Friday, November 2, 2012

The Thunder Made a Mistake

44 minutes, 37 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block.

Those numbers have to hurt the Thunder at least a little bit.  Yeah it was only one game, but that one game was indicative of what they will be missing out on moving forward.

There was James Harden, a central cog in the Thunder’s run to the Finals last year and a figured future cornerstone of the franchise, dropping career numbers in his first game in a Houston Rockets uniform.  Out in Oklahoma City one can only imagine that the Thunder had hoped that Harden would wait a couple weeks to post some impressive numbers with his new team, at least until the shock and disappointment of the fact that the Thunder shipped off this fan favorite had died down slightly.

But Harden wasted little time in making it known exactly how valuable he could be to a team, dropping history-book worthy stats while leading Houston to a come from behind victory in what was his first game in Rocket red. His performance also helped to silence the critics of his freshly minted eighty million dollar contract, at least for the moment. 

To make matters worse for the Thunder, they were unable to get a win in their first game post-Harden, losing to opposing Western Conference power San Antonio at the buzzer. With Harden’s impressive performance fresh in fan’s minds, this loss seemed especially sour.  Anything short of a Finals victory this season will leave fans wondering what could have been.  How good could the Thunder have been for the next five seasons had Sam Presti been able to keep the young, explosive nucleus of Durant-Westbrook-Harden-Ibaka together?  Now, we will never know.

The Thunder received decent compensation for last season’s Sixth Man of the Year award winner, or at least as decent of compensation you can get for a player of that quality.  Despite this, they will still suffer on the court, and with the fan base as well.  Harden was a fan favorite; the off-the-bench energy player who could score quickly and at will.   Throw in the fun facial hair and the whole “Fear the Beard” campaign which fans so eagerly embraced, and it is easy to see why a fan base that still boasts 2 of the NBA’s 10 best in Durant and Westbrook, is so torn up over the trade.

The Thunder will still be solid this season, and can certainly compete for a championship, but a bit of their mystique is missing.  Harden did a lot for the team, and was capable of doing even more,  evidenced by his explosion against the Pistons the other evening.  The Thunder are still stacked, but there will be a noticeable absence of beard this season, and that will hurt the team both on, and off the court.


  1. Harden declined the 52 mil from OKC, which was the max they could offer. They could have kept him and hoped he changed his mind, but would risk losing him at the end of the season for nothing in return. This would also lead to contract distractions all season.... So instead they got a career 18 ppg scorer in Martin, a potential solid player in Lamb, and 2 future 1st rounders. And also got to dump unuseable Lazar Hayward and Cole Aldrich (Daquen Cook is OK, but no big loss). Sure it looks bad 3 days after the trade, but I think it was a good business deal for the future.

    - DNP

  2. Contractually everything you said makes sense, but they had other options than dealing him before the season. They could have amnestied Perkins and just took the cap hit next summer to resign Harden, and they would then have the young big 4 locked up for a few years; add a couple servicable bigs and shooters at minimum and you have a serious contender for years. Not saying that they aren't a contender without Harden because they absolutely are, but I feel as though his import to the dynamic of the team will be more difficult to replace than if they had let Perk or Ibaka walk instead.

    In Lamb, Martin and the DP's though they did get as much value as they could have for him, so they did well there. Those two picks could end up being lotto picks, and by that time fans in OKC may be happy with the trade. But as it is right now in relation to this season, I think they are noticably worse without him.