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Rockets acquire James Harden in blockbuster deal

UPDATED below at 2:25 AM 10/28/12

The Rockets have acquired reigning Sixth Man of the Year award winning guard James Harden, according to Yahoo! NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski:

The Rockets sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and future draft considerations to the Thunder for Harden, sources told Y! Sports. Along with Harden, the Thunder will send Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, and Daequan Cook. 

As part of the deal, the Thunder will receive “significant” future draft picks from Houston, a source told Y! Sports. 

The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry adds that at least three of the picks the Thunder will be getting are a protected first-round pick from Toronto, a protected 1st-round pick from Dallas, and a 2013 Charlotte second rounder.

Being that I just heard about this deal roughly 30 minutes ago, my ability to analyze and absorb what just happened is borderline non-existent. There are so many questions, so much excitement, and too much shock. The Rockets got the best player in the deal (by a mile), but the plethora of draft picks they just lost for a player who the Thunder apparently weren’t willing to offer a max contract is, well, tragic.

Will this go down as the defining transaction of Daryl Morey’s tenure? To date there’s no question it is. Can James Harden be “the man” on a championship contender? How big of a step back did the Thunder just take? Can Kevin Martin compete on a good team? Man, so many questions. I can’t wait to find the answers.

 Twitter: @ShakyAnkles

UPDATED at 10:20PM – 

Like Michael above, not having had enough time to absorb this, I’m not exactly sure how I feel.  Wages of Wins made a case last season for Harden as the league’s best shooting guard, a premise which lost much steam after a disappointing Finals performance by the Bearded One.  Still, you can see some of the rationale that might have weighed into Morey’s decision.

The Rockets give up essentially Lamb and a guaranteed lottery pick from Toronto for an emerging 23-year-old All-Star talent in Harden.  From the Rockets’ perspective, Kevin Martin really was a throw-in for matching purposes.  (Though a major coup for the Thunder; more on that.)  They’ll quickly resign Harden (we hope) to the max and boast three young, proven building blocks in Harden, Lin, and Asik with rookies Royce White, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, and second year man Chandler Parsons left to boot.  They have another piece in their quest to build a team after the demise of Yao Ming.

On the other hand, this shifts the team more towards that familiar road in the middle.  With Harden, the Rockets certainly won’t finish near the bottom of the league but will still struggle to make the postseason.  That will take them out of the running for one of next summer’s top picks.  Trading the Raptors’ pick already knocked out the other percentage of that occurrence.  They have youth, but still, no premiere-premiere talent.  James Harden cannot be the best player on a championship team.

The Rockets will need to hope that they can lure another star through this deal or strike a similar transaction.  They’ll hope that the rookies remaining will bud into more than what they currently are.  For now, the Rockets got a bit more interesting–a turn of events which should surely help them in their ongoing negotiations with the major television providers–even if we don’t know how it will play out in the long run. — Rahat Huq

UPDATED at 2:25AM –

Here is Hollinger’s reaction to the trade.  A snippet:

Did I mention there was another team in this trade? The Rockets are looking good. Reeeeal good. They gave up some choice assets they’d accumulated to make a deal just like this one, and in return they finally have a go-to star on the wings. Harden will have a max extension faster than you can say “beard,” and Rockets GM Daryl Morey can finally move forward with the post-Yao strategy he’s been working so hard to initiate.

Royce Young from Dailythunder.com:

It feels like a dark day for the organization and professional basketball in Oklahoma City. Again, it’s a nice trade speaking strictly about pieces. And if the Thunder had topped Miami in the Finals last season, I’m not sure I’d care all that much. But I wanted to see THIS team go for it. I wanted to see if this group could get it done. Now, we’ll never know. And there was no reason it couldn’t have happened.

While I think the Beal offer on draft night was better, I think the Thunder did great with this haul.  (They certainly did far, far better than that embarrassment of a package Orlando claimed in return for Dwight Howard.)  Martin will fill it up with ease and Lamb–who I’m extremely high on–will one day be a real player; there’s also the lottery pick from Toronto.

Even after having four hours to digest this news, I’m still not completely sure how I feel.  Though, I think I’m coming around.

Your best bet–and what I was hoping for–was that the Rockets would be awful with Toronto faltering as well.  That would have given the team two high lottery picks this summer, in addition to all four of the rookies.  You then would bring them up together.

But Toronto is looking nice and could push for the playoffs this season.  Selling early on that commodity surely factored into the calculus after management got burned on two Knicks picks from the McGrady deal originally thought to be sure-fire lottery.  If it’s Lamb, Martin, and 14 for Harden, that’s a no-brainer homerun.  And most would agree, I think, that Lamb/Martin/14 was a higher probability than Lamb/Martin/4.

Harden’s a star, if not a superstar, and one of the best decision-makers in the league with the basketball in his hands.  With Jeremy Lin, the Rockets might have the best pick and roll backcourt in the entire league.  Those two players now suddenly also make up the most interesting backcourt in the NBA with both men having much to prove: Lin that he really is a star and Harden that he is worth the max.

As is now being widely reported, the Rockets will also have the cap space next year, even after giving Harden the maximum, to add another player at the maximum level.  Notables next summer include Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, and Andrew Bynum.  Neither Howard nor Paul are coming.  Smith just does not make sense.

I think the greater likelihood is that Morey will try to trade, once again, for his second star to pair with Harden.  Some names to watch would be the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge and Minnesota’s Kevin Love (most recently of The Love Stomp on Luis Scola’s Face fame.)  Assets remaining to deal are Jones, Motiejunas, Marcus Morris, and Royce White.  The team hopes that atleast two from this quartet shows promise this season so it can facilitate its follow-up deal.  A follow-up for a second star in such a hypothetical would see the Rockets completely rebuilt without having tanked, featuring the new acquisition flanked by Parsons, Asik, Lin, and Harden at the other four spots.

For now, until that later deal is made, the focus is on Harden and the present.  The Rockets still won’t make the playoffs but without a doubt, they’ll be interesting.  As mentioned, the pieces are finally coming together and the nucleus is starting to take shape.

All that’s really left is finality at the four.  If another deal isn’t made, can the jump they hope for come from within?  Jones himself this preseason has looked like a poor man’s Josh Smith.  Motiejunas’ upside is of Andrea Bargnani.  And we haven’t even seen yet what can become of Royce White.

The next step now will be for the Rockets to see what they have at the ‘4’.  Whether you liked this trade or not, things are finally starting to come together.

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