Wednesday, November 7, 2012

James Harden Trade: The Takeaway

I could tell you that I actually wanted to see the two teams play before trying to ascertain the effect of the trade.  But honestly, I had to wait until the Harden explosion (41 points and 7 assists avg. for first two games) died down before I could officially make the call that I made on the day he was traded—OKC is a better team without him.

James Harden is better than I thought he was.  He (along with Lin) has made the Rockets a viable team in the wide-open Western Conference. I knew he was a play maker, but he is a much more potent scorer than I gave him credit for. Here is every scoring play of Harden’s in his 45 point game vs the Hawks (a sure-fire playoff team) on his second night of his #WhatDoesSamPrestiKnow Tour. 

Always fantastic on pick and roll plays, he looks even more determined to get to the basket now that he is the best offensive weapon on the floor for his team whenever he is in the game. Add that to the fact that he is a combo guard (a player as capable of scoring himself as he is of creating baskets for his teammates) who plays with a combo guard willing to defer to him, and it’s the perfect storm for his breakout performance.

[Sidenote: combo guards work best when paired with other combo guards.  What is needed in the backcourt is a way to distribute and to score.  Traditionally those have been qualities germane to the point guard and shooting guard, respectively.  With a double combo guard backcourt, those same duties are handled, just by both tenants. And while this isn’t a traditional notion, it isn’t a novel one either. Those Danny Ainge and Dennis Johnson backcourts for the championship Boston Celtics (Dennis Johnson also formed a backcourt combo pair with Gus Williams for the champion Seattle Super Sonics in 1979) serve as the blueprint for how affective the relationship can be]

Harden dropping 37 points and 12 assists in his Rockets debut

Houston profiting off a trade does not necessarily mean that OKC took a step back.  Let’s investigate the twilight zone of trades that benefit both teams. Every trade doesn’t have to be a zero sum transaction, a good move by one team does not mean the other team has regressed.  The Rockets got a bedrock offensive player and OKC added a more traditional shooting guard in Kevin Martin. Martin doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective as a scorer as much as Harden did and will allow Durant to dominate the rock more often (yes, I know I made the case for dual combo backcourts, but when you have another guy who needs to dominate the ball it can become difficult for everyone to maximize their scoring potential).  Additionally, through four games Kevin Martin is averaging 20.7 points compared to Harden’s 16.8 PPG last year.

Moreover, the Thunder added depth with 2 first round picks and Jeremy Lamb.  I believe Lamb will be an elite scorer in the league.  The Thunder remarked that they had Perry Jones 3 and Jeremy Lamb as top ten picks coming into this year’s draft, and they now have both on the roster.  Lamb is another scorer that doesn’t dominate the ball and should fit in nicely with a roster that suddenly has scorers coming out of its pores.

So there I sit, thoroughly on the fence of this trade; wholeheartedly believing that both teams prospered mightily from it.  How lame is that?

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