It has been a contentious topic ever since the deal was made, but when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden, they were very harshly criticized. Harden was seen as a more valuable piece than Serge Ibaka and while the common misconception is they “chose” one over the other (not true, they offered Harden a very decent contract which he declined to accept) it was simply making the right choice for the franchise.
The trade netted some key pieces for the Thunder that they have now turned into Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and Mitch McGary – but it appears likely they have also dodged a bullet.
The Oklahoma City Thunder franchise knows its people and players. While James Harden was and is a very talented shooting guard, trying to find enough court time, ball, shots and money for everyone involved was going to be tough. At first, it appeared that Harden embraced and relished his role as a key reserve, but over time the luster wore off. He wanted and needed to make money and be the star he knew he could be.
He accomplished that at Houston this past season, but still couldn’t take the Rockets any further than the Thunder had taken him. Now, the Rockets have allowed Chandler Parsons to perform a “James Harden” (get to another team on big money where he can have a bigger role) and the bearded one is throwing barbs.
The way Harden has spoken out about being the cornerstone of the franchise and along with Dwight Howard the “superstars” that just need role players around them – it shows the Thunder could sense what was coming. They knew that at some point Harden needed to either accept his role on the contender or fend for himself. There is nothing wrong with wanting either, but only one path was going to find him in a Thunder uniform.
OKC are building once again and hoping to get back to the NBA Finals. They have a deep, talented but young roster and two superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Serge Ibaka has proven to be an extremely valuable piece to the puzzle and the rest of the squad seems to know their roles. Reggie Jackson is the next in line. Will he buy in to the Thunder system, or is he also going to follow the James Harden route?
When all is said and done, the recent comments from James Harden should further enhance Thunder fans trust in Sam Presti and the direction of the franchise.