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NBA scouts explain why James Harden’s a bad fit for Los Angeles Clippers ahead of debut vs. Knicks

Future Hall-of-Famer James Harden forced his way to the Los Angeles Clippers, however, there are some scouts around the league that see the star guard as a bad fit for their current roster.

After months of trade demands, verbal attacks in public, training camp holdouts, and trade talks that made little progress, the Philadelphia 76ers finally pulled the trigger on a deal that gave James Harden what he wanted all along. A one-way plane ticket to Los Angeles.

Related: James Harden hypes himself as a system after trade to the Los Angeles Clippers

The idea of having All-Star caliber players like Harden, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook on one team seems like the makings of a dynamic scoring juggernaut. But that is on paper and in theory. Melding the egos and styles of such talented players is far easier said than done, and better coaches than Ty Lue have failed at such a task.

Harden felt in his mind that the Clippers were a good fight for him, and new teammates like George and Leonard reportedly recruited him to their team. However, there are some who study the game for a living that feel this mix of stars is not going to end well for LA.

  • James Harden stats (’22-’23): 21.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 10.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 39% 3PT

Scouts believe figuring out Harden and Westbrook dynamic will be key for Los Angeles Clippers

los angeles clippers, james harden
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, The Athletic NBA insider Sam Amick spoke with a trio of veteran NBA scouts about Harden’s addition to the Clippers roster, and some of the opinions were pretty negative about the 10-time All-Star as a teammate and how good he actually is at this point in his career.

“I don’t know if James fits anywhere — like any team,” one scout said. “And I don’t know how this fit [in Los Angeles] is going to be. Maybe it’ll work out when the Clippers are injured and they have him playing instead of Kawhi. But for me, in the last couple of years watching James, I don’t think he has the same finishing ability.

“He doesn’t shoot the ball as well. He doesn’t have the same ability to get to the hole. … He’s not the same player,” he added. “And I don’t think he’s willing to say, ‘I’m going to be a distributor’ — which he’s very good at. But I don’t think he’s willing to step into that role.”

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The same scout questioned the purpose of the trade since Leonard, George, Harden, and Westbrook being on the floor at the same time is probably unlikely. Harden is expected to start on Monday in his Clippers debut against the New York Knicks, and coming off the bench already rubbed Westbrook the wrong way during his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I just don’t see how they blend together because he’s taking shots away from somebody — unless it’s just a security blanket of ‘We have not been healthy for the last three years and this at least gives us Russ and James on games where we don’t have Kawhi and Paul,” the scout said.

The Harden and Westbrook dynamic seems to be the biggest issue for the team and another scout also shared concerns about that situation and how important figuring it out will be for their success.

“He probably doesn’t fit with Westbrook — or they’ve got to figure that out,” the scout said. “Harden is going to start, and maybe Westbrook’s your change-of-pace guy off the bench or in different lineups. So that’ll be an interesting thing, just because Westbrook’s got a big personality. And then you’ve got these other three guys who will play in front of him and get a majority of the shots.” Harden will be able to get shots.”

Harden will make his Los Angeles Clippers debut Monday on the road versus the New York Knicks.

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