Making the call before the season starts

Blazers pre-deadline trade for Harden.

Here's a possible scenario, bringing in Harden.

Short of very creative accounting, which is even then likely to tie up their salary cap in a crippling fashion for years to come leaving them with a very thin bench, I see the Thunder trading Harden before the deadline.

The Blazers are very good candidates as a trading partner.

Now, I love me some Wessy-Wes as much as the next guy, and we've heard Matthews has improved a great deal now that he is healthy. But I still think Harden is a better player to put next to LA and would likely send a message to him that we are serious about contending.

Though there could be other plausible scenarios to acquire Harden, the one I proposed above involves sending Matthews and Freeland (who plays two positions) and landing Harden and detritus in return. The most attractive part for OKC would be to lock up two good players on relatively cheap contracts, though they would be taking in over 2.5 mil more in contracts per year. And they get to dump a multi-year contract on a second-year player who was "wild" and near the bottom of the league as a shooter, according to John Hollinger. And the Blazers could dump him in turn, considering we already have one of those dudes on our roster (looking at you, Nolan).

Harden is an exceptional pick and roll player, deadly at drawing fouls (Hollinger called Harden's ability to get to the line "supernatural"), hits a high percentage at the line, and is an excellent 3pt shooter. This is EXACTLY the type of player that needs to play next to The Omen and with Aldridge, IMO.

Time to weigh in, Blazer Nation. What do you think? If not Harden, do you propose any other moves at the deadline to make the team better? (Remember: Think like an Olshey.)

Here's Hollinger's scouting report on Harden:

Scouting report
+ Skilled left-hander who excels at pick-and-roll game. Prodigious drawer of fouls.
+ Left-dominant. Sees court well but turnover-prone. Good set shooter from 3.
+ Middling wing defender who rebounds well. Good hands, has cut foul rate.

The second coming of Manu Ginobili, Harden technically plays shooting guard but is really a huge pick-and-roll point guard. His forays to the rim off the bounce are simply deadly, as he has a tight, low handle, exquisite passing skills, and an almost supernatural sense for how to draw fouls. Harden's 0.59 free throw attempts per field goal attempts was the best of any non-center, with his 84.6 percent mark from the line the cherry on top.

Additionally, Harden was a fantastic finisher when he wasn't fouled, particularly going left. Harden had the best shooting percentage at the rim of any guard, converting an amazing 70.4 percent of his shots in the basket area. Again, this was in addition to all the fouls he drew. Virtually the only chance of stopping him was to force a turnover first -- he was in the bottom quarter of guards in turnover ratio and will give it away trying to split pick-and-rolls.

Top shooting percentage at the rim, guards

Player Team Pct.
James Harden OKC 70.4
Gerald Henderson Cha 68.4
Arron Afflalo Den 68.0
Marcus Thornton Sac 67.5
Kobe Bryant LAL 66.2
Min. 150 attempts

Meanwhile, his spot-up game has grown more deadly too: Harden shot 39.0 percent on 3s and took nearly half his attempts from out there. In a related story, he's become much more comfortable playing off the ball with Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant doing the ballhandling. Overall, his 66.0 true shooting percentage sits firmly in you've-gotta-be-kidding-me territory; naturally, the only perimeter player to top it was Ginobili, by eight-tenths of a point (see Ginobili comment). Harden also ranked fourth in the league in secondary percentage (see Chauncey Billups coment).

The next step is upgrading his defense, which remains a vulnerability. Harden has cut his foul rate but it remains above average for a shooting guard, and he needs to defend star wing players to start with Durant and Westbrook. As it is he's the game's best sixth man and an All-Star talent, but he can still get better.

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