Back in October of 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a mini stunner of a trade when they sent James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks in 2013 and a second-round draft pick in 2013. With a season and a half now having passed by since the move was finalized, it is fair to assess the deal and figure out exactly who won.
In the case of the Rockets, it is clear that the side pieces that accompanied Harden in the trade were non-essential from the start. Within half of the 2012-13 season, each of Aldrich, Cook and Hayward had been either waived or shipped out of town with no real value coming back in return.
Of course none of these players were supposed to bring much value, and when looking at Harden’s statistics it is clear the Rockets have received some value. During his first season with the team the shooting guard averaged 25.9 points per game as Houston moved up from ninth in the standings the previous season to eighth in 2012-13 — although they were dispatched in the first-round of the playoffs by the Thunder.
Moving into the current season, Harden has seen his average point per game total rise to 23.8, and the Rockets have seen their winning percentage rise from .549 to .653. Of course this has not truly been because Harden has been letting teammates have more of the ball but because the organization dictated this would happen by signing Dwight Howard. This move practically ensured that Harden would play second fiddle, and this has occurred as Howard has become the star in Houston. As a result, the team has jumped from eighth to fifth in the Western Conference because of the center’s presence.
Meanwhile, when looking at what the Thunder received in return it is clear that one piece sticks out from the pack. This would be Lamb, who received valuable seasoning in the D-League last year but has stepped up as a cornerstone of the future in 2013-14. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has incredible length, is extremely athletic and also has a shot that is just as good, if not better, than that of Harden.
This fact has been mirrored by Lamb having the better shooting percentage and three-point percentage of the two. He is averaging 10.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists per game and 22.3 minutes while coming off the bench. The 21-year-old is one of the best sixth men in the NBA and could very well be a star of the future at shooting guard in Oklahoma City, in effect filling Harden’s previous role.
Lamb is not the only piece that has a potential with the Thunder, though, as they received one good season out of Martin and have made the most of their draft picks. First-round pick Steven Adams has played 14.8 minutes per game off the bench during his rookie season and surely looks like an option to become a starting center in the future. Meanwhile, the second first-round pick turned into Andre Roberson who has split time between the NBA and D-League and could either become a trade option or shooter off the bench in seasons to become. Last but not least is Alex Abrines who is playing with FC Barcelona currently and at the very least is a project for the future.
As a whole the Thunder organization has not only restocked following the loss of Harden but have actually improved, and they are certainly the winners of this trade. Since trading the star they have seen their winning percentage rise from .712 to .732 and then .776 this season, and they have used the trade to acquire multiple tools for the future. Additionally, they have freed up cap space, allowed Kevin Durant the freedom to become the best basketball player in the world and very well could become a dynasty of the future while only giving up a guy that likely would have left via free agency anyways.