By now all of you have heard that James Harden is headed to Houston along with Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and at least 2 first round picks. The basketball world has been pretty divided on this from what I’ve seen so far. Clamoring about who’s fault it was, Harden’s for turning down the extension or the Thunder’s for lowballing him a bit. Many have complained the Thunder didn’t NEED to trade him even after he turned down the deal, but in my eyes this trade wasn’t about need. It was about opportunity, many different forms of it. This gives James Harden an opportunity to take over a larger role, one that he probably never would have received in OKC, where his talents weren’t being wasted, but sometimes underutilized. Thunder GM Sam Presti saw his opportunity this preseason to lock up Harden for under standard value before he had a chance to test his market, when that didn’t happen he started looking at possible trade scenarios. That’s when his opportunity to extract what appears to me was maximum value for an asset (Harden). Let’s break down what he received:
To recap the haul, let’s start with the Thunder receiving shooting guard Kevin Martin, who should be able to thrive in Harden’s vacated role this season as Thunder sixth man and third scoring option. Many forget just how good Kevin Martin is he averages over 18 PPG for his career and sports a career 44% field goal percentage despite being the focal point of the offense on inferior teams to the Thunder one he now resides on. He will now be seeing the knock down 3-point looks (on which Martin shoots a cool 39.3% on according to Synergy) Harden received so often for the Thunder when they had their entire big three on the court. Martin is also adept at doing what Harden excelled at with the Thunder second unit, creating off the dribble, maneuvering to the spots he wants to go and getting to the free throw line consistently. I would expect Martin to be even more well utilized in this role than Harden was.
The Thunder also receive the Rockets first selection (No. 12) in this years’ draft, Jeremy Lamb. Lamb probably won’t contribute a ton early this year, but he should have a chance to unseat Thabo Sefolosha as early as some point this season. Lamb showed enough at UCONN last season for the Rockets to select him in the lottery and the Thunder will now have him signed cheaply for 4 seasons that should allow him to develop.
The Thunder also received 2 first round picks. The first was the Dallas pick that was originally involved in the Lamar Odom deal and later the Derek Fisher trade as well. That will be a mid-round pick in this coming draft. The second was the Raptors first-round pick that was involved in the Kyle Lowry deal that is protected IN the lottery, meaning that the Thunder won’t receive the pick until a season that the Raptors are out of the playoffs, also likely this coming summer. The key here isn’t where the draft picks fall it is that you are giving possible the best drafting GM in the NBA, the guy who drafted Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka AND Harden FOUR first round picks over the next 2 seasons.
James Harden: Up slightly
Kevin Martin: Up slightly
Jeremy Lamb: Down, less opportunity