Rockets get: G James Harden, G Daequan Cook, C Cole Aldrich, F Lazar Hayward
Thunder get: G Kevin Martin, G Jeremy Lamb, two future first-round picks
Coming in at the top spot on this list is the trade that has laid the path for the Rockets’ current success, the trade that brought reigning MVP James Harden to Houston.
This trade won out over the Clyde Drexler trade and the Moses Malone deals for a few reasons.
While Malone led the Rockets to the NBA Finals and Drexler was an important piece to the 1995 Championship team, Harden has pieced together three of the greatest offensive seasons in NBA history and has cemented his status as one of the NBA’s best as a Rocket.
This trade also is one of the most influential trades in NBA history. The Thunder made this trade on the heels of their first NBA Finals experience rolling with their three-headed, ball-dominant monster of Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant.
However, the Thunder were debating between whether giving a hefty contract extension to Serge Ibaka or Harden. Oklahoma City tried to make it work with both of them, giving Ibaka a 4-yr, $48 million extension, which he eventually signed. However, Harden declined his 4-year, $52 million extension. Harden believed he was worth the max, so he declined the extension, which led to the trade that lands on the top of our list.
Harden was the main piece of an 8-player trade that sent Kevin Martin and recent draft pick Jeremy Lamb to OKC. Martin played well in his only season with the Thunder, leading them to the #1 seed. But similar to Harden, the Thunder did not have the money for Martin, so he jetted off to Minnesota in free agency the following season after losing in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Lamb played sparingly in his three seasons in OKC, but never played up to his expectations and was shipped off to Charlotte after the 2015-16 campaign.
As for the two draft picks the team received in 2013 and 2014, one turned into Steven Adams, who has been a great center for the team. Adams has started every game he has played in the last three seasons and signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in 2017. Last season, he posted career-highs of 13.9 points per game and nine rebounds per game.
The other pick was Mitch McGary, who was not such a great center for the team. McGary played 52 games in two seasons and was cut by the team following a failed drug test.
As for the Rockets, none of Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich, or Daequan Cook made a large impact for the team, but Harden has picked up the slack for them.
Six All-Star appearances in his first six seasons for the team has been helpful, and he has helped the team recruit many high-profile free agents. It’s safe to say that Dwight Howard or Chris Paul do not consider Houston as a free agency destination if Harden is not a Rocket.
When Harden’s career is over, he will be remembered as a Houston Rocket. Drexler and Malone can’t say the same as they only spent four and six seasons respectively with the team. By the end of Harden’s career, he will likely beat those two tenures combined. In the Rockets’ Mount Rushmore, Harden is likely mentioned as a distant second to the Dream, which earns him the top spot on our countdown.