Thunder makes risky bid

Lebron, D-Wade and Bosh. Pierce, KG and Ray Ray. Larry, Mo and Curly. Durant, Westbrook and Harden. Clearly, good things come in threes, and the Thunder didn’t get the memo that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
In the wake of a championship run brewing since the Seattle Supersonics drafted Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded foundation piece James Harden for a one-year rental, Kevin Martin, and future assets Jeremy Lamb and two first round picks.
Before we go any further let me preface this by saying the players the Thunder got in return are no scrubs. Kevin Martin is a pure shooter, averaging 16 points a game and shooting  lights out – 50 percent from three, 93 percent from the line. Jeremy Lamb has serious upside on both the offensive and defensive end of the court, and two future first round picks to boot.
    Here’s where I have a problem with the trade. You have three players under 25, all of which are good enough to be franchise players for half the organizations in the league, and you ship one away for what are literally and figuratively lottery picks.  
Why did they do this, you ask? You guessed it: money. And it wasn’t a matter of staying under the salary cap, but rather staying under the luxury tax.
For a team as profitable as the Thunder in the only professional sport we can bank on being in better fiscal shape in five years than now, the luxury tax should be the least of their concerns.
Harden is currently playing out the last year of his rookie contract where he earns about $4 million.
After sacrificing playing time and shots, winning sixth man of the year, and playing for team USA, he rightfully asked for a max contract – four years, 60 million – entering next season.
The Thunder’s final offer before trading Harden came in at four years, 54 million.
To put this in perspective, that’s a difference of $1.5 million a year – about what they’re paying Hasheem Thabeet to play 12 minutes a game off their bench.
What’s worse, the extra 11 million they’d have pay Harden by comparison to his current deal would almost be covered by amnestying Kendrick Perkins, who is set to make a combined 17 million in 2013 and 2014.
Perk is a champion and his impact doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, but his four points and five rebounds a game are hardly worth losing James Harden.
Not only did the Thunder deal a legitimate star, but a star who fits their team perfectly. If you’ve watched First Take for 30 seconds, you’ve probably heard Skip Bayless call Russell “Westbrick” a shooting guard masquerading as a point guard.
And that was the beauty of James Harden. When their point guard was a little out of control, he could fill that void. Neither Kevin Martin or Jeremy Lamb has the ability to do this.
Now the Thunder, loaded with young talent and future assets, need to recreate the cohesiveness that sparked a quick turnaround from 23-59 to 50-32 to NBA runner-ups.
vThis is entirely possible. They could draft a stud in next year’s draft, they could incorporate Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones, and they could win multiple championships in the coming seasons.
On the other hand, they would have won multiple championships with the foundation of Durant, Westbrook and Harden.