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Who really ended up winning and losing in the trade that send Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.
The James Harden trade is less than a day old so now seems like the perfect for some instant reaction and declaring who the clear winners and losers. Because we all know that the best way to judge a trade is in the present and not to wait for the future. I should note that there is some sarcasm in that last sentence.
The trade goes as follows the Oklahoma City Thunder trade guard James Harden, center Cole Aldrich, guard Daequan Cook and forward Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for guard Kevin Martin, rookie guard Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and a second round pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
Lets start with the winners because that it is always more fun to win.
Clearly James Harden is the biggest winner in this entire trade. He gets the money, the playing time and the chance to be 'the man' in Houston. He will soon sign a max extension and get the money from Houston that he was not going to get from OKC. The bigger question is whether or not Harden wants to carry that kind of weight on his shoulders. I read and hear from people who say that Harden is not the kind of guy who wants the limelight and responsibility on the basketball court that comes with being the man.
The Alpha Dog if you will to barrow a line from Bill Simmons. There might be a little truth in that but his actions speak otherwise. You don't play and take the shots he does in the fourth quarter of games without having that innate ability for being the go to guy on a team. From the big time fourth quarter shots to the emotion he plays with to the beard and the theatrics he plays with him. To me it is clear that this is what Harden wants. He wants the money, the fame, the playing time and everything else that comes with being the face of a team. And the Rockets just granted that wish for him.
K-Mart went from being one of the very few veteran players on a really bad team to a key role player on a team contending for the NBA title. Not a bad place for the man with the funkiest jumper in the NBA. It won't take the Thunder or their fans long to see the ridiculous drop off defensively from Harden to Martin. But with Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, and a healthy Eric Maynor the Thunder should be able to find ways to pick up the slack.
Martin's offensive game is something novice NBA fans do not know enough about. The dude is a sick shooter (once again despite the off putting delivery) who hits a very high percentage and understands how to get to the free throw line where he is near automatic. Last season Martin's numbers dipped in points, field goal percentage, and three point percentage. Many things attributed to the dip in offensive output.
The lockout, the roster being in constant flux and most importantly the change in head coach. I look for the move to OKC to rejuvenate Martin and for him to return to the 2008-2009 form that he displayed with the Sacramento Kings.
This was going to be the season where Cole Aldrich was going to get heavy minutes in the rotation with the Thunder. I was still on the side of I would believe when I see it. Now Aldrich is going to a team in desperate need of a back up center. The Rockets recently acquired center Omer Asik is going to be asked to play more minutes than he ever has in his NBA career. The adjustment to starting that Asik is going to have to make will be a giant benefit for Aldrich. Not to mention getting to work with a Hall Of Fame big man who was known for he amazing skill in the low post.
Well it finally happened. After years of trying and coming up on the short end of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Nene, and Dwight Howard. Rockets GM Daryl Morey finally got his super star player. I believe they say that the sixth time is the charm. The Morey philosophy is one of finding that super star player and building the rest of the supplemental parts around in smart free agent signings and draft picks.
Another part of this is to not over value your own non super star assets. A good example of that is the trade of Chase Budinger. A player who performed above his draft slot (second round 44th overall) and Morey traded him in the off-season to the Minnesota T-Wolves for a first round pick that landed Terrence Jones.
That is what Morey did with Jeremy Lamb. He made sure to not get caught up in what Lamb could be and instead looked at it as trading an unknown player that could be good someday for a proven commodity in Harden. I understand why Morey put Lamb in the deal but I would have traded Royce White before I traded Lamb. Forward is clearly a position of excess for the Rockets. Guard however is not. Being able to make this trade without having to give up Terrence Jones is another reason why Morey gets a mark in the win column.
Now whether or not Harden is the super star player that Morey thinks he is still up for debate. I still have my worries about what the ceiling is for Harden. I have compared him to being Joe Johnson. A really good guard who can score lots of points and get your team to the playoffs but is not that elite player who can carry your team to winning multiple rounds in the playoffs. I have been wrong on James Harden in the past so I could be wrong now.
When he was drafted third overall in 2009 I remember saying it was a reach. That there were better players that would fit for the Thunder at that pick. It is clear I was wrong about that. So it is entirely possible that I am wrong about what level Harden can reach. As of right now I am sticking with my Joe Johnson comparison.
Not having James Harden on your team hurts. There is no way around that. Harden was a great compliment to an elite team that was on the verge on becoming a great team. Harden was a vital part and reason for the Thunder's quick rise to that elite status. Thunder GM Sam Presti isn't a dummy though. He made sure if he had to move Harden he got plenty for him and that he did. Kevin Martin will be rejuvenated by this move and it will show in his play. Well, it will show in his offensive play. Jeremy Lamb has the makings to be Kevin Martin 2.0 sans the funky jumper and better ability defensively. The two first round draft picks are the icing of the cake the Thunder. But all in all those things still do not add up to James Harden.
The rookie guard looked to be in line to get a lot of minutes this season for the Rockets. He was going to be losing a lot of games while grabbing those minutes but at least he was going to get them. The move to OKC means sitting on the bench for a team that doesn't have time to deal with the headaches that come with rookies. The silver lining for Lamb is that he now gets to learn under the wing of the greatest players in the NBA right now in Kevin Durant. That did wonders for James Harden's career and could do the same for Lamb.
Yes the Rockets get James Harden and he is the best player in this trade. Getting the best player usually means you won the trade. But the Rockets had to give up a lot to get James Harden and they still haven't cured one of the major ills that plagues them. Giving up Jeremy Lamb and two first round picks is problematic for me. I love the upside on Jeremy Lamb. I have had a man crush on Lamb and his laid back style since Uconn won the national title two years ago. He grades out with athletic tangibles that you see in high level guards at the NBA.
The two first round draft picks in 2013 hurts too but not as much as Lamb. The picks were ones they received from the Dallas Mavericks and the Toronto Raptors and the Rockets were still able hold onto their own first round pick in 2013. The addition of Harden does not vault them to the top have of the Western Conference. So their own pick could wind up being another lottery pick. Losing the Raptors pick hurts because that looks to be a high draft pick.
If there is anything that the 2012 NBA draft taught me it is that the Rockets would have rather sat through a marathon of Honey Boo Boo than have to use all three of their first round draft picks. I don't think the idea of again having to select 3 first round draft picks was appealing at all.
So now the Rockets have even less depth at the guard position and still have a plethora of forwards on the team. This trade would have been a good time to move one of the 37 forwards that the Rockets have on their roster. Whether is was Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson, or Royce White this was the chance to free up the log jam that you have on this team. Instead you move Jeremy Lamb while still trying to figure out exactly what kind of player Marcus Morris is at the NBA.