Once upon a time, I discouraged any and all MVP talk until a quarter of the season (at the very least) had been played. Nowadays, I am a reformed man — and I have Sam Presti, Clay Bennett, Daryl Morey and Rob Pelinka to thank.
After slightly less than one week of the NBA season, we find ourselves in a situation no one could have envisioned in the waning days of October. The game of poker between James Harden (repped by Pelinka, who also reps Kobe Bryant) and Presti (who reps Bennett) became an all-in chip shove, and it sure as heck looks like the Thunder lost their big stack.
A team of young guns that made it to last season’s NBA Finals has been ripped apart, and the Rockets are becoming must-see TV in the U.S. the same way they were in China just a few years ago.
And the thing about it is this: Why did the Thunder represent themselves as having such a strong hand? After seeing guys like Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez get maxed out over the summer, they had to realize that Harden is a max player, too. You don’t need a degree from Emerson College to figure that one out.
Would they have become a luxury tax team? Yes.
Could they have afforded to pay the tax? Hell, yes – and they could have paid it with the money they’d have brought in by going deep into the playoffs in each of the next five seasons. That does not mean we are writing them off as championship material, but in no way, shape or form are they a better team than they were last June.
Harden, meanwhile, is laughing all the way to the bank. And Morey? After failing in his efforts to get a sure-fire MVP candidate in Dwight Howard, he now has one in Harden – who is atop the inaugural version of this list, which will be updated each and every Monday.