At this point, who really cares, right? But from the department of “what if?” here’s a report from Michael Lee of the Washington Post that says the Thunder were turned down by the Wizards in a trade involving James Harden.
The Thunder reportedly were offering Harden in exchange for rookie Bradley Beal and second-year forward Chris Singleton. Why didn’t it happen? Because supposedly Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wouldn’t commit to a five-year, $80 million contract extension for Harden.
Prior to last June’s draft the Thunder were said to be interested in moving up for Beal, with a reported deal involving Harden. The Thunder scouted Beal extensively and had a few predraft interviews with him.
There’s one small issue with this report, and it’s the timeline of events. The Thunder may very well have been gauging interest throughout the league over the summer about Harden, but from what I’ve been told by those close to the situation, the Thunder really never decided on moving Harden until negotiations collapsed the week he was dealt. With the Oct. 31 deadline looming for an extension drawing near and it evident that the Thunder weren’t going to come to terms with Harden, OKC started the process of moving him.
Following the Finals, the Thunder were informed very early of Harden’s wishes for a max level extension, so there may have been some shopping going on then to sort of try and set the market. For example, the Suns tried to get in on the Harden talks. But according to sources, the Thunder’s first and foremost desire was to re-sign Harden. And going by that, it strikes me as unlikely that OKC would make a real trade offer before taking a real shot at inking him to an extension.
Maybe they were willing to part ways earlier than that if Beal was available. I don’t know that part of it.
After Harden was traded, Sam Presti laid out the events like this:
“The culmination of the decision to ultimately move in another direction — we got to a point where we were very transparent, very direct as we are with all of our negotiations with our players as to the fact we had reached a point where we needed to make a decision,” Presti said in October.
“We made a final proposal on Friday morning that was unacceptable. We then came back prior to beginning to execute trade initiations with another proposal. We were very transparent with James that if this is not acceptable then we were going to have to move towards making the best decision for the franchise given the fact that it was becoming a reality that more than likely he’d be signing elsewhere at the end of the season,” he continued. “Once that reality was met, as we have in the past, this organization turned the page. We started to focus on what was in the best interest of the program and focus on capitalizing on an opportunity to help us both in the short term and also continue to strengthen the future of the Thunder organization and building this program in a sustainable fashion.”
According to Presti’s account there, it certainly doesn’t sound as if the Thunder were offering Harden prior to negotiations going sour in October. Obviously those “trade initiations” could’ve included the Wizards, but the report says those discussions happened during the summer.
Once the Thunder made their decision to move Harden, they didn’t canvas the league though. They had a very direct idea of the kind of trade they wanted, and at the top of the list was the trade they got. The Thunder initially wanted a little more from the Rockets — including Chandler Parsons — but ultimately were good with the package.
Beal has struggled this season, averaging 11.7 points per game on an anemic 34.9 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, Martin has obviously fit in swimmingly, providing the Thunder exactly the kind of bench scoring weapon they lost in Harden. Considering the fact the Thunder are a contender, it’s hard for me to figure that they would’ve been fine turning over that role and responsibility to a rookie like Beal.
It’s likely a matter of perspective. The Wizards may have simply declined to even talk with the Thunder about a Harden deal because Leonsis wasn’t willing to pay the max extension price, and so that was seen as turning down an offer. Who knows. What’s for sure is that Harden went to the Rockets, and the Thunder are very happy with Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.