We know the Thunder lost the James Harden trade. The return now amounts to a handful of role players, and the Rockets have the MVP runner-up taking them deep into the playoffs. You may not remember exactly why the Thunder felt they needed to deal their sixth-man.
In 2011, the Thunder and Celtics swapped Jeff Green and Kendrick Perkins in a horrible lose-lose deadline deal. Upon acquiring Perk, OKC tossed a 4-year/$36 million extension at him. That seemed like a lot at the time. It seems absolutely insane now (the Celtics also signed Green to the same silly contract as well after he sat out a full season to recover from open heart surgery).
About a year and a half later, the Thunder moved Harden because they couldn’t agree on an extension. OKC was offering a 4-year/$55.5 million extension, while Harden wanted a max contract (just a mere $4.5 million more). But that money was tied up in their new center … Oops.
Fast forward to today.
The Thunder still haven’t been back to the NBA Finals … actually, they just missed the playoffs. James Harden, on the other hand, has carried the Rockets into the Western Conference Finals, and you could argue that he was this season’s MVP. Obviously, Durant was last year’s MVP and was nagged by a foot injury that eventually shut him down in 14-15. But this is still a fair question: Would you rather have Harden, Durant or Russell Westbrook?
It may sounds like a weak answer, but I value them all almost completely evenly. LeBron is the best player in the NBA, then I’ll take Anthony Davis. But I think players 3-6 in the league are the three guys in question and Stephen Curry (in no particular order AND assuming Durant returns healthy).
But that answer says a lot in itself. Just the fact that Harden is in the conversation with KD and Westbrook means that no matter how you spin it, the Thunder made a huge mistake. Even with the Perkins contract on the books, there are ways to make room for Harden, and OKC didn’t.
The Thunder could have had three of the top six players in the NBA on their roster, and even with an injured Durant, probably been battling in these Western Conference Finals without him. Crazy to think about how far James Harden has come (dropping 38/10/9 in conference finals games), and how badly the Thunder blew their chance (sitting at home watching Harden dominate). Now there’s chatter of KD and Westbrook bailing in free agency, and they could be left with nothing.
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