The Rockets and Daryl Morey have spent the better part of the last three years trying to pull off a trade to bring a star player to Houston. They've attempted to trade for Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and tried to sign Chris Bosh in free-agency; all attempts failed. Morey built up a great group of role players that remarkably still led the Rockets to winning records the last several seasons but he struggled badly to bring in the one star to put them over the top. According to reports from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports on Saturday night, the Rockets have finally acquired a star player.
The Rockets sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and future draft considerations to the Thunder for Harden, sources told Y! Sports. Along with Harden, the Thunder will send Cole Aldridge, Lazar Hayward and Daequan Cook to the Rockets.
Houston also sent two 2013 first-round picks (from Dallas and Toronto) to Oklahoma City, sources told Y! Sports, as well as a 2013 second-round pick (via Charlotte).
Contract extension talks between the Thunder and Harden broke down, and Thunder GM Sam Presti moved quickly to trade the guard.
The Rockets will still have their own first round pick in 2013 and still have three rookie first round picks (Royce White, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas) on the roster so they avoided trading away most of their future like you see so often in big trades. If it turns out that Morey hit on the first round picks they recently made and he hits on their future picks, they have a chance to build a great roster around Harden. I have no doubt that Morey can build up a supporting roster, the problem has always been acquiring the star.
The question now is, how good is Harden? He's put up great numbers, but how will that translate to a new team? In Oklahoma City he was their third option on offense, came off the bench, and benefited from the opposing defense focusing on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In Houston, he'll not only be a starter, but the primary guy opposing teams focus on so the easy, open looks he received on a regular basis last year likely won't be available until the Rockets add more talent or their young players develop.
Per 36 minutes, Harden averaged 19.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and two three-pointers made per game last season. One interesting stat, Harden shot 52% from the field at home last season compared to only 43% on the road. Hopefully for the Rockets that was due to him feeding off the energy of the crowd which would translate to his new home arena, though several players have said on record that the sight lines for shooters is difficult at the Toyota Center. What could make Harden special as he develops is his ability to be an all-around player. If he takes the next step and becomes a player that averages at or above 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game, which isn't far fetched, then the Rockets could have a special player. Only LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Kobe Bryant put up those types of numbers last season.
Unlike LeBron, Wade, and Kobe, I don't think Harden can carry a team on his shoulders at this point. He'll need help, Morey will have to add some other pieces, but this trade was a nice first step towards building a roster capable of being a contender.