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After 3 seasons, 152 wins, including a shortened season, and a push to the NBA Finals in 2011-12, what the Oklahoma City Thunder had built with Durant, Westbrook and Harden did I ever expect this to happen to them. They broke up a team that had scoring, rebounding, and playmaking coming from numerous positions on the court. Oklahoma City has hurt their chances of getting back to the Finals, particularly this year. And we shall see how it pans out as for the future goes as well, after letting James Harden go to the Houston Rockets.
This makes things change enormously for Durant and Westbrook who will now have even more attention on them as scorers. Harden brought scoring, emotion, dangerous driving ability and a hard nosed defense that the Thunder needed, and now he is gone.
Now he starts for the Rockets, next to Jeremy Lin in the fresh back court of a team with hopes of having a deadly combo of PG and SG skills to help lead their team beyond the middling 34 wins that they had in 2011. And it can happen.
The Thunder, didn’t want to pay his asking price, where he sought around 53-54 million for a 4 year deal. Was it greedy on Harden’s behalf or were the Thunder too rigid with their funds? Was it the fact that in the Finals, Harden didn’t play very well, only shooting 38% in the 5 game series?
So the Thunder bring in Kevin Martin, a viable scoring option who can put up points, with a career average of 18 ppg, an inconsistent shooter, and a soft rebounder, he can put the ball in the hoop, but where is the future with him? He is already 29 years old, where as Harden is only 22, he could be a player to have stick around for years and help build the team to dynasty level. Martin is not.
And the fact is, that Martin is also very injury prone, only playing an average of 59 games a season, in his 8 year career. Granted Martin will score the ball, and will by some means, as always, get to the free throw line, (career 7 attempts/game, and an excellent 87% shooting from the stripe) along with Durant who gets there all the time as well. But, I think that the potentially best part of the trade was getting Jeremy Lamb, he can be a pretty reliable guy at the 3 spot, and may be a 12-15 point guy eventually, but it will take a few seasons for him to develop, when they had what they needed already in Harden.
The Rockets have gotten so much better with the pickup, maybe not championship better, but they have most definitely improved, Harden, already paying dividends, with huge 37 and 45 pt scoring nights, and getting 6 boards and 6 dimes/night in the first few games, he is going to be the 1st scoring option on the team, which he can handle.
The Rockets ought to be thinking playoff opportunity now, with James Harden, Jeremy Lin, big rebounder, Omer Asik, respectable defender, Patrick Patterson, and hustling rookie, Chandler Parsons, they can consider themselves an up and coming team with a chance. He will step in and be the star for the Houston Rockets, and he will do it instantly, as we have seen early in the season.
Losing James Harden has damaged the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best shot at winning the title. This was the time for the Thunder to make that next step. What happens next is going to be intriguing. For the Thunder, I certainly hope that Martin and Lamb pan out to be scorers and add the heart that Harden brought on the court for Oklahoma City.
Written by Frank Jordan for VegasTopDogs.com