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NBA Draft Rumors: Thunder Should Consider Trading James Harden for Bradley Beal

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NBA Draft Rumors: Thunder Should Consider Trading James Harden for Bradley Beal
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

ESPN has reported that the Thunder have considered trying to move up in the draft to select Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. Unfortunately for them, such a move would undoubtedly cost them star sixth-man James Harden.

Before you go shooting down such a trade, at least take a moment to consider a few things.

First of all, under the current rookie-salary scale, as the No. 2 pick, Beal would make approximately $16 million over the next four years. Assuming Harden gets the maximum contract he deserves, Harden would earn over $50 million in that same time frame. 

Paying a star like Harden wouldn't be a problem for most teams, but Oklahoma City already has two players (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) signed to maximum contracts and a third (Serge Ibaka) likely seeking a contract that pays upwards of $10 million per year.

Considering the new luxury tax rules, a small-market team like the Thunder can't possibly afford to pay four players that much money and still field a competitive team around them. In the end, either Harden or Ibaka will be gone.

Would you rather have Harden for one year or Beal for four?

This move also makes sense on the court. Beal has been compared to both Ray Allen and Eric Gordon. Allen is the best three-point shooter of all time, and Gordon is on track for a similar career.

The Thunder shot 32-of-105 from long range in the NBA Finals for 30.5 percent, whereas Miami made 42-of-98 three-pointers for 42.9 percent. In such a close series, that might have made the difference—especially when you consider that without Kevin Durant's 13-for-33 performance, the Thunder fell to 26.3 percent. 

While Harden is a fine long-distance shooter (for his career he's at 37 percent), he isn't elite. What's more is that Harden needs the ball in his hands to score.

Normally that wouldn't be an issue, but the Thunder already have two ball-dominant stars. Beal would add a new dimension to the Thunder offense by being being a catch-and-shoot-type player. He can come off screens and hit shots at a better rate than Harden can. 

Replacing Harden with Beal would give Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant more possessions. It would also end clamors from some fans that Harden, not Westbrook, should be the team's primary ball-handler.

Each of Oklahoma City's three perimeter stars (assuming Beal gets close to that level) would have a defined role. Durant would be the all-purpose scorer, Westbrook would be the driver and distributor and Beal would be the shooter.

Basketball is about fit as much as talent. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen worked so well together because they played so different. A big issue Oklahoma City faced in the finals was how similarly James Harden and Russell Westbrook play sometimes, and how hard it is for them to play off of each other. 

While Beal isn't as good as Harden right now, he is more than capable of reaching that level. If the Thunder are truly committed to winning multiple championships, trading for Beal is the right long-term move. 

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