Did Sam Presti make a mistake by trading James Harden?
Earlier this week, Yahoosports.com reported that the Thunder offered Harden a 4 year $55.5 million extension, which is $4.5 million less than the max a team could offer a player and Harden declined. After so much optimism that a deal would get done, something must have went wrong in the negotiations that forced Thunder general manager Sam Presti to agree on dealing Harden. Was Presti wrong by dealing Harden?
In my opinion, Presti was not wrong by dealing Harden. Many general managers around the NBA knew that if he and the Thunder couldn’t reach an agreement, then someone would offer him a max deal once he became a free agent. Presti did the correct thing in collecting assets for Harden, instead of letting him walk as a free agent for nothing during the summer. Offering Harden the max would have cash strapped the Thunder and a small market team must watch their luxury tax to not suffer severe penalties. Presti came out and said that the organization presented several offers to Harden and that eventually they could not come to a consensus.
Besides Harden, Houston also received Guards/Forwards Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook as well as Cole Aldrich, all who are serviceable players at the NBA level. The Thunder on the other hand, get Kevin Martin who is a gifted scorer in this league, as well as Jeremy Lamb who has the tools of a great NBA scorer, along with two future first round picks and a second rounder. One of those picks comes from the Toronto Raptors, which Houston acquired earlier this summer in the Kyle Lowry trade. That pick may turn out to be a valuable asset for the Thunder, as the Raptors may not be very good and may once again be lottery bound.
When you’re a small market team in the NBA, you have to build through the draft, along with trades to build a formidable to that can contend. Sam Presti did the right thing by not letting Harden walk after this year without getting anything in return. He knew that unless Harden agreed to take a little less money, his team wouldn’t be able to retain him. He sold high and acquired some great assets in the process. If Kevin Martin doesn’t pan out, he could go ahead and trade him before the deadline to fill other holes in the roster. Jeremy Lamb is a first year player who can learn from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and help this team for many years to come. The draft picks will also be very valuable in possible trades and drafting talent to form a supporting cast that can help this team continue to contend in a tough Western Conference. Presti hit a buzzer beater did a great job with this deal and continues to be one of the best general managers in the league at evaluating talent and putting his team in the best position to win and compete every year. As for James Harden, he is a great talent and we shall see how he does in a team that may call for him to be the go-to guy. He will now start opposite Jeremy Lin and will get the max contract he was seeking. If it is in fact true that Harden did not sign due to the Thunder offering $4.5 million less, then many should wonder whether winning and the brotherhood between him, Durant and Westbrook was ever a priority.