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Arizona State Basketball: You Didn’t Know James Harden Would Be This Good


No one is trying to say that James Harden was going to be garbage when he was drafted into the NBA with the 3rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

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But seriously, did you think that James Harden was going to be one of the most transcendent players of this current NBA generation?

No you did not! Quit lying!

You thought what everyone else thought when he got drafted. He was going to be a solid shooting guard, maybe make a few All-Star Games, in the end have a solid double-digit year NBA career.

Yeah he was a First-Team All-American in 2009 after putting up 20.1 per contest for the Sun Devils, but that is not where your skepticism came from.

That whole train of thought was partially based on a past history of players that have come out of the Arizona State basketball program.

Let’s not act like the Sun Devils have placed NBA greatness on the basketball court.

Serviceable NBA players? Yes that has happened a few times.

Fat Lever, Byron Scott, Eddie House, Lionel Hollins, Alton Lister — all had solid NBA careers and a couple of those players even contributed to NBA Championships.

However, those player’s are not in recent ASU lore.

When you think about the recent Sun Devils to come out like Ike Diogu in 2006 or Jeff Ayres (formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph) in 2010, they’re decent players, but at best they were going to be professional journeyman.

Now in both Diogu’s and Ayres’ defense, injury did contribute to both of them not fully reaching their potential, but they still were not going to be iconic players that people were going to talk about decades from now.

Not the way people are going to talk about James Harden. You did not know that James Harden was going to be competing for scoring titles, MVP’s, and be talked about as a Top 5 NBA player when he was drafted out of ASU.

You did not know that he was capable of carrying an injury riddled Houston Rockets team to the No.2 seed in a difficult Western Conference and guide his team to the 2015 Western Conference Finals.

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Marketability, yeah you could see that. But you did not see the 13-year, $200 million dollar deal from Adidas coming. You did not see his beard becoming a staple for this generation of NBA Basketball.

James Harden is becoming a global icon, and rightfully so. Once he was able to get out of the shadow of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, all Harden has done is blow up.

People held it against Harden because he shrank in the 2012 NBA Finals with OKC.

Because of his performance in those Finals, people questioned if he could be a lead man when OKC did not give him the deal he was seeking and he moved on to the Houston Rockets.

All he has done is proven that he is one of the best scorers in the NBA since leaving the Thunder.

Harden has not averaged less than 25 points per game since leaving OKC. He just missed out on the scoring title in 2014-15 with an average of 27.4 points per contest, finishing behind Russell Westbrook’s 28.1 points per contest.

The caveat is that Harden maintained his average over 81 games while Westbrook played 67, though the way Westbrook was going, it would be hard to think that he would not have won the scoring title anyway if he played a full 82 games.

And to think that all of this is coming from a player who’s motor was questioned coming out of Arizona State. His motor is the other thing that made you question how good he truly would be in the NBA.

You may have heard the stories about how NBA commentator Doug Collins used to get on James Harden for appearing to be motivated, having all the tools to be great, but not the motor and will to go with it.

These are James Harden’s words on how Doug Collins helped him via an ESPN.com TrueHoop piece by Henry Abbott.

"“[Collins] taught me a lot,” Harden said. “He would mentor me. He would tell me that I had to have a motor. I had to build a motor up to be successful and have a chance to play in the NBA. My sophomore year, the reason I came back [to college] was to learn and build my motor up. He was the reason for that. I was nonchalant, just chill. That’s how I still am, but I have a little motor in me now. That’s the difference. He saw me in my building stage, when I was preparing for the NBA. So for him to have great compliments about me, it means a lot to me.”"

Now we are looking at James Harden like he is one of the best offensive players of this generation. “The Beard” has averaged 26.2 points per game since being the lead man in Houston over the last three years. He gets to the line at a ridiculous rate averaging 10.7 free throws per contest over his last three seasons with Houston.

Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State Sun Devils /

Arizona State Sun Devils

Harden is even shooting the ball pretty efficiently for being a volume shooter hitting 44.4% from the floor and 36.9% from three-point range over the same three-year span with Houston.

This is why James Harden has the 13-year $200 million dollar shoe deal from Adidas, the reason why he is one of the most popular players in the NBA, and why he is currently on a Hall of Fame track.

But when he was coming out of Arizona State, you did not think all this was going to happen with James Harden.

You just thought that he was going to be decent or adequate. But he might possibly be on his way to being great.

You did not know James Harden was going to be this good, quit lying!

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