Imagine if the Thunder approach next season’s trade deadline with a record like 43-9 and suddenly flip James Harden for, say, J.J. Redick and two or three first-round picks — including at least one of Orlando’s picks, likely to land very high in the lottery.
The motivation would be obvious: Save long-term money while keeping the team as competitive as possible in the 2012-13 title race.
The emphasis is mine. The rest of the article, detailing the financial reasons OKC might want to trade Harden, are uninteresting to me; I don't really have an opinion one way or another about that, and only the people with the purse strings can make that call. It's this bit, this ridiculous assumption that dumping all-stars for slightly-above-average guys somehow magically does not downgrade your championship chances, that drives me nuts. I guess we're just going to gloss over how the team is going to remain competitive? When did J.J. Redick get so good that we're using his name in the same paragraph as James Harden (who's, oh by the way, a lot younger, too)?.
I mean...what, now!? And by the way this will get more dramatic next year, when Harden's likely to get a lot more minutes per game than he did last year -- that's if he even remains in the 6th man role at all. Redick, however, will likely remain the rotation player that he is, with the addition of Afflalo.
I said this last year. The Thunder way overpaid for Westbrook, and it would hurt them when it came time to sign Ibaka and Harden. Somehow Presti managed to convince Ibaka to take $12 million per year instead of the $15 he's worth. If he can pull off the same miracle with Harden, holy cow, executive of the year. But until then, they will have to either pay up or abandon the whole "compete for a championship" thing.
I guess, also, until people figure out that Harden is actually way more important than Westbrook in this whole equation, analysis like this will continue.