This article is was submitted the The CalfMuscle by Danny Massaro
First of all, the biggest winner in this James Harden trade is the Los Angeles Lakers. As long as they stay healthy and Kobe doesn’t hire a hitman to take out Dwight Howard and his sorry attitude, the West is a one horse race.
When James Harden hit the game clinching three-pointer against the Spurs in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, I thought it was a wrap. The West was the Thunder’sand was going to be for a while. Then Steve Nash showed up at the Staples Center and Dwight Howard pouted his way to the same place, and the West was no longer looks like it’s OKC’s.
GM Sam Presti would never admit it, but I bet he thought the same thing. He saw Nash, Bryant, Gasol, World Peace (lol!), and Howard in the same starting lineup and asked himself, “Do I prepare for the next two years where the Heat and Lakers each have multiple Hall of Famers in stock or do I build a team for when my best two players are in their primes, Kobe and Nash are out of the league and at least one of the Heat’s big three are no longer in Miami?”
James Harden was the perfect for this Thunder team. He was a spark of the bench and a combo guard who handled the ball in big moments so shoot-happy Russell Westbrook didn’t clank a big shot. But I don’t think he’s enough to push them past the new look Lakers. Plus, in this deal Presti got Kevin Martin (a very capable scorer who could start at the two guard and live at the free throw line) and Jeremy Lamb (one of the four biggest “upside” rookies in the 2012 class along with Andre Drummond, Dion Waiters, and Perry Jones III – who is also on OKC). On top of that, they landed two first-round picks and a second-round pick. While I highly doubt the first round picks are in the lottery, they are still assets to use or trade to further your roster.
Plus, Kevin Martin is in the last year of his current deal (where he is being paid way too much) with an expiring contract. That gives Presti a lot of options. Resign him, extend him, trade him and his contract. Regardless, at season’s end whatever decision Presti makes will be the right one unless he signs Martin again to a contract similar to the one he’s currently under. If I were a betting man, I’d say Martin is gone by the deadline unless he’s scoring 18 a night and looks like irreplaceable.
As for the Rockets, they just got James Harden and signed him to a max deal. I’m not James Harden Could Be The Best Player On A Championship Team Guy. I think he can be the second best player on a winner, but not the alpha dog.
But still, the Rockets just unloaded two of the guys that they reluctantly had on the roster only to deal for Dwight Howard, and they acquired the top 2013 Free Agent not named Chris Paul. That’s a win, right? It has to be.
Houston now has Harden, Omar Asik, Jeremy Lin, Royce White, Chandler Parsons, Terrance Jones (maybe my favorite rookie – a less athletic, more skilled Josh Smith), and Patrick Patterson. All players with potential to be solid starters and all under 25 years old. Even before the Harden deal, Houston boasted one of the most athletic rosters in the NBA, and now with the addition of Harden their athleticism can focus on defense while Harden handles the bulk of the scoring.
My closing thoughts on how Houston made out go like this: They took steps forward. It’s as simple as that. But I still don’t think Harden can shoulder the load in the West. Not now at least. Maybe in four years (during his contract year).
Daryl Morey, Houston’s GM, is maybe the most active man at that position in the league. He’ll have to be after this deal because he needs another star that complements Harden. Best case scenario is in two years Chris Bosh walks away after his current deal in Miami and plays for his hometown team in Houston. (Unfortunately, we all know how much hometown pride means to those Heat players.) By then, we should know if Omar Asik is as good as Morey hopes, Chandler Parsons could be one of the best 7 or 8 slashers in the league, and either Royce White or Terrance Jones can be the glue guy (my guess is it will be Jones).
A nine-man rotation of Lin (if he’s good Jeremy Lin which I think he will be), Harden, Parsons, Bosh, Asik, Jones, White, Patterson, and Bench Combo Guard X is at minimum a three or four seed when all those guys are in their primes and the Spurs, Lakers, Mavs (or two of the three, entirely up to Dwight and Chris Paul) are on their way out. But 90% of the success of this deal for the Rockets relies on what kind of noise Daryl Morey can make with another star in the next two-ish years.
As for the Thunder, they could be better in 2012-13 or they could be a little bit worse. Either way, this trade is not detrimental. They still have the second best player in the NBA in Kevin Durant. And not only is Durant the league’s best scorer, but he is a hard-nosed kid who got shown up in the finals by his frenemy. I bet Durantula is the gym right now as you are reading working on some facet of his game.
Also, I love the competitor that Russell Westbrook is. He shoots too much, there is no denying that, but he wills OKC. And I’m still confident that he’ll ease up on the trigger finger very soon.
Kevin Martin will average the 12-15 of the points that walked out the door with Harden and Jeremy Lamb will soon turn into what James Harden was. He may never be as exciting or as good with the ball as Harden, but he’ll shoot like him, play better defense, and be one of the league’s top sixth men in due time.
On top of all of that, Serge Ibaka is on contract through 2016, and Kendrick Perkins is still on board and if he beats up Dwight Howard in the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder very well could land in the NBA Finals again. And head coach Scotty Brooks is a leader of men.
The Thunder is still the Thunder even without Harden. Unfortunately, the 2012-13 Lakers look a little bit better. But with the addition of Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, draft picks, and the unlimited ceiling of Perry Jones III, the Thunder will stay at the top for quite a while.
Deals like this is what makes the NBA so beautiful. Deals like this found Paul Pierce his first title and saw Dennis Rodman put the Bad Boy Pistons over the top. Now all we have to do is wait for these AAU teams in LA and Miami to call it quits.
When that happens, who knows? Maybe we’ll see James Harden squaring off against his old running mates in summer 2015 for the rights to win the West.
This post does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of Welcome to Loud City or SB Nation. However, it was made by one of the members of the Welcome to Loud City community, so there is a large chance the above post is extremely ballin'!