Should the Oklahoma City Thunder Add James Harden to the Starting Lineup?
Obviously, if Harden starts the game, then that means that one of the starters will have to come off the bench. Westbrook and Durant can’t be considered for that, so it would have to be Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, or Kendrick Perkins.
It would make sense to just slide Harden in at Sefolosha’s spot since they both play shooting guard and Sefolosha isn’t much of a scorer. On the other hand, Sefolosha’s role is important as his job is to guard LeBron and make The King’s life as difficult as possible.
It might be unorthodox to start the game small, but it would also work to take out either Ibaka or Perkins or even both of them. In Game 2, both were negative influences when they were in the game as Perkins was minus-16 and Ibaka wasn’t much better at -15.
Meanwhile, Nick Collison was plus-8 for the game and it was Collison who helped trim Miami’s double digit lead in the fourth quarter down to 90-86 with 4:31 remaining.
Collison is a great hustle player, but it’s been pretty clear since the start of this series that the Thunder are just a more effective team when they go small. It’s easier for them to run and get the pace up, which tires out LeBron and Wade.
Now, it’s hard to see Scott Brooks inserting Nick Collison into the starting lineup, but it would make sense to keep Sefolosha in as a starter, so that LeBron is being guarded tough from the outset.
If you had to choose between Ibaka and Perkins, it might be better to have Ibaka in the game because his shot-blocking ability helps his teammates stay out of foul trouble. Instead of taking a hard foul to make sure LeBron doesn’t get an easy lay-up, Sefolosha/Durant can guard him tight to slow him down which gives Ibaka time to rotate and swat the ball away.
At the end of the day, Scott Brooks needs to make some serious changes to the way that his team opens games. And if he thinks that adding Harden to the starting lineup would help, then he should do it. Because if the Thunder continue to start games poorly in Miami, then they will be returning home without a chance to fight for a trophy.