Analyzing the James Harden Trade to the Houston Rockets

Updated: October 29, 2012

Posted by Jeff Lingard

Sam Presti shocked the NBA on Saturday night announcing a trade where Oklahoma City sent James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and a second rounder.

The Thunder had a decision to make with Harden before the October 31st extension deadline. They clearly did not want to give Harden a max contract extension and also didn’t want to simply have him play out his one year qualifying offer and let him become a restricted free agent. If Harden had played out this year and became a restricted free agent there were a number of teams waiting to offer him a max contract. The Thunder decided to try and sign Harden for a less than max contract and when Harden balked they traded him for what they thought was the best package.

The Thunder receive an efficient scorer on the wing in Martin who can be a scorer when Durant and Westbrook are on the bench and should get a lot of open shots. The main concern was last year he stopped drawing fouls and was not as efficient as usual. Martin will be a free agent after this year and I doubt he will be back. He has never played for a team this good and has usually been a primary scoring option so he will have to adjust quickly and learn to pick his spots. Jeremy Lamb was the 12th pick in the draft this past summer. He has good size for a shooting guard and has good shooting range and should develop into a good defender. I don’t think he will take too many minutes from Martin and Thabo Sefolosha but the Thunder excel at developing players and he should be a rotation player starting next year when Martin leaves. One of the first round picks was the pick Houston received from Toronto in the Kyle Lowry trade. This trade is top 3 protected but it rolls over if it is not a lottery pick in 2013. The other first round pick is a Lakers pick that Houston traded Jordan Hill for.

The Rockets finally obtain a star player to build a franchise around after striking out on Pau Gasol, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Harden was good enough of a third wheel on the Thunder to make the US Olympic team this past summer. He can score and create and is a good defender. He instantly gives the Rockets a dangerous backcourt with Jeremy Lin and will be an effective defender playing in front of Omer Asik in the paint. The Rockets paid a steep price but I think it is worth it since Martin was leaving after this season and the Rockets had enough other young players to give up the draft picks.

I don’t like declaring one team a winner of a trade the day after it has been made, especially when we don’t know what players Oklahoma City will receive in the draft. I understand why the Thunder made this trade from a luxury tax and long term perspective but I don’t agree with it. I think in the NBA you keep your best players when you are a young team and have a two to three year championship window. I think this weakens the Thunder in the short term, especially in a matchup with the Lakers and Spurs. If I was an Oklahoma City fan I would not be happy with the fact that the Thunder traded a 23 year old all-star who still hasn’t reached his ceiling so that the team can save on the luxury tax. The Thunder are in a small market but I would bet that their revenues are in the top half of the league and that they could afford the luxury tax during this period of contention.

I love this trade from the Rockets perspective. They have a good young backcourt and they still retain some of their first round picks to continue to build plus have some cap flexibility even when locking Harden in for the five year extension. No one knows how good Harden can be because he was a third option and did not play extended minutes as a sixth man. I am looking forward to seeing him really flesh out his game and become a franchise player.

Thanks for reading.

Jeff Lingard

Jeff Lingard

A Chartered Accountant living in Peterborough, Ontario, Jeff writes for a variety of websites about different sports but has focused on his favourite league, the NBA, here at Jeff cheers for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Browns and Indians and the Florida Panthers

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