Over the past two seasons, the Oklahoma City Thunder has been widely considered one of the best all-around teams in the Western Conference. With a solid young core of players led by three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, the consensus around the league has been that the Thunder will be a serious force to be reckoned with in the West over the next decade or so.
On Thursday, one of the most important players on the Thunder’s roster in James Harden has been recognized as the best sixth man in the NBA.
According to the NewsOK.com, James Harden is expected to be named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. Even though the NBA has yet to make the announcement, Harden let the cat out of the bag on Thursday on Twitter via @JHarden13:
Thanks to everyone!! I appreciate all the Love! 6th Man of the Year.
— James Harden (@JHarden13) May 10, 2012
Last season the Sixth Man of the Year award was given to the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom. There wasn’t much debate last year about which player deserved the award as Odom excelled above the competition in that category and this season it appears to be the same for Harden. Last year Harden finished seventh in the voting for the award.
As a legitimate starter for any team in the NBA, Harden was content with taking a role off the bench in Oklahoma City. With the Thunder having plenty of offensive firepower in the starting lineup with the two-headed monster of Durant and Russell Westbrook, former NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks believed that Harden would be best utilized off the bench to give the team an offensive spark with Durant, Westbrook or both on the bench.
The move to have Harden come off the bench for the Thunder was absolute genius as he has flourished in the sixth man role in Oklahoma City and has become arguably one of the best players in the game.
This season Harden has averaged 16.8 points (career-high), 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Harden’s points per game led all bench players in the NBA and helped the Thunder clinch the second seed in the West with an impressive 47-19 record.
If the Lakers advance to the second round, the Thunder will be waiting with a motivated Harden looking to avenge the elbow heard around the world from Metta World Peace. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any lingering hard feeling for World Peace’s elbow and if the reigning Sixth Man of the Year becomes the difference maker as a result.