David Thorpe on TrueHoop TV today, just raving about Steven Adams:
“He’s a gigantic, strong seven-foot man that is absolutely tough to his core. He just plays with a ferociousness and calmness. Perkins is ferocious, but emotional. Adams is ferocious and poised. I think it’s a huge get for Oklahoma City. He’s a guy that I think ultimately starts for them. If Scott Brooks was willing to be more flexible, he might start for them this year, but clearly he’s their long-term center. He’s a perfect guy for them and I think he helps their culture from a toughness standpoint. He’s just so physically dominant and tough, and again, it’s not an act.”
To which Henry Abbott pondered, if Adams is their starting center of the future, and he’s this good, it has to alter some of the perception around the James Harden trade, right? Then Thorpe tees off like Tiger on a Par 5:
“What everyone says about the Harden trade and the reality are two different things. They had to trade James Harden. I don’t even understand any other thought. James Harden wanted to go lead the league in scoring. He wanted to see if he could be the MVP. He wanted to see if he could carry a team to the championship as the best player, not the third wheel. You can’t keep a guy like that and say, ‘Well, we have you under contract, you have to do it our way.’ No. Guys only have one career. The cat wanted to go do what he’s doing. They had to trade him. They just ended up getting a great trade.”
Among the many, many things that have driven me crazy about the way people have talked about the Harden deal, one of the most infuriating was dismissing what the Thunder got in return without having any idea what they really got in return. The assumption was that Jeremy Lamb was a bust and Steven Adams was a wasted pick, except no one had really even seen either guy play at the NBA level.
Instead, Lamb is more than capable as a quality rotation player, and Adams is starting center material. Check out Lamb’s second season numbers so far compared to Harden’s:
- Harden: 12.2 points on 43.6 percent shooting (34.9 from 3), 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 26.7 minutes per game
- Lamb: 9.2 points on 45.0 percent shooting (39.2 from 3), 2.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 19.9 minutes per game
Per 36 minutes, their numbers are essentially identical:
- Harden: 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists
- Lamb: 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists
Now, I’m not trying to make a case that Jeremy Lamb is going to be James Harden, but maybe? Maybe in a couple of years, we’re all going to be talking about the Jeremy Lamb trade and if the Thunder got enough for that.
But Harden is an All-Star talent and one of the 10 best players in the league right now, which makes any trade you get for him one-sided. But like Thorpe said, Sam Presti and the Thunder had their feet to the fire and it was either pull the trigger now and deal Harden, or roll the dice and risk not getting anything in return. (Or they could’ve matched a max offer, which just wasn’t happening, especially considering the demands Harden’s agent was laying out in negotiations, as in a player option on the fourth season along with Harden’s desire to leave.)
Like Thorpe said, the trade was good when the Thunder made it last year. Thing is though, it’s now starting to look better and better.