The Thunder had until midnight ET Wednesday to sign Harden to an extension or he would have entered restricted free agency next summer. At that point, they would have had the right to match any offer he received from another team, but that likely would have a maximum offer that would have put the Thunder over the luxury tax threshold in the first year of the new “supertax.”
The Rockets are expected to offer a maximum contract extension to Harden, who immediately becomes the best player on a roster filled with young, unproven talent. He figures to start alongside Jeremy Lin in Houston’s backcourt.
“This trade gives us a chance to make an immediate impact on the future of our franchise moving forward,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement. “James Harden was part of Team USA’s gold medal team at the London Olympics and is one of the most skilled shooting guards in the NBA.
“James, along with the mix of young players we already have in place such as Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik give us a very solid group of young, talented players who will form the core of our team.”
In addition to Martin’s expiring deal, Rockets GM Daryl Morey had a surplus of young players and draft picks he stockpiled this summer in an unsuccessful attempt to pry All-Star center Dwight Howard away from the Orlando Magic.
(RELATED: The top 10 draft prospects for 2013)
Last season, Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 49 percent overall, 39 percent from the arc and nearly 85 percent from the line. All of those numbers are career highs.
Martin makes nearly $13 million but is in the final year of his contract. A solid scorer who never has played on a consistent winner, he likely will keep the shooting guard position warm for Lamb, who was the 12th pick in this year’s draft.
Last season, Martin averaged 17.1 points, his lowest figure since the 2005-06 season. It ended a streak of five seasons in which he averaged at least 19.8 points. The eight-year veteran has career norms of 18.4 points and 44 percent shooting, including nearly 38 percent from the arc.
Martin has played in just six playoff games, all in 2006. Harden has played in 43 in three seasons.
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