TrueHoop TV talking about, you guessed it, the James Harden trade. Interesting note in there: As Henry Abbott says, it was pretty obvious that the Thunder were never going to be able to sign Harden. Harden wanted max money, and wanted the ball. The Thunder could’ve kept him by simply matching on a max offer sheet in free agency, but as Henry says, and a couple well-connected league sources have explained to me, Harden and his agent were doing what they could to make it as difficult as possible for OKC to match on an offer sheet.
So the greater question isn’t about whether or not they should’ve just offered him the max, but it’s more about a) if they traded him at the right time and b) if they got the right deal. We don’t know that yet and while many have already drawn their own conclusions about the trade without ever seeing neither Jeremy Lamb or Steven Adams play, there’s still a chance OKC made out OK in this thing.
And as Zach Lowe pointed out the other day, rewind to Oct. 2012 when no one knew exactly how Harden would look as a primary scorer on a team. We all had a pretty good idea, but he just spent three seasons playing as a sixth man alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Could he handle the alpha role, or would he struggle? It was an unknown then, but now it’s something that we look at and scoff at. Of course Harden could handle that. But that’s kind of, you know, how hindsight works.
What’s most apparent is that keeping three max level wing players, along with a well-paid power forward, is pretty much unprecedented in NBA history. And the Thunder — the league’s smallest market — was tasked with doing so. Is James Harden a better player than Serge Ibaka? Absolutely.
But in terms of specifically the Thunder, could Ibaka make more of a difference in wins and losses alongside Westbrook and Durant than Harden would have? We won’t really ever know, but time will certainly tell if a Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka trio is good enough.
And this concludes your James Harden Trade Discussion Post of the Day.