Before late last night, if you asked me or any other sports analyst where they thought where would Harden wound up if he were to leave Oklahoma City? Most of them would’ve either said Phoenix or Dallas. Well unfortunately for the Suns and Mark Cuban, Harden will take his talents to Houston.
At this point many Suns fans are probably consumed by the question of why didn’t the Suns try to trade for Harden instead of letting Houston snatch Harden right out from under them. A few things will factor in that, but first and most importantly, assets.
The Rockets offered the Thunder a top 50 player in Kevin Martin who will help cushion the blow of losing Harden, a young lottery pick talent in Jeremy Lamb, two 1st round picks(one lottery pick) and a 2nd round pick. The Suns simply don’t have those assets, Martin’s huge contract of 12 million dollars allowed the Thunder to dump the contracts of Lazar Hayward, Dequan Cook, and Cole Aldrich; Martin’s contract also expires at the end of the season which will give the Thunder more cap room flexibility.
The Suns top asset at this point is Marcin Gortat, whom of which the Thunder wouldn’t need since they already have Kendrick Perkins. The Rockets also offered Jeremy Lamb who was supposed to be drafted by the Suns 13th overall during the draft back in June but the Rockets traded up to the 12thspot and snatched up Lamb before the Suns could. To be frank, Lamb has more star potential than anyone on the Suns not named Michael Beasley then again the word potential means “Ain’t done nothing yet”.
Another thing that factored in is the lottery pick the Rockets offered which they got from the Toronto Raptors and the Raptors are a young team that’s likely to finish somewhere in the bottom 10 this season in the NBA. Ultimately the Toronto draft pick would most likely be higher than any the Suns could’ve thrown the Thunder’s way.
This Rockets deal also came out of left field, no one saw this coming. I’m sure the Suns spoke with the Thunder about a Harden deal but I’m also sure the talks weren’t extensive nor serious, had there been there would’ve been news about it. This deal caught the NBA world as off-guard as the Steve Nash trade caught the NBA world off-guard.
So bottom-line is that, this Harden deal is one of the best deals the Thunder could’ve gotten anywhere. Did they take a step back in terms of making a run at the title? Yeah, a little. Martin is a sizable drop off to Harden in terms of overall play, however at the same time Martin’s expiring contract helped relieved the Thunder of some contracts, the draft picks will provide great value for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the future, and the x-factor Jeremy Lamb could potentially develop into a great talent in the future.
The Suns simply didn’t have the assets to package together to present the Thunder a more attractive deal than the Houston deal. With Harden now out of the picture the Suns will most likely turn 100% of their attention to the upcoming draft in June. Missing out on Harden is going to be a tough hit for the Phoenix Suns to endure, he was going to be one of the best players on the market next off-season and Harden has already gone on paper saying he’d love to play in Phoenix, and it’s his second home in terms of comfort. But just like Shawn Marion flying out to contest James Harden’s 3-point attempt, the Suns are one step too late.