True Hoops

True Hoops

Monday, October 29, 2012

Disappear the Beard

OKC decided it was time to shave James Harden from their team.

Is this a move that dramatically shakes up the western conference?
That remains to be seen, but my answer would be no.
After all, the Thunder still have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
But more importantly, the Lakers still have Kobe, Pau, Howard, and Nash.

Still it is interesting to see a team break up a young NBA Finals and Olympics core so quickly. But the question is did OKC ever have a legit shot of keeping Harden to begin with?

In any event,

The Winners:

Oklahoma City
Yes. They came out pretty good, all things considered. James Harden is a top 5 shooting guard in the NBA. But that's not really saying much considering it may be the weakest position in the NBA (either the 2 or center). And truth be told, there are a lot of people in the NBA that can score. Therefore, very few players are truly irreplaceable.

And, OKC essentially replaced Harden with 4 players. Kevin Martin is as good a scorer as Harden. You may argue about defense, but last time I checked, Harden got abused so much by Kobe in the playoffs, OKC had to switch Durant onto him (a great and perhaps series deciding move by the way). Plus Jeremy Lamb is going to be a really good player - a 6'5" shooting guard with a 7 foot wing span, who helped UCONN win a NCAA championship two years ago and averaged 20 points per game on 47% shooting during the summer league.

Not to mention two future first round draft picks. Best of all, OKC probably accomplished it's main goal, avoiding a year long distraction of endless questions regarding Harden's contact situation.

They were looking to get rid of Kevin Martin anyway. So essentially they traded Jeremy lamb for James Harden (forget about the picks - who knows how they will turn out). Lamb will be a good player in the league. But James Harden already is a good player in the league: a top 5 shooting guard that has been to the Finals, and won a gold medal. More importantly, he is a name (and personality) that Houston can use to draw in fans. Mix him with Jeremy Lin and there will be plenty of interest in H-town this season.

Jeremy Lamb and Kevin martin
It is my belief that probably everyone in the NBA is talented.
If you put them in the right situation, they can excel and contribute.

Kevin Martin's talented is that he can really score (career 18 points per game on 44% shooting - and if you remove his first two years in the league the numbers are 21 points per game on 43%). Barring injuries, something tells me he is still going to be able to score in OKC and really contribute. He is not a franchise player that can turn a team around, but he can probably be a good compliment to players that demand a lot of attention. Playing in Sacramento and Houston are not ideal for that. Playing along KD, Westbrook, and Ibaka is. Think about when Mike Bibby went from Vancouver to Sacramento. Or, think about when Jason Terry went from Atlanta to Dallas. It seemed to revitalize their careers. Plus, Martin is still only 29 years old.

Some places are just better fits.
The only question is can Martin be an efficent scorer without taking a lot of shots.

Lamb is a talent.
Now imagine him going up against KD in practice every day.
With his length he also has a chance to be a difference maker on defense.

The Losers:

Kevin Durant
More than his scoring, I think OKC will miss some of Harden's ball handling and playmaking capabilities. It seems as if there were times when he might be a more steady point than Westbrook. But that's okay, because I think it's safe to say Westbrook is at his best when looking to attack/score.

Ironically, the rise in scoring point guards might have ushered in the demise of shooting guards. And perhaps more teams, as long as there are no true centers, are willing to play small ball and go with two smaller combo guards rather than having canonical backcourt positions.

That's fine. But every team still needs some sort of moderator that can settle things down and direct the offense by playing efficiently, passing a lot, and playing smart. Harden was that for OKC.

Since Westbrook is a point guard, he handles the ball and can do as he pleases. But Durant needs someone to get the ball to him. Maybe Harden didn't do that directly, but perhaps he helped create a certain balance.

I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of OKC lineups this year with Eric Maynor at the 1, and Westbrook a the 2

James Harden
It's easy to take certain things for granted.
Like playing with the second best player in the world and an all-NBA point guard, as well as complimentary players with size. But something tells me Harden will realize this season how good things were in OKC, as Houston struggles to have a .500 record, let alone make the playoffs.

How many times have we seen this before?
How about Marbury leaving Minnesota and KG to go to the Nets?
Or more similar, Joe Johnson leaving Phoenix with Steve Nash and Stoudemire to go to Atlanta?

How did those work out?

And how hard is it to win without the proper supporting players?
Ask Kobe, who still talks about his days after Shaq and before Gasol with such vitriol.
What about Dwyane Wade after Shaq and before LeBron? He had perhaps two of his best years individually but  couldn't make it out of the first round.

Do you think Harden is even Kobe or Wade?

That's not to say this dude isn't nice.
At only 23, he averaged almost 18 points a game as the third option, coming off the bench.
More than likely he is an all-star, and his numbers will surely go up in Houston.
But I don't think this guy is going to another NBA Finals anytime soon.

Good thing he'll be only 27/28 the next time he is a free agent.