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NBA Playoffs 2012: James Harden Is The Bridge Between Kevin Durant And Russell Westbrook

It was a concern around this time last year that Oklahoma City Thunder superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could have chemistry issues that might disrupt the overall potential of the team. But what can't get lost in that conversation, which was likely overblown to begin with, is that there is a third element to all that star power and his name is James Harden.

SB Nation's Andrew Sharp likened the Thunder's trio of star power to the Barksdale crew from The Wire, with Durant and Westbrook of last year having that Avon/Stringer Bell relationship that is both dynamic and problematic for their regime. Or at least that's how they can be perceived at times. Sharp asks if Harden must be Slim Charles in this case. Others might say Harden is Wee-Bey, since he's coming up with Durant and Westbrook as opposed to under them.

Anyway, Harden certainly has a stone-cold killer game and the ability to be the front man if Durant or Westbrook can't do it on a given night, for whatever reason. Here is what Sharp had to say about Harden as it pertains to basketball:

This year is when everyone's realizing he might be OKC's most valuable player. Kevin Durant may be their best player, but Harden's the piece of the OKC engine that makes everything else run smoothly. He's deadly off the dribble, he finds open shooters off pick-and-roll, and he gives OKC a bridge between Russell Westbrook and Durant that makes them just about impossible to guard.

When you look at what's made the Thunder different this season, Harden's the perfect example. Instead of Durant and two sidekicks (Westbrook and Harden), everyone's gotten better, and the Thunder now have three guys who would be the best player on the floor for 90 percent of the NBA. Harden is that good now, and so are the Thunder. It's not a coincidence.

Read more about the Thunder at Welcome To Loud City.