What If the Thunder Never Traded James Harden
At the start of the 2010s, a very young Oklahoma City Thunder team was looking into a bright future with three players they acquired through the draft. Those players would be Kevin Durant in 2007, Russell Westbrook in 2008, and James Harden in 2009. The Thunder increased their win total and made an appearance in the NBA Finals in 2012. During the time, Westbrook and Durant were in the starting lineup with Harden as the 6th-man. After their run, the Thunder traded Harden to the Houston Rockets where he became a superstar. Then, Durant left and won two rings. Westbrook stayed with the Thunder and broke numerous records. Many have wondered what would have happened if all three stayed together.
What If the Thunder Never Traded James Harden?
The Trade Recap
Before the what-if scenario, we need to look back on what actually happened. In October of 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Harden and three other role players to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and draft picks. The reason behind this trade is because the Thunder didn’t offer Harden enough compared to what Houston offered. Harden would begin to flourish in his role in the starting lineup with the Rockets. This flourishment would also lead him to win the NBA league MVP award in 2018.
If The Thunder Paid James Harden
If the Thunder gave Harden the max contract that he wanted, many things could’ve happened. Their young core would’ve been able to stick around for more years and had more opportunities to go the finals. The Thunder could’ve been the next great dynasty. This would also mean Durant wouldn’t have left to go to Golden State in 2016. Even with the upside of championships, there also the possibility that Harden wouldn’t have won his MVP. This is due to the possibility that he won’t carry a big load. This would be the same way with Westbrook, with him not carrying a big bulk of the offense it would mean his triple-double season would never happen.
A New NBA Rivalry
With how good the Thunder will be, we also have to consider how great the Golden State Warriors were during this time. We could definitely see this being one of the best playoff rivalries to date. With Russ, Durant, and Harden going up against the Splash Brothers in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it would have made many memorable playoff moments. With Durant not going to the Warriors in 2016, there could be a chance that the Warriors dynasty would’ve never happened. Nonetheless, there is the potential that they would have battled for championships and could have made a lot of amazing moments in NBA history.
If Harden would’ve made a deal with the Thunder in 2012, it’s apparent that a lot of things would have changed. It is not just the Thunder organization, it would also change the NBA. Harden, Durant, and Westbrook have transcended individually. But we are still left to wonder about what could have been.