James Harden trade makes sense for both Thunder and Rockets

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I’m at a Halloween party Saturday night; Lucky Strike cigarette hanging out on my mouth, glass of a scotch in my hand (I went as Don Draper from Mad Men) when I get a text that the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets.  I had the same look on my face that Don did when his wife Megan sang “Zou Bisou Bisou” in front of their friends at his 40th birthday party; one of shock and pure amazement.

The deal seemed to come from nowhere as I had seen no rumor tweeted or written anywhere leading up to the deal.  Here is my breakdown of the trade.

The Thunder receive: SG-Kevin Martin, SG-Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks, and a second round pick

The Rockets receive: SG-James Harden, G/F-Daquean Cook, SF-Lazar Hayward, and C-Cole Aldrich

Why this makes sense for Oklahoma City:
At first I thought this was a rare knee jerk reaction from OKC general manager Sam Presti after he determined that the Thunder were not going to offer Harden a max contract which he was coveting.  It has been reported that the bearded lefty turned down a 4-year, $55.5 million offer which is $4.5 million less than the most a team is allowed to offer someone whose rookie contract is winding down.

With Oklahoma City having Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka all signed to long-term deals that will total nearly $47 million for the 2013-14 season, I figured Harden wouldn’t get the deal he was seeking from OKC and probably be sent packing after this season in some sort of sign-and-trade deal.  However, Presti decided not to wait around and instead pulled the trigger days before the season tips-off.

In return OKC acquires Kevin Martin who will replace Harden as the big-time bench scorer, assuming head coach Scott Brooks keeps Thabo Sefalosha in the starting line-up and brings Martin off the bench.  Lamb was the 12th overall pick in the NBA Draft and is a talented though streaky scorer who will likely be a future replacement for Martin once his contract ends after this season.

Presti also brings in three assets in draft picks.  One coming from Toronto which Houston received in the Kyle Lowry deal and the other is a future Dallas first rounder.  Both have certain protections to them but arm Presti with future ammunition either as trade bait or young talent to add depth to the team.

Does Oklahoma City become a better team because of this trade this season?  Absolutely not.  It certainly does keep them a contender in the West though I think the Lakers are the team to beat.  It also keeps their future bright and rids them from having to make any sort of rash decision next summer or some panicked deal like we saw from Orlando this summer with Dwight Howard.  Presti showed some monster balls by swinging this deal and while it may not be the popular move, it was a wise decision to keep the Thunder franchise looking bright for the future.

Why this makes sense for Houston:
General manager Daryl Morey was stacking up assets in hopes of landing a star player and feel they have now acquired one in Harden.  They are happily going to give him the extra $4.5 million that OKC wouldn’t and sign him to a long-term extension which makes him their immediate franchise player.  Only time will tell if Harden can truly carry a team but many feel he the makings of being that type of player.

With that being said, I don’t think this makes Houston a playoff team this year.  How about this nugget too; once Harden inks that extension, he, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik will be making almost $45 million combined for the 2014-15 season.  That is a TON of money to be paying a “Big 3” that isn’t close to being a true “Big 3” by NBA standards.  Still, this was a no-brainer trade from the Rockets perspective.

David Kay is a senior feature NBA DraftNBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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