Thanks for your service, James Harden
Being that team comes with a lot of added pressure and responsibilities, and the new regime for the Thunder had to start dealing with those things after the Finals loss because the Thunder were now that team.
Oklahoma City was always going to pay their two mega-stars in Durant and Westbrook, but they also had the Sixth Man of the Year in Harden – and he was becoming a superstar player rather quickly. When it was time to talk about an extension for Harden, the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement and the Thunder ultimately decided to ship him out to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and one second round pick.
Even if you hated the Thunder for trading Harden, that deal didn’t see atrocious when it first happened. Oklahoma City was hoping that Martin could replace Harden’s production, Lamb would be a decent rotational player that could knock down some shots and that they would make the most out of the draft picks since they looked like draft wizards up to that point.
Well, Martin is no longer a Thunder, Lamb is basically a meaningless player who gets hit with a DNP-CD occasionally and those draft picks are really just Steven Adams. Adams has turned into a solid big man for the Thunder, but he’s nothing to go crazy over.
Not only did the Thunder lose on that trade just from what they got in return, but they lose badly when you look at what they gave up. Since being traded to the Rockets, Harden has averaged 26.3 points (44.7 percent shooting), 6.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds is three years. Oh, and he is probably going to finish second in MVP voting this year.
A lot of people would give a pass on the Thunder by saying they had no idea Harden would be this good, but do they really deserve that much slack? Harden made huge strides during each of the first three years of his career. Harden finally saw more than 30 minutes per game in his final season with the Thunder, and in that time he averaged 16.8 points (49 percent shooting), 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists. And he was still only 22 freaking years old. Also, this was Oklahoma City’s guy. They were around Harden 24/7 and always got to see what he was doing. Was he not showing flashes of what he is now? It’s hard to imagine that he wasn’t. Maybe they are just blind.
This trade has become one of the most talked about basketball trades ever (it still gets talked about a lot now), and you really could discuss it for a long time. At the end of the day, it’s this simple for the Thunder: this was a disastrous trade that set their franchise back and made them look like fools. It really is that easy.
Next: Russell Westbrook gets injured