Sunday Discussion: James Harden is a Rocket

Jeff Gross

That's obviously the huge news from yesterday.

The circumstances that caused it are worth discussing from a market perspective. Oklahoma City had four mini-max (the first, ~$15M max deal that players get, before their second ~$18M max) quality players on the roster - Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden.

They locked up Durant for the minimax (with the "Rose" rule kicking him some extra cash too), they locked up Westbrook for the minimax (with Westbrook declining the Rose rule dollars for some reason), and they signed Ibaka to a 4 year, $51M deal a couple weeks ago (approximately $7M to $9M less than the minimax). And yesterday, they dumped Harden, arguably the second best offensive player of the bunch.

If this was the Los Angeles or New York, Harden, along with those other four guys, is extended months ago. Instead, OKC was unable to afford the increasingly punitive luxury tax, and they've now thrown away a critical contributor to a championship contender in its prime. Is the system broken? That's question number one.

The second thing is: this kinda, sorta impacts us if you're really optimistic. Let's say Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, and, welp, either Austin Rivers (or maybe somebody New Orleans drafts in the 2013 draft) all pan out. There is a future out there, however inconceivable for the present moment, where the Hornets can't afford to head into luxury tax territory. I don't think it's worth seriously considering at this point.

At the same time, the Harden trade shows how important it is for a small market team to be supremely cognizant of extensions at all times. Sam Presti has made literally one mistake in his tenure as OKC GM - the long term deal for Kendrick Perkins. Take that one off the books, and wading into the (smaller, less stringent) luxury tax to keep Harden makes a lot more sense. They weren't able to pull it off though.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on the trade? On Harden? On the whole small market vs. big market dynamic?

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