On Saturday evening, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a trade that caught a lot of the NBA world out of the blue. After Harden rejected a four-year 54 million USD offer, the OKC general manager Sam Presti moved swiftly to find a deal.
He didn't want the Harden situation becoming another 'Melodrama' or 'Dwightmare'. Some people may be thinking OKC are crazy for breaking up the team which pushed Miami to five games in the 2012 NBA finals. However, this has all come down to financial commitment at the end of the day, not talent. OKC could simply not afford to give Harden a max deal, they have already given Westbrook (13.5 million USD per year), Ibaka (12 million USD per year) and Durant (16.5 USD million per year) large extensions and Harden felt like he had earned his payday. Unfortunately, under the new collective Bargaining agreement, NBA teams absorb heavier financial burdens when going over the salary CAP.
So the details of the deal itself are as follows: James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Haywood and Daequan Cook were traded to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first round picks & a second round pick. So this trade is more complicated than initially seemed with multiple players going in both directions, I am going to break the trade down from both sides and see the benefits and negatives.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Kevin Martin will slot straight into the sixth-man slot that Harden filled last year; he will replace the scoring relatively easily but OKC will lose the defence and playmaking abilities of Harden. OKC also managed to pick up Jeremy Lamb who was the twelfth pick in this year's draft. I personally rate Lamb as the best shooting guard in the 2012 draft, ahead of Beal the third pick but that's personal preference. Lamb can score in any way and looked consistently good in summer league, this year he may just be a spark off the bench but in the future he could be a dangerous addition who would fit next to Westbrook and Durant nicely. OKC built this team by acquiring draft picks, and they have just got three more which can get the talented cheap players on a rookie contract or they can throw them into a trade. Overall, I would give OKC and more importantly Sam Presti (the mastermind) a solid A- for this trade and bonus points for not waiting around like Orlando or Denver.
Jeremy Lin may be the face of the franchise, but James Harden is the facial hair. The rockets have been trying to get their superstar for the last year since failing to land Dwight despite their gathering of young vets and picks and they have finally got their man, they hope. Harden has already come out saying he hopes to sign a contract extension, if he had opted out Darel Morey the Rockets GM would have been out of a job for the rest of his life. However there is a lot of unknown with Harden in his new surroundings. He was perhaps the third or fourth best player on his team for the last three years and now he is the best by a long way. This is what he has wanted, he complained about getting too few minutes and not enough shot attempts in the NBA finals last year even though they won the first game. How will Harden react having less talent around him and not winning as many games?
As well as Harden, centre Cole Aldrich who has struggled for playing time in OKC has come over, he had a great career at Kansas and should be a good rebounder/shot blocker for Houston. Other than that, Daequan Cook is a three point specialist and won the three point competition two years ago, but other than that he offers little. Lazar Haywood has been immediately waived by Houston so is now going through the waiver wire where any team can bid on him. Overall, I give this trade for Houston a B; Houston got their man and got rid of Kevin Martin who has wanted out for the last year… But gave up a lot in terms of Lamb who I think will be a big time talent in a few years and future draft picks.