The best solution for the Oklahoma City Thunder moving forward is probably without the tail end of their Big Three, James Harden.
Harden has been a wizard off of the bench, scoring just under 20 points per game. He takes some pressure off of the primary scoring options, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Although his effectiveness dwindled as the playoffs wore on, don’t blame Harden.
Oklahoma City had a quest to even make it to the NBA Finals, plowing through the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Those teams have won 10 of the past 13 NBA championships.
Harden will eventually be the odd man out. Although I have personally pushed for Westbrook to be the trade bait, Westbrook brings a superstar presence to the Thunder and coupled with Durant the Thunder have arguably the most potent scoring duo in the NBA.
Not only that, but there is the issue of money. Oklahoma City will have difficulty being able to support the large contracts of their starters, which again suggests the Thunder should trade the 2012 Sixth Man of the Year.
If they manage to find a way to support all of the contracts, of course, that is the best option.
If not, here are three teams that have excellent options to trade the Thunder for James Harden.
Note: The following trades are solely the opinion of the author.
Oklahoma City gets Klay Thompson, Richard Jefferson and 2014 draft pick
Golden State gets James Harden and Cole Aldrich
Why this trade is good for OKC:
The large contract of Richard Jefferson is the most unappealing part of this trade for the Thunder. They would be hard-pressed to accept this deal as is unless Golden State took on part of Jefferson’s contract—which is reasonable because Jefferson is set to make $11 million next season.
But on the flip side, Jefferson gives the Thunder a reasonable post- and mid-range shot presence. Klay Thompson is a young player who the Warriors have a lot of trust and hope in because of his incredible talent which is why OKC GM Sam Presti would be very attracted to an offer that involves Thompson.
Warriors draft picks have been pretty good based on the past couple years considering they have had repeated lottery picks. And Presti drafts well, so that would be an excellent asset to keep OKC young as they continue to make a push for an NBA championship.
Why this trade is good for Golden State:
Cole Aldrich is mostly an “icing on the cake” type player but will give the Warriors an added big man off the bench which will be nice to have as former Bucks’ center Andrew Bogut looks to rebound from injury.
James Harden is the perfect fit for the Warriors. A scorer who isn’t as selfish as Monta Ellis, he could even split time at point guard with Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry. That is ideal for the Warriors because Curry and Harden are also very valuable at the shooting-guard position and can play minutes there, as well.
Oklahoma City gets Avery Bradley, 2014/2015 draft pick
Boston gets James Harden
Why this trade is good for Oklahoma City:
Oklahoma City is weak in terms of perimeter defense. Although Bradley wasn’t able to showcase his talent against the eventual champion Miami Heat, he was known as a defensive specialist. And his scoring isn’t too bad, either (six games in April scoring over 17 points, including one 28-point show).
Bradley’s talent may be underestimated by the rest of the league, but not Presti. Again, add a draft pick and OKC would strongly consider such an offer.
Why this trade is good for Boston:
James Harden is the absolute perfect fit for Boston. He would be happy to have the role of a starter, and the Celtics have great players to balance Harden.
With Rajon Rondo creating shots for Harden and Jason Terry coming off the bench to give either Rondo or Harden a breather and Kevin Garnett still manning the middle—the Celtics would be looking really good.
Not only that, but Harden adds some star-powered youth to the organization (although granted, they are giving up talented youth themselves). Boston is in better position to handle a larger contract (like Harden’s) and OKC would have time to work with Bradley, who is a restricted free agent after next season.
Oklahoma City gets Eric Bledsoe (LAC), Nick Young (PHI) and 2014 draft picks (LAC)
Los Angeles gets Andre Iguodala (PHI)
Philadelphia gets Chauncey Billups (LAC), James Harden (OKC)
Why this trade is good for Oklahoma City:
In giving up only Harden, Oklahoma City gets 27-year-old guard in Nick Young who showed promise late in the season for the Clippers last year.
Add Eric Bledsoe, a 22-year-old guard with a lot of potential (which includes a 23-point performance against the Spurs in the playoffs) to the equation and OKC may bite.
Like for all trades that involve the Thunder, draft picks are excellent temptations, too.
Why this trade is good for LAC/PHI:
Los Angeles is giving up Bledsoe, Billups and draft picks for Andre Iguodala. There isn’t much else to say—this is a great trade for the Clippers.
Same thing for Philadelphia—there have been constant rumors that Iguodala will be traded and this is a great trade for them.
They give up a second-tier superstar in return for a similar superstar and also get the benefit of a veteran point guard with playoff experience.
Billups even managed 15 points per game last season for the Clippers.
Check out more of featured columnist Elijah Abramson's writing at Bases and Baskets.com.