After a drawn-out negotiation in an attempt to keep reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder ultimately could not find a way to keep their budding star. After a series of offers for The Bearded One were repeatedly denied, it was clear to general manager Sam Presti that the team was going to lose a vital piece to their young core.
Not wanting to lose Harden for nothing in restricted free agency next summer, Presti did what he was forced to do: he swung a last-minute, blockbuster in which he shipped out his star shooting guard.
Presti knew that in order to get full value for Harden, they needed to act before the October 31 deadline, so that any team acquiring him could agree to a max offer sheet immediately and would have him on his affordable rookie contract for the entire 2012-13 season.
Trading Harden when Presti did also gave his return package of Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb more time to adjust to playing on a new team, and this unit will have a full season to mesh before the playoffs, which would not have been the case if Harden were traded midseason.
With all the rumors that would have been swirling around Harden's potential restricted free agency, this team would have faced plenty of distractions throughout the entire season.
What other moves could the Thunder have swung for Harden? Obviously, you're not going to get market value for a player of his caliber. But what realistic moves could the Thunder have made?