James Harden — his playmaking skills, his 24.7 points per game and his beard — could have been members of the Washington Wizards. But owner Ted Leonsis balked at the cost.
That according to a Washington Post report:
The Washington Wizards turned down a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for James Harden this summer because team owner Ted Leonsis was unwilling to commit to what would have been a roughly $80 million, five-year contract for the high-scoring player, according to multiple people with knowledge of the proposed deal.
The Wizards would have sent rookie guard Bradley Beal and second-year forward Chris Singleton to the Thunder in return for Harden, winner of the NBA’s sixth-man award with Oklahoma City last season, according to these individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the proposal.
You should take this runor with a grain of salt, for a couple reasons. For one thing, another source told the Post the Thunder wanted a third, “established player” in the deal and the Wizards woudn’t do that.
Second, it’s become known Thunder GM Sam Presti was testing the waters a lot of places for Harden this summer, but he didn’t plan to pull the trigger until negotiations failed right before the season started. So while there may have been Wizards and Thunder talk, it may not have been an offered deal.
Obviously, the Rockets eventually landed Harden in a deal based around Kevin Martin.
The Thunder made out much better anyway. Beal has struggled as a rookie, giving the Wizards 11.7 points per game on just 34.9 percent shooting. Kevin Martin is an established scorer in the league — 15.8 points per game on 47 percent shooting from three. Martin has stepped into the Harden space and the Thunder have barely missed a step. They remain the best in the West right now.
Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.
As for the Wizards, I get Leoniss wants to build through the draft, but you need a star to win in this league and Harden is an Olympian and a guy who has gone deep into the playoffs. He’s still learning how to be the focal point of a team. But he would have made the Wizards a lot better now and going forward. It’s the kind of aggressive deal that the best mid-market teams do.