The trade is final and in the books between the Thunder and Rockets. The beard has departed from OKC and the fans will definitely miss him, hell we all will miss him on the Thunder roster. The question that has been coming up though is about how smart the trade was to make. Harden has been an important piece of the Thunder for the better part of the past 2 seasons. Harden has kept teams honest and gave KD and Westbrook many more open scoring opportunities because of his high level of play. He replaced Jeff Green and actually was better in the long run than Jeff Green with a stronger offensive set.
So the sports punocracy is having a conniption fit about this. Declaring that the Thunder have screwed themselves and the Lakers are going to have it easy and will love this trade. Before the NBA season starts all of this is coming out apparently… well despite everyone doing their best Stephen A. Smith racial slur, the Thunder did the right thing and the intelligent thing. Something rare in the NBA.
First thing first, a top-5 NBA team received multiple 1st round draft picks over the next 3 years along with a 2nd rounder. That will not only keep the Thunder strong, but can easily give them the needed youth back-ups they will need in the next few years. Positions like center and point-guard are going to be hard to find and the Thunder will have the option of taking high-level talent or packing draft picks in trades. They are called assets people.
Second, they got 2 high-level players in return for 1 high-level player. Kevin Martin is a bit older, but still very good and also not a personality that will cause problems. He can play SG or SF so it keeps the opening of allowing Durant to rest when needed. They also receive rookie Jeremy Lamb who will give them some more depth at multiple positions.
Thirdly, they got rid of a bunch of wasteful cap space. Besides James Harden, the Rockets also got Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward and professional marshmellow/human hybrid Cole Aldrich. They took a slew of “meh” players with maybe one OK player out of it which is Cook. Aldrich is at best a 3rd string center and that is pretty much all he will be. Hayward… well his first name has a Z in it. Either way, the return the Thunder got out of this, was well worth Harden and his max deal demands.
OKC GM Sam Presti has the trust of his team and his owner. He wanted to avoid the devastating luxury tax that is now within the confines of the NBA CBA. The luxury tax is $1.50 for each $1 above the hard salary cap and a max deal with Harden would have pushed them over the cap roughly $7 million, which would be devastating financially. I read that someone said, “why don’t they amnesty Perkins next season and to keep Harden?” to which I honestly have to say that is simply stupid. Yeah, get rid of an arguably top-5 center when your current rival has Dwight Howard, who was given many fits from Perkins when they were both Eastern Conference rivals.
The fact of it is that Harden is the most expendable player on the team. Despite his importance to the Thunder, Kevin Martin can basically do the same without the attitude. There are many decent to good shooting guards that can do what Harden does, but finding a center that has the ability to go toe-to-toe with possibly the most talented center in the NBA, not so easy to find.
The NBA columnists jump way to hard on these kind of trades. Honestly, how good is James Harden without two All-Star quality players that may go down as one of the best tandems in this new age NBA? Can he be a leader alongside Jeremy Lin for this young team comprised of Patrick Peterson, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons? Can he handle losing, cause they will. Harden will have a lot of pressure on him to perform and he is now in the spot light completely. He is the face (and beard) of Rockets basketball and more than ever, he will have to worry less about his stats and more about his team.