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After striking out on Dwight Howard, the Rockets have added James Harden.

As we all know by now, the Houston Rockets have acquired James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, and Daequan Cook in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and draft picks. This sent shock waves through the league, as the Thunder realized they couldn’t keep Harden long-term for anything less than a max-deal, which would have had serious luxury tax repercussions. It looks as if the Rockets will sign James Harden to the long-term maximum extension that he’s looking for, adding him to a slew of new, young players.

The Rockets struck out on their attempt to lure Dwight Howard earlier in the summer, but it was the chase that helped them get James Harden. In the process, they stockpiled draft picks; one of which was Jeremy Lamb, a huge piece in the trade. Houston acquired the Raptors’ 2013 first round pick to sweeten the Dwight Howard deal, but the pick was ultimately a sweetener sent to the Thunder to make the deal work.

I’m unsure how good of a fit James Harden is in Houston, but they didn’t give up too much. They had been looking to shred Kevin Martin and his contract, which expires after this season. Lamb is an intriguing young player with a lot of potential, but you have to pull the trigger for James Harden if the main piece you’re giving up is this year’s 12th overall pick who hasn’t played a game yet. Nonetheless, the Rockets now have two guards who need the ball in their hands in pick-and-roll situations to be successful in Jeremy Lin and Harden. Both of their games rely on getting to the rim, something that will be more difficult with Omer Asik and his $25 million clogging the lane. Additionally, James Harden will have to prove he can be a leading scorer when he is the focus of the defense now that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook won’t be drawing attention.

To put it bluntly, Sam Presti is a genius. He knew that James Harden wasn’t worth a maximum deal given their salary cap situation, and acted accordingly. In Kevin Martin, the Thunder have a legitimate scoring option at shooting guard who in 2010-2011 averaged 28.8 points per 40 minutes. James Harden has never averaged more than 21.5 points per 40 minutes. Martin still isn’t the player Harden is, but in the role he’ll be serving in Oklahoma City, he’ll fill the void just fine. And with Jeremy Lamb, the team has flexibility; if Martin plays well this year and wants to return at a reasonable rate, the Thunder can bring him back. If not, Lamb will have a year of experience and development on one of the best teams in the league, and should be capable of stepping up. Not to mention, Sam Presti restocked on draft picks, something that can’t be understated for a team that drafts extremely well.

The Rockets can be pretty good, but almost everyone on the roster has a lot to prove. It’s full of rookies, and three new guys who have never played the full-time lead role in Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and James Harden.

Oklahoma City avoided a potential disaster by being proactive. Had they played the season out and let him walk in free agency, they would have been left with nothing. Rather, they restock with Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and multiple draft picks. With the Heat looking to have figured it all out, and Dwight Howard’s arrival in Los Angeles, the Thunder couldn’t afford to sit and wait, and potentially get burnt.

Oklahoma City keeps proving that they are one of the top organizations in the league, while it’s still unsure whether the Rockets want to win or just sell tickets and be in the news.

-Mark Evans, Assistant Manager/Editor of Content

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