Sunday, October 28, 2012

Winners and Losers of the James Harden Megadeal

Kevin Martin (left) and James Harden (right) are the headline pieces of yesterday's trade.

      In a deal that shocked many circles, reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti seems content about the trade, albeit disappointed that his organization and Harden couldn't reach an agreement on a contract extension. In the blockbuster trade, the Thunder received shooting guard Kevin Martin, rookie guard Jeremy Lamb, two 2013 first-round draft picks and one second-round draft pick. The Rockets picked up Harden, three-point specialist Daequan Cook and big men Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward. Here's my edition of Winners and Losers for the James Harden trade...


Kevin Martin: Martin will finally be able to play for a top-flight contender after being dealt to the Thunder. He is a good scorer and has the ability to replicate Harden's scoring averages. Martin isn't quite the finesse passer that Harden is, but he will add firepower to an already dynamic Oklahoma City offense. If Martin can contribute well for the Thunder, he will be in position to receive a considerable contract this summer during free agency.

Oklahoma City Thunder: GM Sam Presti is known for being a decisive front-office leader, but I think he made a good move in this deal. In the short-term, subtracting Harden from the equation will affect the team's chemistry, but Oklahoma City will still be a legitimate contender because of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. Expect this team to still be near the top of the Western Conference at the start of the postseason. In the long-term, this trade benefits the Thunder much more than the Rockets. Martin's contract will allow the Thunder to free up significant money this summer. Jeremy Lamb, their new rookie guard, was a highly touted prospect in the 2012 NBA Draft and has the potential to blossom into a very solid player. The Thunder also received three draft picks -- including two 2013 first-round picks -- that could be used to bring in growing, young players or as trade bait. More and more each day, it looks like the Thunder are starting to build a dynasty.

Cole Aldrich: Aldrich was never a big piece of the puzzle in Oklahoma City, but in Houston he might be able to live up to his first-round potential. He'll have to battle a much wealthier Omer Asik for playing time, but at least Aldrich will be able to see some minutes and possibly carve out his own role as a member of the Rockets.


Houston Rockets: Well, this is interesting. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has taken a lot of risks this offseason and this trade only adds fuel to the fast-growing fire. The Rockets will start a backcourt of fan-favorite Jeremy Lin and James "Fear the Beard" Harden. I like Morey's daring behavior, but I don't think he made the most beneficial deal for his team with this trade. I think Harden will produce in Houston, but can he be the first option on a team when in Oklahoma City he was arguably the fourth option? I'm skeptical about Harden being that type of leader. However, his Olympic experience might help him to become a top-flight shooting guard and establish chemistry in the Houston locker room. The other risks Morey has taken is what really makes the Rockets losers in this deal, though. We know Harden can produce -- maybe the max contract he'll receive will be justifiable -- but the backloaded contracts of Lin and Asik will prevent this team from building a true contender. Giving up two draft picks that could have been used as trade bait to acquire All Stars may also hurt this franchise in the future. Can Houston sneak into the playoffs? It's possible, but it hinges on the development of many of their "core" players. It's yet to be seen if this team can be a formidable force in the future, but as of now, this organization is dependent on the growth of their players and it's very rare that everything always works out in the end. That's why I'm tabbing the Rockets as "losers" of this deal.

Kevin Durant: This one hurts Durant emotionally, you better believe that. His team will still be a contender as long as he's prepared, which I think he is, but this is definitely a setback for the superstar's psyche. His tweet about the trade pretty much says it all.

Foot Locker: Guess we won't be seeing ads featuring Westbrook and Harden anymore.

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

James Harden: The main player of this trade is now stuck in the middle of things. In Houston, he'll receive the max contract he covets, but have a much, much lower chance of possibly winning a championship this season. I truly don't think Harden wanted to leave Oklahoma City because their team was so interwoven, but at the same time he just wouldn't be able to receive the money he was going to get on the free agent market in Oklahoma City. Because he will be paid like that of a top option in Houston, he will be expected to play like an All Star for the Rockets. Can he do it? Only time will tell.

      Now that the deal is done, do you think the Thunder are still as legitimate contenders as they were before the trade? How do you think this trade affects both teams going forward? Because of this trade, do you think other growing stars like Brandon Jennings or Tyreke Evans are more likely to be dealt before the Halloween deadline? Sound off in the comments section and let me know what you think!

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