The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward. In exchange, OKC acquired Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and draft picks from Houston.
The Thunder were not able to offer Harden the max deal that he had set his sights on, instead offering him a four year $55 million deal ($4.5 million less than the max). The small market OKC already has max players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and realized that they would not be able to retain Harden, who was set to become a restricted free agent in July if he wasn’t signed to an extension by the October 31 deadline.
So, Harden is Rocket. In pairing him with Jeremy Lin in the backcourt, Houston has bolstered their team significantly, as well as raking in more popularity and fans. The Thunder didn’t bring in equivalent talent to Harden, but Smith can score and Lamb can blossom into a superstar.
The consensus around the league is that the Thunder lost, and this trade was a bad idea. I disagree. OKC could’ve retained Harden for 2012-13 and then tried to re-sign him or trade him at the end of the season, but did anyone learn anything from the Dwight Howard saga that played out last season? The Thunder didn’t want to face the possibility of having a disgruntled superstar not play to the level he is capable of, so they dealt him. In essence, they ripped the band-aid off. Does it hurt them now? Yes, but they “ripped it off” fast enough so that it wouldn’t hurt them as much down the road. Now Martin and Lamb will be able to play a full season with Westbrook and Durant, and get used to how the game is played in OKC.
Immediately, the Houston Rockets made themselves better, as well as for the future, by acquiring a superstar in Harden. However the Thunder did what is best for the franchise down the road, although it is hard to picture the Sixth Man of the Year in a Rockets jersey. So, when you think about it, everybody wins.
On November 28, however, everybody won’t win. That is that first game that OKC and HOU will square off this year, and the game is in Oklahoma City, easily the most electric arena in the NBA. Mark your calendars, that one should be fun.
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