The Oklahoma City Thunder decided to trade James Harden when contract negotiations broke down on Saturday, according to Yahoo! Sports.
General manager Sam Presti showed he is not afraid to mess with the team’s chemistry that made the NBA Finals. It was a trade that had to be made once they committed to Serge Ibaka, who signed a four-year $48 million extension in August.
The Thunder traded Harden — the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year — backup center Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward and guard Daequan Cook to the Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two 2013 first-round picks and a second-rounder.
The trade does carry some risk. OKC got a good scorer in Martin, but he has averaged just 45 games in the last four years. On one hand, it’s a good deal because he has an expiring contract. But if he’s not healthy, the Thunder won’t be as lethal. If he’s healthy, he gives the Thunder a career 18-point scorer. However, his defense is very suspect.
Harden’s defense on Kobe Bryant was key in the second round last year when the Thunder won in five games. Plus, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden shared a special bond on the court. Harden’s playmaking ability was often the special element because Westbrook was more comfortable jacking up jumpers and taking the ball to the basket. And Harden is a very good passer, especially out of pick-and-rolls.
The nice part of the deal for OKC was getting Lamb, who tore up the summer league in Las Vegas and reminded some NBA afficionados of a young Tracy McGrady. Lamb is an athletic player who should be able to help OKC defend perimeter players and play shooting guard or small forward. If Martin isn’t healthy down the stretch, which he often is, Lamb will face more pressure to play well right away under the bright lights of the postseason.
The deal included giving up a lot on Houston’s part. But it had to do something after striking out in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. And the Rockets were able to get rid of Martin’s $12.4 million contract (he’s in the final year of a five-year, $55 million deal).
Harden should be Houston’s No. 1 option on offense, allowing Jeremy Lin to run the offense and not have to try and carry the team like he did when he was with the New York Knicks when Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were hurt.
Darren Jacks is a regular contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Send him an email at: [email protected]