When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Dwight Howard this past summer, it looked like the balance of power in the NBA would shift. The Lakers were supposed to be competing for an NBA title immediately.
That didn’t exactly go as planned as the Lakers still sit under .500 on the year.
If that offseason move wasn’t the most impactful of the offseason in terms of affecting who would win the championship, then what was?
ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle analyzes the top four most impactful moves and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s trading of James Harden to the Houston Rockets comes in at No. 3.
So far, the trade has worked out great for the Thunder, though no one associated with the Rockets is exactly complaining about Harden’s performance. Oklahoma City is playing faster, outscoring opponents by a wider margin, has moved from second to first on offense and is sharing the ball much better than last season. Martin has been a key part of that success by helping to maintain the effect the Thunder’s bench had last season, even while the team’s young stars get even better on the first unit.
We’ll never know how good the Thunder would have been this year had they kept Harden. All we know is that they are just as good if not better this season than they were last year when they made it to the NBA Finals.
Martin has filled Harden’s role from last year as well as anyone could have. He doesn’t bring the playmaking to the floor that Harden did but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have picked it up in that area.
Now that we can pretty much discount the Lakers, you have to look at this trade breaking up the OKC Big 3 as a pretty impactful one. There wasn’t any other move where a team as good as the Thunder lost such a talented player.
It caused the Thunder – who had completely figured out their identity and were so comfortable playing together – to relearn a few things and change who they were a bit.
Doolittle puts two other moves ahead of this one. The first is the Miami Heat acquiring Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. And the second is the Los Angeles Clippers getting Jamal Crawford.
This is pretty much a big compliment to Martin saying that he has done such a good Harden impression this year not allowing the Thunder to take a step back.
We’re nearly at the All-Star Break and we won’t really know which move was the biggest until the playoffs. The biggest unknown may lay with the Thunder and Martin, who has played just six playoff games in his career with the last one being seven years ago.