The biggest reason the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to trade James Harden now, just a few days before the start of the regular season, was to ensure they got the most value out of him knowing that they wouldn’t be able to keep him past this season.
Once Thunder GM Sam Presti knew Harden wasn’t going to accept the final 4-year, $54 million offer, he went back to the drawing board in the form of trade talks with the Houston Rockets.
Presti found out very shortly that if they traded Harden now, his value would be more because then a team like Houston could sign him to a 5-year max extension worth around $80 million instead of a 4-year extension closer to $60 million. And that’s why both teams pulled the trigger on this deal so suddenly Saturday night.
As for Harden, does he expect to sign an extension with Houston?
“Yes, yes,” Harden said during a meeting with the media upon his arrival in Houston. “I’ll let them figure that out with my agent. Just to be secure. I feel like I’m in a great position with a great team, a great group of young guys that are willing to work hard.”
Harden was looking out for himself in his stance over his contract. There’s nothing wrong with that in this league. It’s a little disheartening that he wasn’t willing to sacrifice some to stay in OKC. It would have been an amazing thing to do but it is understandable for a 23-year old to make this decision.
Harden may regret this decision in the long run. He goes from title contender to one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. Things won’t be so easy with the spotlight totally on him now and no Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to help shoulder the load.
But this is what he wanted or at least what he thinks he wants now. We wish Harden the best and it won’t be the same watching Thunder games without him.