The big trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets shook the basketball world on Saturday evening. Ever-so-close to the pinnacle last season, the Thunder were supposed to bring back third musketeer James Harden to compete for the Western Conference championship and NBA Finals this season and for many more to come.
And then… Poof! Voila! Vamoose!
Kevin Martin, his expiring $12 million contract and rookie Jeremy Lamb are headed north to OKC for the 2012-13 season, along with two 2013 first-round draft picks (Toronto’s top-3 protected pick, as well as Dallas’ selection). The Thunder also received the Bobcats’ 2013 second-rounder.
People have been quick to judge this deal — perhaps none more so than our own Chris Bernucca, who hates it from OKC’s standpoint. And we are using the word “hate” loosely. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, mine is that the end results of this trade won’t be realized until years down the road.
Along with factoring in how Martin and Lamb develop as members of the Thunder, we need to analyze the utilization of the draft picks Oklahoma City acquired to make sense of this deal.
For the Rockets, the trade will be primarily judged by the ability of Harden to become a true maximum salary player. If Aldrich, Hayward and Cook (who is a one-year rental) can become adequate role players, they’ve done their job.
For the Thunder, and their fans, it is more emotional — and with good reason.
With a chance to compete for multiple championships, how could management let Harden get away when the sides were a mere $6 million apart?