Harden Trade : Right One?
James Harden got his worth: a starting position in an NBA team. Nope. It’s no longer with the Oklahoma City Thunder. This came in after Harden, together with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbook led these young Thunder to the NBA Finals last year before bowing down to King LeBron James and his Miami Heat. Harden’s replacement as the Thunder’s leader off the bench? Oh it’s Kevin Martin. Everyone was asking back then: What was running inside the Thunder’s minds when they traded away Harden? Was it a giveaway? The answer is no. And it’s paying off for the Thunder as Durant and company are facing off against Harden, Jeremy Lin and the rest of the Houston Rockets in the first round match up. And after Game 1 which saw the Thunder bulldozing the Rockets away, it seems that it is a good trade for both teams. Why? Both teams reached the playoffs with the Rockets returning to the postseason after not making it in years.
The Harden-to-Houston deal was a shocking as everyone was hoping that the Thunder would keep their Big 3 consisting of Harden, Durant and Westbook intact. Everyone was hoping to see Oklahoma City’s Big 3 in the Finals against the Big 3 of the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, Harden has to deal with his former teammates to move on to the next round. The problem is: he cannot do it on his own. In Game 1 against the Thunder, Harden was the only starter who scored in double figures. The Rockets, as team shot 36% in the field and 22% beyond the 3-point line.
The Thunder basically outdid the Rockets in every aspect of the game. Kevin Martin, for his part scored 16 points to compliment with his 5 assists. Kevin Martin was in a better position than he was with the Rockets. Why? He doesn’t have to do it alone. Unfortunately for Harden, as long as he doesn’t get help from the rest of the Rockets, he would need to carry more load if he intends to beat his former team. With due respect to Harden, he is actually the 5th leading scorer in the NBA during the regular season just ahead of Russell Westbook.
Problem is: he also led the NBA in turnovers per game, ahead of Kobe Bryant. It’s basically a mixture of misfortune and not playing well. Misfortune in terms of the performance of his teammates and him not playing well at times. But, there’s no immediate effect that can be seen to say if the Harden deal is a good one or not. However, if we will look at how both teams played in Game 1 of their best of 7 series, it seems that Oklahoma City has benefited better from the deal not only because they saved chunks of Dollars. The Harden deal gave the Thunder another realisable threat from the outside and a reliable free throw shooter.
If we are to speak of reliability with regards as to whom benefited the most from the Harden deal, the Thunder’s being the top seed in the West speaks louder than the Rockets’ being the 8th seed. It showed in Game 1. And it showed throughout the entire season. Kevin Martin averaged 14 points a game during the regular season, far behind from Harden’s 22 points a game average. Thunder fans should be more thankful about the trade. Harden can do better and we all know that but, let’s not forget what Kevin Martin can do. He’s been to lot of bad teams, underperforming teams.
Now that he’s with the Thunder, he’s making the most of the opportunities given to him. As for the Rockets, the Harden deal may not look as good as they are right now. They entered the playoffs as the 8th seed and they down 0-1 in their best of 7 series. James Harden is talented and deserved the starting spot with the Rockets. But, he can’t simply win it by himself, especially if it’s a best of 7 series against his former team. He needs help. He needs his teammates. And more importantly, James Harden needs to prove that he can beat the team that traded him away.
If we are to answer the question of was the Harden deal a right one, it is the right one for both teams. Harden led the Rockets back to the playoffs and Martin contributed well to the Thunder’s finish as the top seed in the West. Both teams have benefited from the Harden deal. It’s just the question of who benefited better in the deal. It’s just the question of who’s making the most out of the deal. It’s not the question of who played more minutes than the other. It’s simply the question of who played better with the limited minutes that are given to him.
Written by Eleaazar Gonzales