Why the James Harden Trade Should Worry the Miami Heat

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17:  James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands on court with his head down in the second half against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There's a lot of thoughts surrounding the trade Houston made with Oklahoma City, which sent James Harden away for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and some picks. People tend to be on both sides of the fence regarding whether or not the Thunder have damaged their chances at winning a title, and everybody seems to think that the trade wasn't exactly terrible for either side.

What Houston got is obvious. Harden is a guy who has the potential to become a franchise player, or at least a piece of a franchise that can be title contenders down the road. He's unproven as a number one option for sure, but he's at least got a resume that makes it look as though he's got a very good chance at becoming that player.

Oklahoma City got a lot of things. While adding depth, they've also opened up their bench for other guys to have a shot at filling Harden's role. They added a few three-point shooters and picked up a few decent draft picks, as well as assets for a potential move down the road.

The most concerning perception that was put forth as a result of Oklahoma City moving Harden has to be the notion that they're going to pinch pennies moving forward. They aren't a big market team, but they're a profitable team at the big time. There's going to be a constant battle to preserve that profitability while maintaining a relatively cheap team. To do that they need guys on rookie-scale contracts who can contribute—meaning they've got to nail their drafts.

On the whole, the trade definitely favors Houston more immediately, but I'm not sure it hurts Oklahoma City out of the gate as much as it seems. Sure, chemistry may take a bit of a hit, but it's not like they're bringing back a guy who is detrimental to the team he plays for. Kevin Martin has been nothing but a professional in his time in the league.

With that in mind, it must be recognized that Kevin Martin is not James Harden. He may be able to shoot the ball, but he can't handle it nearly as well as Harden. Furthermore, he's definitely not the defender Harden has been, and he's not even a great defender.

That being said, the prospect of Martin becoming a number three option on a team like this could be quite scintillating—and threatening—to the Miami Heat.

Martin's biggest knocks have been that he's a bad defender (that one's rather indefensible), can't run the pick-and-roll like Harden can and isn't a point man. Both are true, but only half true at best.

While Martin doesn't drive to the hole with the feverish ferocity that Harden does, he's still very capable, relying on an old-school floater and contact to get his points. Harden has been great at getting to the line off the pick-and-roll, especially last season, but Martin is right there with him. The only difference is that Martin isn't capable of finishing quite as well as Harden.

Elsewhere, Martin is a textbook passer. He doesn't create flashy plays or get to a creative destination with his passes, but he does the right thing more often than not, which results in a low turnover percentage.

Kevin Martin's biggest addition to the Thunder, however, has to be his three-point shooting. He's been the number one scoring option for most of his career, yet he's been able to hold down a three-point percentage right around 38 percent, even with his terrible, injury-riddled season last year.

Jeremy Lamb is a bit of a mystery, but what he brings is both three-point shooting and the potential to be a very good young player. He's built almost exactly like Harden with a tall 6'5" frame and a 6'11" wingspan (identical measurements), making him a nice jumper with an ability to create off the dribble.

Further off is the potential for Perry Jones, the late first-round pick from Baylor, who has looked incredibly solid in the preseason in every way, including a 17-point scoring outburst against Charlotte early on.

Oklahoma City should look everywhere on their bench to replace Harden's output, and guys like Lamb and Jones could see some time if they consistently produce.

What does this do for them in a matchup with Miami? It spreads the floor much more than it did last season, as they now have a guy who is a three-point shooter rather than just a three-point threat.

After all, we are talking about a guy who has played against this incarnation of the Heat in nine games, scoring in double figures just five times and only topping 50 percent shooting twice.

It could also force Oklahoma City to tinker with the lineup so that they have the most offensive threats on the floor at one time as possible. This means Nick Collison becomes more important than Kendrick Perkins. After Collison proved he can produce in the playoffs and outperformed Perkins for most of the Finals, it should be a welcome sight to see more of him on the floor.

Where Oklahoma City has outpaced Miami in this trade, however, is in the long-run rather than immediately. 

The Thunder have built their reputation on making solid draft picks, and for the most part that reputation is well-earned (pretty much everything has landed besides the draft-day swap of Craig Brackins for Cole Aldrich, which was basically lose-lose). Oklahoma City will now likely have at least two picks in next year's draft, potentially three if Dallas outperforms expectations.

What might be even more dangerous for Miami is if the Thunder decide to make another swap before the trade deadline. Suddenly, they're a team with assets to move with Martin's expiring contract, Lamb and Jones as promising young guys and up to five total draft picks in the 2013 draft.

If a guy like Anderson Varejao, Al Jefferson or Paul Milsap ends up on the block, Oklahoma City has the means to get one of them if they're willing to take on a bit of salary. That, of course, is the biggest question remaining.

While Miami is pretty much set in their rotation over the next season, Oklahoma City has a lot of ways to take this team. There's no telling whether or not this team will look the same today as they will in May, but there's a lot of doubt in my mind that they'll be worse.