The Oklahoma City Thunder has traded reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, The Oklahoman has learned.
Harden will be sent to Houston for Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick. The Thunder is also sending center Cole Aldrich and guards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Rockets.
The deal comes on the heels of negligible progress being made on a contract extension for Harden following nearly four months of negotiating. As a result, the Thunder parted ways with the fan favorite after stagnant talks made it clear Harden would be too much of a financial burden to keep.
If no deal was reached on an extension by Wednesday’s midnight Eastern deadline, Harden would have become a restricted free agent next summer. Houston is believed to now be ready to ink Harden to the maximum-allowable contract that Harden has long been believed to covet.
A report by Yahoo! Sports on Saturday said Harden recently turned down a four-year extension worth roughly $52 million. The report also was the latest to say Harden is pushing for a max deal, expected to be roughly $60 million over four years.
But with max contracts extended to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — as well as more than $52 million invested in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins over the next three seasons alone — the Thunder faced the possibility of stiff penalties under the new, more punitive collective bargaining agreement.
Had the Thunder been able to ink Harden to a $13 million annual contract, a franchise playing in the league’s third smallest market would have owed $67 million to just five players next season. That figure would have increased to $70 million in 2014-15 for those same five players.
The tax threshold for this season is $70.3 million. Starting next season, teams must pay an incremental rate starting at $1.50 for every dollar they exceed the threshold.
NBA commissioner David Stern has trumpeted “player sharing” in this new collective bargaining agreement, and the Thunder becomes the first team to fall victim to the more stringent rules.
Oklahoma City will receive a protected first-round pick from Toronto in 2013, a pick the Raptors sent Houston in the Kyle Lowry trade, as well as a protected 2013 first-round pick from Dallas, which the Rockets received from the Lakers in last year’s Derek Fisher trade.
The second-round pick is 2013 selection belonging to Charlotte. Houston acquired it from Boston in the Courtney Lee trade. It’s the same pick the NBA recently forced the Thunder to convey to the Celtics as compensation for Jeff Green missing the entire 2011-12 season with a heart condition.
Martin, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard, is a career 18.4-point scorer who is known for his perimeter shooting and efficiency. The 29-year-old Martin is entering his ninth season and will make $12.9 million in the final year of his contract.
Lamb, this year’s 13th overall pick, averaged 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals last season as a sophomore at Connecticut. Lamb, 20, is among the most athletic rookies in this year’s class.
Harden will make his lone appearance inside Chesapeake Energy Arena as a member of the Rockets on Nov. 28.