Feb. 4, 2011; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4), guard James Harden (13), and guard Russell Westbrook (0) on the court against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Thunder defeated the Suns 111-107. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

James Harden on path to becoming league’s best two-guard


James Harden’s rookie contract will be up after the 2013-14 season. The Oklahoma City Thunder of course plan to re-sign he and Serge Ibaka at this point. This could become tricky considering that in 2015 Harden will be the best shooting guard in the NBA.

This past week we saw Harden play some of the best basketball of his career with games scoring 30 then 33 points, both career-highs at the time. Right now Harden is coming off the bench averaging 17.2 points per game with a 21.4 PER. He won the Sixth Man of the Year award in the first week of the season.

In terms of PER, Harden is only behind Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Many Ginobili as far as shooting guards are concerned. I’ve said before that Ginobili is the type of player Harden is turning into.

Three years from now those three are going to decline considerably and Harden will be all of just 25 years old. There aren’t many other shooting guards out there who are going to be challenging Harden as the best at their position in the league.

Let’s go through the contenders assuming to not count anyone who is not yet in the league since they would only have been in the league for two years anyway by 2015.

Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, Paul George and MarShon Brooks are Harden’s competition. They all have at least an outside shot of passing Harden but it is unlikely especially considering their current playing situations.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

The Thunder are going to have a chance to have on their team in 2015 the best small forward in the league (Durant), a top three point guard (Westbrook) and the best shooting guard (Harden) and maybe even the best low-post defender (Ibaka). That is crazy to think about how good this team’s future looks.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s kind of important to have a good two-guard if you’re interested in winning championships.

In the last 12 years, the best two-guard on the team that won the NBA title scored an average of 22.5 points per game, significantly higher than any other position. Having a shooting guard who can fill it up is an essential ingredient toward winning championships.

People love to salivate over the all-around small forward but having your best player be a “jack of all trades” type doesn’t seem to necessarily result in championships as much.

Since 2000, only Paul Pierce has averaged over 13.3 points per game as the starting small forward of a championship team. Usually teams that win the title have a defensive stopper as their small forward.

Kevin Durant is obviously the small forward of the future for Oklahoma City and will always be their leading scorer. The direction Durant is headed as an offensive player is (hopefully) closer to the player that Dirk Nowitzki became in the playoffs last season (back to basket scorer).

The future makeup of the Thunder is starting to remind me more and more of the Spurs of the last decade. Durant is the Tim Duncan of the team as the reliable post-up scorer. Russell Westbrook is the lightning quick point guard who is score-first like Tony Parker. And James Harden is of course the Ginobili coming off the bench.

Before I sometimes questioned the makeup of the Thunder team in terms of where they got their offense from and if it could work in winning a championship. But the more you watch them grow together and try to project their future makeup it really makes you see just how good they are going to become.

The key to all of it is going to be Harden flying under the radar and becoming the best two-guard on the planet.

Tags: Best Shooting Guard In The NBA Dwyane Wade Eric Gordon James Harden Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant Manu Ginobili Monta Ellis Paul George Paul Pierce Russell Westbrook Serge Ibaka Thunder Spurs Tim Duncan Tony Parker

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