You've read what we think of the James Harden trade (and I'm sure there will be more thoughts to come). Now, you can take a look at a handful of other reactions from some of the more reputable league sources out there:
For starters, Harden is one of the finest offensive players in the game today. There’s literally no aspect of the game on that end of the floor at which he doesn’t excel. Let us count the ways: In the pick-and-roll, Harden is downright devastating. Last year he ranked in the league’s 97th percentile in such situations according to Synergy Sports, generating 1.06 points per possession. By the way, that’s better than LeBron James, Chris Paul and Steve Nash.
Let that sink in for a moment. And when you recover, please realize that Harden isn’t just someone who excels at creating offense for himself; he’s also a deft passer plenty capable of generating scoring opportunities for his teammates as well. The Arizona State product is also a foul-drawing machine and dynamite finisher around the rim. Harden converted 70.4 percent of his shots at the rim according to Hoopdata.com – the top mark of any shooting guard in the league last year. And the rate at which he got to the line also places him right at the very top of his position in that category.
Harden is a deadly spot-up shooter, knocking down 39 percent of his shots from beyond the arc a season ago. In fact, in spot-up situations Harden ranked in the 93rd percentile in the NBA last year, generating 1.158 points per possession. Oh, and go figure: All those threes, free throws and layups he creates add up to a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 66% - the fourth best figure in the entire league. By now you should get the picture: Harden is an offensive machine. But just in case you need a little more perspective into the myriad things he can do on the offensive end, here’s a little more of a sampling courtesy of Synergy: In isolation situations, he ranks in the league’s 95th percentile; in dribble hand-offs, 95th percentile; coming off screens, 97th percentile. And on, and on it goes.
I contend that the Thunder was overvaluing Harden to begin with. He was a nice player, an important player. But he was third banana, a banana benefiting by playing mostly against subs while succeeding at other times while flanked by Kevin freaking Durant and Russell doggone Westbrook! Yet he wanted to be paid like a No. 1 option. Again, so it’s not misunderstood, Harden was valuable. But he wasn’t that valuable. OKC, however, flirted with paying him as though he is. The Thunder did more than flirt, actually. I’d call what the Thunder did making it to third base. And if OKC would have slide into home risking that type of money it undoubtedly would have been the biggest blunder we’ve seen yet.
What’s not to like about this trade from Houston’s perspective? Martin was a veteran on a rebuilding team, and therefore completely expendable. Lamb is a nice prospect, but the Rockets literally cannot play all of their youngsters, not even if coach Kevin McHale were a professional juggler. Cook and Hayward are effectively expiring contracts, so they are simply there to get the trade math to work; Aldrich is an unknown so far, but could get a shot at some minutes. In short, none of the pieces that Houston took back will be damaging.
The nitpicking starts with the draft picks, pun intended. You can bet Presti was particularly insistent on the Raptors’ pick, which came to Houston in exchange for Kyle Lowry. Had Morey found a way to offer a different package of prospects and/or picks to save that Raptors pick, he would have been looking at a home run. Alas, he will be too busy planning Harden’s All-Star campaign and marketing push to lose sleep over his “A-.”
Here's the thing: Houston had no choice. It put together as many assets as possible in the past year and couldn't get Dwight Howard. The Rockets have missed on Carmelo Anthony and Howard and needed a star -- a true, legit star. Harden gives them that, or at least the appearance of that. Harden supplies four elements that had to be supplied here.
1. Worthy of a max-level contract by market standards
2. Name recognition and marketability
3. Superb advanced metrics impacts
4. Proven winner
Now some of those are completely arbitrary and based almost entirely on the context of where he happened to be drafted and the role he played. But the perception persists. He seems like a max player to many. He's won a lot of games so he seems like a proven winner. He is highly-recognizable and marketable, a player you can sell jerseys with. And his numbers are superb through most analytics. It took Daryl Morey a long time, but he got the guy he was looking for. He had the extra picks to send without sacrificing the future, he still has two rookies with upside, he still has Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, and now he has a featured guy to give the ball to.
Kevin McHale is going to have to get him to play better defense. They still have to build a system with Lin and Omer Asik as the other big-money guys. But if they don't work out, they can move them and figure something else out. The hardest thing to do in this league is to get a star. And while we'll have to see if he can wear that title without Durant, Westbrook and their goofy backpacks and glasses around, James Harden fits the profile. You get a shot, you have to take it. Morey pulled the trigger without thinking twice.
I’m not as sold [on Lin and Harden together], at least not yet anyway. I’m not sold on them as a defensive unit in the back court. On the other end of the floor, I think there at the least will be an adjustment period for the two to get used to each other. My other question is who will be the good pick-and-roll big man for Houston, or more likely do they still need to go get one. Omer Asik was pretty average in limited time in that role in Chicago (just 28 times he got a shot as the roll man and he shot 50 percent according to Synergy). Can just acquired Cole Aldrich be that guy? What about European rookie Donatas Motiejunas? Morey has to put a lot of pieces still together for the Rockets. They are not in the playoffs. But to win in the NBA you need stars, you need talent. The Rockets just acquired a lot of talent in the form of Harden. It’s a start.
For the Rockets it was just as significant and perhaps an even more urgent move to finally become relevant again. Nobody is expecting that Harden can transform Houston into an instant contender, or even lift his new team into the playoffs this season. Yet he gives the Rockets what they have been missing since the combination of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady crumbled in a heap of broken body parts. In Harden they have a recognizable young star who is entering the prime of his career. With Harden and Jeremy Lin now together, the Rockets will have a backcourt at least with the potential to make fans want to watch. There is still plenty of heavy lifting to be done in Houston. But the first step was to land someone with cache, who could bring a level of excitement and potentially All-Star skill. For that Morey deserves credit.
[From Oklahoma City's perspective:] Honestly, memories aside, how could anybody complain about this deal? I just don't see the angle. Cook and Hayward were easily replaceable. Aldrich and Harden are two good assets, but they pale in comparison to Martin and what is essentially two lotto picks. Kevin Martin, injuries aside, can and has been a better scorer than James Harden. That prospect on its' own is extremely tantalizing. Couple that with Lamb, who essentially makes Oklahoma City the longest team in the league, and a likely strong future pick can hardly make me regret this trade.
Adande: Bad move if the Rockets sign Harden to a max contract. They could end up paying more than $45 million to Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in 2014-15. Does that sound like a $45 million core to you?
Gutierrez: Bad move. Daryl Morey must've found the right set of numbers that told him Harden was a star, because using the eye test, it doesn't seem he's capable of handling that type of responsibility. He's a nice piece, but this trade doesn't even secure the Rockets a playoff spot this season.
Haberstroh: Good move. James Harden (A) is 23 years old, (B) averaged 29 points per 36 minutes last season when he didn't share the court with Russell Westbrook and (C) is generally considered a heck of a teammate. Yes, the Beard is worth every penny of a max contract (Eric Gordon ring a bell?). Houston won't vie for the title quite yet, but you can pencil them into the playoff chase, especially if Omer Asik continues his Dwight Howard act from this preseason.
Stein: Not too premature to grade it good for Houston. The Rockets still have plenty of holes and several teams to leapfrog in the West, but they've also finally completed a trade for a centerpiece kind of player after so many teases. It's not Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol -- and they certainly surrendered a lot -- but it's an undeniable score for them. Especially when you realize that they should still have some money to spend next summer even after locking up Harden alongside Lin and Asik.
Verrier: Great move. Daryl Morey had done everything except strap sandwich boards to his ever-growing hoard of assets announcing the Rockets' willingness to deal. Now he has a 23-year-old budding superstar and the flexibility to make more moves down the road. He also saved Jeremy Lin from going bald from stress this season.
In the end, Presti would secure a player to score off his bench this year (Martin), a gifted prospect for the future (Lamb) and a lottery pick that could give the Thunder a chance to draft another elite talent. Giving the Thunder another protected first-round pick from Dallas was more than Houston wanted to do, but the Rockets weren't willing to let Presti get on the phone and find a better deal.
Morey believes Jeremy Lin and Harden will be stars in the NBA, and he's gambling his own – and his franchise's – future on it. From Sam Presti to Daryl Morey to James Harden, everyone ran his share of risk in this scenario and it all tumbled into motion in these final, frenzied 48 hours. This is the kind of deal that changes careers, changes franchises, and everyone breathed out on Saturday and understood: No turning back now.