Out of nowhere tonight, Olympic gold medalist and reigning 6th Man of the Year, James Harden was traded away from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets. OKC received Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first round draft picks, and one second rounder while Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, and Lazar Hayward will be joining Harden in Houston.
You may be wondering why OKC would trade James Harden just days before the start of the new season? Well, after this season, Harden would become a restricted free agent and would likely get a 'max' deal from a team eager to build around the 23 year old shooting guard. This would mean large luxury tax penalties to the Thunder, who already have Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka locked up to lucrative long-term deals.
Now I'm kind of surprised that OKC still didn't play out the season and then maybe do a sign-and-trade in the offseason if they decide they don't want to pay the tax. I feel like Harden on the squad gives OKC the best chance to win the Finals this year, but that's still entirely possible with their core, plus Kev Mart and Lamb. Will be weird seeing the beard not flanking Durant and Westbrook anymore. Looks like they had some real camaraderie. We shall see though...
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