BOSTON – Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was blunt.
“Take James Harden off our team, and we’re nowhere,” Morey said.
Fodder for Mark Cuban? Yes.
True? To a degree. Harden has successfully carried a heavy load with Dwight Howard in and out of the lineup due to injury. Houston outscores opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions when Harden plays and get outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions when he sits.
Of course, Morey has long admired Harden, trading for him in 2012. That deal has been revisited countless times with the Thunder grading out poorly in hindsight – despite how reasonable the deal seemed at the time.
But perhaps Oklahoma City deserves criticism for negotiating poorly, given how badly Morey says he wanted Harden.
“We basically told the owner, ‘We should just give them everything. Like, literally, every possible thing that isn’t bolted down with the Rockets should be traded,’” Morey said.
The Thunder’s final haul: Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first-round picks that became Steven Adams and Mitch McGary. (Oklahoma City also included Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward).
But, in theory, the Thunder could have gotten more. Houston could have added multiple additional first-round picks, at least two and leaving open the possibility of three depending when a pick already owed to the Hawks was conveyed. The Rockets also had Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik.
Sure, Morey has incentive to play up how much he liked Harden now that Harden has blossomed. But if we take Morey at his word, maybe Oklahoma City could have netted fair return for the MVP candidate with better negotiation.