For the second straight year, the reigning NBA Sixth Man Of The Year; was traded before the start of the regular campaign. Last year the Los Angeles Lakers traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks and according to “The Oklahoman,” the Oklahoma City Thunder have sent James Harden, in a multi-player swap with the Houston Rockets, Saturday night. Harden would have become a restricted Free Agent on July 1, had he not come to terms with Oklahoma City on a long-term pact, by next Wednesday night. After the franchise and Harden’s agent failed to reach an agreement throughout the off-season; Thunder General Manager Sam Presti completed the trade on Saturday.
Harden heads to Houston along with veteran Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward and center Cole Aldrich. Oklahoma City will receive in return, veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb and two semi-protected first round draft picks plus a second round pick in the transaction. Both the first round selections are at least partly protected for next June’s NBA Draft.
Oklahoma City, went into the off-season with two young talented members of their roster in the final years of their contract, eligible to become restricted Free Agents at the conclusion of the upcoming campaign. They reached an agreement with starting forward Serge Ibaka, early in the summer; however they were unable to negotiate a deal with Harden; as the player and his agent insisted on a max deal.
With Ibaka, along with starting center Kendrick Perkins, as well as the team’s two All-Stars; forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook; the Thunder would have been over the Association’s salary cap, had they agreed to a max deal with Harden. Penalties for going over the NBA imposed cap, will increase for the 2013-2014 campaign; with a team having to pay $1.50 for every dollar they exceeded the cap by. That means if a franchise is one million dollars over the cap, they would have to pay $1.5 million in taxes.
The Rockets; according to numerous sources, should lock up Harden to a long-term max deal, by the Wednesday deadline. He will most likely take the starting shooting guard spot for Houston; teaming him up with Free Agent point guard Jeremy Lin. He will be replacing Martin, a player, who became a go-to-guy, for the squad, after the trade of Tracy McGrady and center Yao Ming’s retirement.
K-Mart, also will become a Free Agent at the end of the upcoming season, so speculation has already begun, over whether he is a one year rental for Oklahoma City, or they will attempt to bring him into the fold on a long-term basis. He most likely will replace Thabo Sefolosha as the starter at shooting guard, giving the Thunder’s starting lineup another prolific scorer Lamb, was the twelfth selection in the this past June’s NBA Draft and the former Connecticut star, is said to have a huge upside; as he begins his career in the Association.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the deal, is to what effect if any; Harden’s departure will have to Oklahoma City’s team chemistry. The club went through a similar situation, a few years ago, after trading a key member of the squad; forward Jeff Green to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Perkins and the squad only improved after the mid-season trade. We will find out shortly if the trade of Harden, will be a positive or negative situation for the Thunder, with the start of the regular campaign this week.