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Oklahoma City Thunder: Evaluating the James Harden trade in a new light

COMMENTARY — The Thunder's decision to trade James Harden worked fine, until Russell Westbrook got hurt. Critics who insist Sam Presti should have played out this season with Harden have new ammunition. Here's why they're still off base.
by Berry Tramel Modified: May 15, 2013 at 8:22 am •  Published: May 14, 2013

That's what Durant needs against the Grizzlies. A second wheel. In Game 4 Monday night, even though Martin and Serge Ibaka played well, they weren't Westbrook. Butch had no Sundance.

The Thunder was just fine without Harden in the regular season. And I think the playoffs would have been the same.

OKC was the West's No. 1 seed and has shown no less resolve in this Memphis series, when without Westbrook the Thunder has gone to the last minute of all four games.

Going into the playoffs, the Thunder was an overwhelming pick to win the West. Playing this tough without one of the NBA's 10 best players shows that optimism was well-founded.

Then you take your shot at the Heat, which was going to be a total load no matter who the Thunder had on the roster. Harden, Westbrook, Jack Sikma and his retired No. 43 jersey. Doesn't matter.

But all that changed with Westbrook's injury. Now, the Thunder truly misses Harden.

Some still claim the Thunder made a bad trade.

No way. Harden was a goner after this season. A guy who turned down $53 million over four years wasn't going to change his mind the next summer. Not when an $80 million, five-year deal was available elsewhere.

So Sam Presti had to make a choice. Play another magical year with Harden, then watch him drift from the shore. Or trade him and get what you could get.

The Thunder traded one year of Harden for one year of Martin, four years of whatever Jeremy Lamb turns out to be and four years of whatever the Toronto draft pick turns out to be.

The difference between Harden and Martin is not that vast.

So the trade was solid. You can't predict that the unbreakable Westbrook will break.

But it took the infamous meniscus to make the Harden trade really hurt.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at