The Oklahoma City Thunder have no problem making tough decisions.
Apparently, that includes breaking up their championship-contending core in lieu of paying an exorbitant luxury tax bill. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Thunder have parted ways with James Harden in a stunning deal with the Houston Rockets.
So what did the Thunder receive as compensation for trading the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year?
Per Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
Harden will be sent to Houston for Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick. The Thunder is also sending center Cole Aldrich and guards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Rockets.
Included in the deal are a couple of protected first-round picks from Toronto and Dallas. The forthcoming trade will alleviate the Thunder’s luxury tax bill prior to the league’s punitive luxury tax next season.
The impetus to re-signing Harden was created by Wednesday’s deadline. But, as Wojnarowski reported earlier, Harden rejected a $52 million offer from Oklahoma City, which would have netted him $13 million per season.
Instead of offering Harden a near maximum contract extension and delving into the luxury tax — even if Harden had agreed to the discount, Oklahoma City would have been paying $67 million to five players — general manager Sam Presti struck a deal with Houston, whose been compiling assets to lure a superstar.
Harden, 23, will become a restricted free agent next season if he does not agree to an extension by Wednesday. One would reasonably assume the Rockets will likely match any offer.
In one potentially shrewd move — as the Thunder can still contend for a title with their current core — the Western Conference landscape has flipped upside down.