Yesterday, the Houston Rockets pulled the trigger on a trade to gain Sixth Man of the Year, Team USA member and former Oklahoma City guard, James Harden.
The trade, in addition to Harden brought Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Haywood to Houston while Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and a second round pick were sent to Oklahoma City.
The Houston Rockets have made no secret of their ambition to add a legitimate star to their roster since the McGrady and Yao era, hoarding assets including young players and draft picks. GM Daryl Morey has been very cautious not to commit big money financially, keeping room for flexibility and his eventual star player.
Harden, entering his fourth year in the NBA, was an intricate piece in Oklahoma City. One head of the three headed beast that included Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden started only two games last year yet averaged 31.4 minutes per game.
Effectively playing starting minutes although backing up Thabo Sefolosha, he went on to average 16.8 points per game, shooting just under 50% from the field (49.1%) and marginally under 40% from the three point line (39%).
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Oklahoma City offered what they thought to be a reasonable contract. After committing big money to other stars such as Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka there was not the availability to offer Harden a max contract.
According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the offer was reportedly in the range of 55 million over four years.
A combination of slightly less money from the Thunder (55 million over four years VS 60 million over four years) and the opportunity to be a focal point of a team and leave his sixth man status behind would have been high in Harden’s list of reasons to decline the offer from Oklahoma City.
The Thunder were determined not to let their young prodigy walk for nothing in the off-season. So they did what they did at the trade deadline in 2011 with then nearing free agent, Jeff Green. They quickly acquired some assets and moved on.
After Houston’s involvement in trying to be destinations for players such as Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Andre Iguodala and Pau Gasol to name a few in recent years, they finally got lucky in Harden.
Houston Coach Kevin McHale has reportedly said that he “Finally has a guard that he likes.” The Rockets organisation is also celebrating the capture of Harden, declaring it “Stunning” and a “Gamechanger.”
Will Harden be Houston’s star of the future? At 23 years of age, making Team USA and winning awards like Sixth Man of the Year means Harden has plenty of upside. Houston’s roster is young and looks to be very exciting. Offseason acquisition of Jeremy Lin was also a big splash for the franchise.
The big news is that the day has finally come when the Houston Rockets have stopped hoarding assets and actually pulled the trigger on a trade for someone they believe will be their future. Something that will finally put a smile on the face of their fans.