27 October 2012

Breaking down the Rockets' deal for James Harden

Breaking news in the world of the NBA as the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded shooting guard James Harden as well as center Cole Aldrich, guard Daequan Cook and forward Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets in exchange for shooting guard Kevin Martin, first round pick Jeremy Lamb, two first round selections (from Dallas and Toronto) and a second round selection (from Charlotte) in the 2013 NBA Draft. This was a quick turnaround for the Thunder after contract talks with Harden broke off earlier this afternoon. Here's my analysis of the late-breaking deal.

I love the move for the Thunder. It is tough to lose such a key piece of the puzzle as Harden was but he was looking for a maximum deal and the Thunder were, wisely, not willing to go higher than four years, $52 million because as a small market club, they were looking to minimize the amount they would have to pay in the luxury tax. Plus, they will receive a solid haul in exchange for Harden. Martin is an underrated scorer who should be able to provide much of the juice that Harden did off the bench plus he also has a $12.5 million expiring contract, which could be used to get another asset or two. And in Lamb, they get a talented shooter who has the skills to be a solid long-term replacement for Harden. Those first-round picks look to be in the middle of the first round.

As for the Rockets, they have been looking to find a star in the offseason to build their team around and while I think Harden is an elite shooting guard, I hesitate to consider him a star and do not know if he is the kind of guy you can build a club around, which given what they gave up for him makes it appear that it would be the case. While Harden does become the best player on a pretty young Rockets club, and should make for an exciting backcourt with Jeremy Lin, I am not sold that he can carry this team considering he was the sixth man in Oklahoma City and is coming off a poor performance in the NBA Finals against Miami and has never been an All-Star. I do not see the Rockets moving up into the playoffs with this, in fact, I still have them as the 13th seed. I do think there is the possibility that the preminent wheeler and dealer in Rockets GM Daryl Morey may have another move up his sleeve to bring in another key player.

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