OKC traded James Harden yesterday to Houston, along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward. They got back Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and one second round pick.
Most of my feelings on Harden and OKC I expressed the other day. In my mind, the most prudent thing OKC could have done would have been to extend Harden for four more years at $60 million, and then work from there. To avoid serious luxury tax implications that would mean probably amnestying Kendrick Perkins next year, and essentially having only very low paid players on the roster besides Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Harden.
If the Thunder had done this, they would still be in luxury tax territory, but not nearly as terribly as they seem to want you to believe. They would also unquestionably be a loaded team for the foreseeable future, and could have traded one of their stars if chemistry ever became an issue.
Nonetheless, OKC traded Harden, and it seems money was the main reason why. The good news for OKC is what I wrote the other day:
Usually in the NBA, it is a team's two or three best players that ultimately matter in winning a championship. That is what it really comes down to. The value of having a fourth exceptional player is if one of the other three star players is hurt, or playing terribly, the fourth player can pretty easily fill their place.
Having four great players is usually better than three, because it can provide a team with a level of insurance. It is not necessarily required, though, and it is not always advantageous.
When you have four star players, at least one of them will be somewhat marginalized, and unable to maximize their talent. This can cause problems, both on and off the court. The risk a star-laden team must deal with is the chance that not every exceptional player will be content with their role, and the team will suffer from this problem.
Quite frankly, when you are on a team that features Durant and Westbrook, everybody else will be marginalized offensively. It's just how it is - and it's not a problem. Durant, Westbrook and Harden couldn't all shoot the ball 20 times a game. Eventually, this fact could have caused chemistry issues on the court, although none were readily apparent. Going forward, particularly after this season, a healthy Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka should be all the star power OKC needs.
Kevin Martin should be good for OKC, and I still see them making the Finals. Sam Presti did very well to secure Jeremy Lamb and 3 future draft picks; those are valuable and inexpensive assets. In short, OKC should be in great shape for the next half decade, as long as Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka stay healthy.
As for Houston - they finally got a max player. They paid a steep price in Lamb and the three picks. We will have to see where the first round picks end up being, but it appears unlikely they will fall in the top five.
Basically, for the Rockets, this deal simply comes down to Harden playing as well as he did last year. If he can be as good, and with a heavier load on his shoulders, he will be well worth the max contract he is about to sign. But if he regresses once given a larger burden, the Rockets will be losers in this trade. Cole Aldrich could also be a nice throw in piece for Houston; he appears to have some talent.
In unrelated news, I just put up a short piece for Bleacher Report on five recent draft busts. Nothing mind-blowing, just common sense stuff. Essentially it comes down to this: you try your best to research top prospects via stats/how they look in games, you check for injuries and mental issues...and then you realize sometimes you still don't know.