NBA Rumors: Thunder Will Miss out If They Close the Book on a James Harden Trade
The draft has come and gone, and the Thunder are very proud of themselves for staying on James Harden's good side and refraining from dealing him for a top-three pick.
But should they be?
Leading up to Thursday's draft, there were rumors galore that the Thunder were considering moving the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to Charlotte in exchange for the Bobcats' No. 2 overall pick, which they would likely use to select guard Bradley Beal.
But after all was said and done, the Bobcats went with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal went to the Wizards at No. 3 and Harden stayed put in Oklahoma City.
According to a tweet by ESPN's Marc Stein, that was the plan all along:
Leftover draft chatter: OKC officials took steps in recent days to assure James Harden he wouldn't be dealt for top-3 pick & then proved it— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 29, 2012
Darnell Mayberry, The Oklahoman's Thunder beat writer, added credence to the idea that the Thunder were never interested in moving Harden with this tweet of his own:
Thunder GM Sam Presti on the James Harden rumor: "James Harden is a coveted player. But I don't think anyone covets him as much as we do."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) June 29, 2012
The speculation hit an all-time high the day before the draft, when Beal told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that Presti told him personally during a meeting in Chicago that he was interested in moving up in the draft to select him. OKC's trade chip in that scenario likely would've been Harden.
What does it all mean? Most likely, that someone's lying—and it's probably not Beal, considering a source told Katz that the Thunder "exhausted every opportunity on campus to find out everything they could find out about Beal," and considering the fact that Florida coach Billy Donovan met with Presti during the first round of the playoffs to discuss the Gators star.
If the Thunder were ever interested in the idea of acquiring Beal, they shouldn't give up now. Though it's unclear whether the Wizards are interested in parting ways with this year's No. 3 pick, it's a trade the Thunder would be foolish to abandon.
Harden has one year remaining on his deal, and the Thunder aren't going to be able to retain him, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka over the long haul. Trading him now—especially for a talent like Beal, who could be lethal in the Thunder's backcourt with Westbrook—would be a huge win for OKC.
Should the Thunder still consider trading James Harden?
It's more likely that any possible trade talks fell through not because the Thunder didn't want to part ways with Harden, but because the Bobcats were too uncertain about the likelihood that Harden would agree to a long-term deal. Now that the Bobcats are no longer in the picture, the Thunder need to explore the possibility of a trade with the Wizards.
The Thunder need to do everything they can to exhaust all options because they could be missing out on the key piece they need to win the Finals next year. They need a pure shooter who can play alongside Westbrook and take some of the offensive pressure off him, and given their cap restrictions, this might be their best chance of bringing in a player with a boatload of upside and without a colossal price tag.
Beal could be the Thunder's key to advancing to the NBA Finals again next season, and moving Harden to get him still makes sense. The Thunder just need to get the Wizards to listen.
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