weeks and tried to get up as high as No. 14 to get him. Clearly, Sam Presti sees something he likes. Mullens reminds me a lot of a young Darko Milicic, for both good and bad — he’s skilled and athletic, but he doesn’t really know how to play.”
And Ford grades OKC giving the Thunder an A-: “While I thought the Thunder might be able to use Ricky Rubio as a trade asset, if nothing else, it’s hard to fault Sam Presti. Harden is a better fit in the backcourt with Russell Westbrook, and I think the Thunder got a terrific value pick in Mullens. On talent and upside, he was one of the most intriguing players in the draft. If coach Scott Brooks can get effort from him, the Thunder will have intriguing young talent at every position on the floor.”
FanHouse grades OKC a B+: “James Harden (No. 3), Rodrigue Beaubois (No. 25) traded to Dallas; acquired Robert Vaden (No. 54) from Charlotte. Comment: The Thunder seem to have two areas of need: Shooting guard and center. Make that one. Harden was the best two-guard in the draft, and while he might not be the most spectacular wing player you’ll see, he’s got the makings of a good, solid starting off guard for the next decade.”
Sam Presti speaks about the pick. (Video)
Darnell Mayberry: “So the next time you wonder why Presti passed on Rubio, the 18-year-old sensation, remember the Thunder way. Remember how Rubio’s buyout raised red flags. Remember how his camp made demands about where the teenager would and would not play and for which teams he would and would not workout with or even visit. Remember Rubio’s father threatening, not one hour after the draft, that Rubio would remain overseas rather than report to Minnesota, the team that took him fifth. Remember that the final decision had much less to do with incumbent point guard Russell Westbrook’s feelings and everything to do with this organization’s feelings on outside noise.”
SI: “The Thunder add one of the most well-rounded, NBA-ready players on the board, a standing undiminished by disappointing NCAA tournament showings. Harden has a pro body for a shooting guard and the ability to score and handle the ball. He joins a promising nucleus of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green … There are real issues about his desire to play and get better, but his potential is unquestioned. One GM said Mullens has the talent to be a top-five pick. He’s the second center of the first round, long after Hasheem Thabeet went second to Memphis.”
The Baseline: “Harden is a wonderful kid who is an overwhelmingly powerful shooting guard. He can power past defenders to get to the lane and is a solid shooter. What is worrisome about Harden is how reticent he was about taking control of games. He almost ached to blend in with his teammates, and great players don’t worry about that. A star’s job is to be a star, and Harden too often was reluctant to be that guy.”
Chris Silva on James Harden: “The Thunder saw something special in James Harden long before the Arizona State guard came to town for a workout earlier this month, but he made an even better impression on the organization by the time he left. During his two-day visit to Oklahoma City, Harden said he had a solid overall workout, shot the ball well and got a good vibe from everyone he came into contact with. But it was what Harden did the morning he left town for his next workout that spoke volumes about his work ethic. Before heading to the airport, Harden went out of his way to return to the Thunder practice facility, where he put up more jump shots and lifted weights before it was time to go. It was as if Harden never wanted to leave. Now, it appears as if he will be here for a while.” Mmmm. Work ethic.
Ricky Rubio, not psyched about Minny: “But the 18-year-old Spaniard was not playing that game. “Are you excited to go to Minnesota?” he was asked. It was a fair question. It’s a team with quality big men, and a mandate for change. What more could a young point guard want? “I’m excited,” he responded, “to come to the NBA.” He said his mother hated cold weather. He was asked about whether being picked by the T-Wolves might inspire him to stay in Europe. He said: “I don’t know yet. I have to think about that … I’m going to talk to my agent about that and we’re going to see.”
Dan Shanoff: “I think James Harden was the most solid pick — the best pick — for the Thunder, who can pair him with Westbrook in a long, active backcourt. Harden can’t shoot the 3? So what: Durant can.”
Fox Sports: “Drafting Harden gives the Thunder four young studs (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green). Not too many NBA teams can match that kind of youth and talent. Harden is a mature player who can shoot it from distance and is underrated athletically. He should be able to contribute to Thunder immediately. He won’t make OKC an immediate winner, but they sure have a bright future and are headed in the right direction. Plus, anyone who wears that bowtie has to have a boatload of confidence.”
Simmons: “The Zombie Sonics take … James Harden. And thank God, I didn’t want to turn on Seattle. I really didn’t. “He’s battled asthma since he was a child,” Scott tells us. How does Rubio drop to No. 4? How?!? I feel like I’m gonna pass out. I like Harden as a glue-character guy and he definitely has a good porn name. But considering the Zombies have to worry about Durant fleeing in a couple of years, wasn’t it in their best interests to find him an unselfish guard who’s immensely fun to play with and was put on the earth to get Durant easy baskets? Big mistake … Although I like the way Harden is handling this Jones interview right now (very smooth); I like his bow tie (sharp); and I really like his retro-James Worthy beard (tremendous). He’s definitely one more solid character guy for the Zombies. Logical pick. You know, except for the part where they passed on a guy with Bird-Barry-Magic-Nash-Maravich passing genes.”
Berry Tramel: “When David Stern announced the name, “James Harden,” groans ricocheted around The Oklahoman newsroom. Same with the Thunder draft party at Riverwind Casino, various Internet chats and probably all over Boomtown. But rest assured, somewhere in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook smiled wider than the Santa Monica Freeway.”
Dime: “Harden is one of my favorite players in the draft, and this is definitely the right pick for the Thunder (although I hate them). I question Mark Jackson’s logic that taking Rubio would have been OKC’s best option because “it allows you to take Russell Westbrook off the ball,” as if that’s a problem. Jackson does know that Westbrook is a very good PG, right?”
Travis Heath of HoopsWorld: “Truth be told, Harden is actually a better fit for the Thunder than Rubio. He’s a very good shooting guard who is much more than just a scorer. He’s a solid all around player who doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands to be effective, which will make him a very nice fit next to Kevin Durant. Harden’s selection also shows just how much the Thunder believe in Russell Westbrook, the point guard the team drafted out of UCLA last season.It may sound crazy to some, but the Thunder are creeping ever closer to becoming a playoff team after this selection. The organization is doing it the right way by building through the draft and selecting steady players who fit well together, too. It should be an exciting season in 2009-10 for fans in Oklahoma City.”
HoopsWorld: “This pick is classic Presti in that is was very forward-thinking. Like his decision to pick up free agent point guard Shaun Livingston, Oklahoma City has become a great place to foster talent. Without any pressure to win now, Coach Scott Brooks can put Mullens behind Jeff Green while he learns the nuances of the NBA.”
Sam Amico: “James Harden was the natural fit, so GM Sam Presti is clearly pleased with his team’s progress and stayed away from the Rubio curveball. There may be temptation to move Russell Westbrook off the ball at a later time, but for now, letting him soak in experience at the point remains the right move. Harden will challenge Sefolosha for a starting spot and will fit right in with the rest of OKC’s workaholics. Byron (no longer B.J.) Mullens intrigued the Thunder as they search for a center to place with their core, and at the No. 24 spot, is well worth the gamble, even at an additional cost of an extra second-round pick. Oklahoma City also spent some money to buy the rights of UAB’s Robert Vaden, a gunner who will have an opportunity to shoot himself on to the roster. Grade: B.”
And just in case you missed it: