Theoretically, a good trade occurs when all sides prosper. Everybody wins.
Sounds great in theory, but there have been few truly good trades throughout NBA history and only a miniscule number have instantly been beneficial in all directions.
Most trades take time to evolve, but both sides prospered immediately in the James Harden deal.
The Houston Rockets acquired Harden on Oct. 27 and promptly signed him to a five-year, $80-million maximum deal that kicks in next season. (The other three OKC players dealt to Houston – Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward – were all gone within four months.)
In exchange, the Thunder got a proven scorer in veteran Kevin Martin, who conveniently replaced Harden as the team's sixth man. Included in the deal was promising rookie Jeremy Lamb, two future first-round draft choices and a second-round pick.
The result: The Rockets went from a .515 winning percentage (34-32) and no postseason to a .549 winning percentage (45-37) and a No. 8 playoff seed. The Thunder went from a .712 winning percentage (47-19) and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference to a .732 winning percentage (60-22) and the conference's No. 1 seed.
With Harden on board as the league's Sixth Man of the Year, OKC won last year's conference title then lost to the Miami Heat 4-1 in the NBA Finals.
It remains to be seen how well the Thunder fares this postseason, but the franchise continues to prosper despite losing a budding superstar in Harden.
Martin was so good, OKC potentially had one Sixth Man winner replace another, which is unprecedented. New York's J.R. Smith will likely win this year's award, but Martin will receive some votes.
Harden's future with the Rockets appears to be bright, as does the Thunder's prospects with Lamb and three additional draft picks that came via the trade.
The Harden deal turned out to be the rarest of all trades – an immediate win-win for both sides.
Here are three other notable immediate win-wins:
Feb. 22, 2011: In a three-team deal, Denver trades Carmelo Anthony, Renaldo Balkman, Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams to New York; Denver trades 2015 second-round pick to Minnesota; Minnesota trades Kosta Koufos to Denver and Corey Brewer to New York; New York trades Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, a 2012 second-round pick (Quincy Miller), a 2013 second-round pick, a 2014 first-round pick and cash to Denver; New York trades Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and cash to Minnesota.
Result: Denver went from a .576 winning percentage (38-28) to .695 (57-25) and now has the NBA's deepest roster; New York won its first Atlantic Division title since the 1993-94 season, went from .545 (36-30) to .659 (54-28) and has the league's new scoring champ in Anthony; Minnesota struggled with injuries this season, but appeared to be playoff-bound when healthy.
July 18, 2001: Phoenix trades Jason Kidd to New Jersey for Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake.
Result: New Jersey doubles its victory total from 26 the previous season to 52 and advances to the NBA Finals, where it loses 4-0 to the Los Angeles Lakers; Marbury leads Phoenix in scoring the following season, joining forces with Shawn Marion, Anfernee Hardaway and rookie Amar'e Stoudamire as the Suns qualify for the playoffs.
Nov. 1, 1993: Indiana trades Detlef Schrempf to Seattle for Derrick McKey and Gerald Paddio.
Result: Seattle improves from a 55-27 record to 63-19 and Schrempf's jersey number is retired as one of the best players in franchise history; Indiana improves from 41-41 to 47-35 and advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks in large part to McKey's ability to defend multiple positions.