Monday, October 29, 2012

Breaking down of the James Harden Trade.

Photo by Mike Ehrmann from Getty Images
So long are the days of the beard flowing in the winds of Oklahoma city, and cue the sad but adorable YouTube videos of children crying. The internet exploded on Saturday night when Sam Presti traded James Harden (along with Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook) to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks (from Dallas and Toronto) and a second-round pick (from Charlotte).

Let's break this down.

For the Houston Rockets:
Daryl Morey finally gets his franchise guy in James Harden, and an opportunity to attract free agents to Space City. The re-building process post Yao Ming and T-Mac era can begin, and they have a lot of money to do so in the summer. The Rockets easily wins this trade, getting an All Star for an expiring contract of the unhappy Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb and a few draft picks. They are still unlikely to make the playoffs this year with this group, at least a path for the future has been laid down.

Houston should be worried about one thing though, James Harden has previously stated that he did not like to be the "MAN," a role he played in college and successfully grabbed the attention of NBA general managers. Harden is a young developing NBA star that improved statistically every year, but they were all done as the sixth man, behind the shadows of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. With that said, he actually plays better without those two on the floor, as a matter of fact, he played 464 minutes with neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbrook on the floor last season. 

He might have struggled in the NBA Finals last year, averaging 12.4 points and 3.0 assists per game on 37.5% shooting. Confidence should be brewing inside him now, coming back from a brutal beating by the Miami Heat and a gold medal at the Olympics, he should be more than prepared to step into the spotlight with his majestic facial hair.  

For the Oklahoma City Thunder:
This is a huge loss for Loud City, without James Harden, they lose an efficient scorer, a second unit leader that can orchestrate the offense while creating his own shots. Just how efficient is this man? He shot at a 49.1 field goal percentage last year, 70 percent at the rim and 39 from the three. Not to mention his play making ability, according to synergy sports he is ranked 9th in scoring efficiency as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and a 19.3 assist percentage when he is in the game. His production is simply irreplaceable, OKC will likely never get someone as good as Harden and it might wind up as one of biggest regrets in Basketball history.

However, this is just a set back for the Thunder and they are still not out of contention for the Larry O' Brien Trophy. Chemistry within the team are without a doubt disrupted but they did get a fair deal in return and if Scott Brooks can put this together, be prepared to be surprised. Kevin Martin is a dynamic scorer who might have been under your radar for his entire career, because unfortunately, he plays for terrible teams. Through out the 10 seasons of his career, besides his rookie and sophomore year, he averaged 21.4 points a game at a 43 field goal percentage. He is near Harden in assist percentage at 14.5 and can draw fouls like a quarterback playing against Ndamukong Suh (wrong sport, but you get the reference).

The second unit will suffer without Harden, but Eric Maynor is back from his season ending knee injury. Maynor is a reliable back up point guard that might be able to run the offense in the beard's absence. He will be the key to make Martin fit in to this unit, and let's not forget OKC landed a few rookies with star potential. Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb are promising players and playing under the culture of this team, without having to worry about becoming the immediate franchise rescuers will be nothing less than beneficial.

If everything listed above does not work out, the Thunder can still afford to play Westbrook and Durant more minutes. Serge Ibaka is a developing offensive threat and giving Presti the Raptor's pick will more than likely make Morey regret it.

In my opinion, both teams made the best decision possible. The Rockets answered their desperate need for change and are finally ready to compete. It is fair to criticize the Thunder for not going to a last run at the championship with the beard and paying Perkins an undeserving contract, but for the future, they may have booked themselves a better scheduled appointment at another NBA Finals.

Sources: Picture,Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation, MySynergySports, Arizona, Hoopdata, Basketball Reference.

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