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Report: Mavericks, Rockets to make sure Thunder pay for Harden

Sep 12, 2012, 11:54 AM EDT


When Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti was talking James Harden’s contract recently, he sounded a lot like your boss before he started talking about everyone taking furlough days — “we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization” and that kind of thing.

Which is because every dollar they can get Harden to give back to the franchise as a hometown discount is two dollars they save as they start to head over the luxury tax threshold.

But Harden wants a max contract and as ESPN’s Marc Stein noted on twitter there are teams ready to give him one next summer as a restricted free agent.

I know at least two teams near OKC (Houston & Dallas) that are huge Harden fans and will have cap space to sign him to loaded offer sheet

Make no mistake, Harden wants to stay in Oklahoma City and chase rings with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That is his preference. But this is business and this will be his first big contract (after his rookie deal). This is the contract that not only sets a player up for life (unless he blows the cash), it can set his family up for generations. A max deal is about $58 million over four years. This is not when you hand out your services at a discount.

In a world where Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert get max deals and Nicolas Batum comes close to one, Harden is a max player. It’s not close. He’s an All-Star and gold medal winner who just turned 23 and is getting better. He doesn’t have to take less than the max.

The Thunder knew this was coming, they have known since before the new CBA was signed the price Harden would command on the open market. They made their deal with Serge Ibaka knowing full well what the future costs of Harden would be. This is not on Harden, this is fully on the Thunder and their ownership. They can make the max offer before the Oct. 31 deadline for a contract extension and avoid the season of drama (they have no plans to trade him), or they can wait until next summer. Their call. The price isn’t changing.

  1. eventhorizon04 - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Good post.
    Some people were saying on the post yesterday that, “James Harden is not a max player! Look at how poorly he did in the Finals!”
    They’re right that Harden had only 1 good half in the Finals (the first half of game 2) and was otherwise a non-factor in that series.

    However, GMs don’t just look at one playoff series when deciding how much a player is worth.

    Harden provides floor spacing (fun fact – he had a higher 3 point field goal percentage than Kevin Durant in 2011 – 39% versus 38.7%).
    Harden provides ball handling/playmaking ability.
    Harden is not an elite defender but is a willing defender.
    AND Harden is famous and popular (Fear the Beard!).

    The NBA is short on elite shooting guards, and now that both Kobe and Wade are in their 30’s, it’s possible to argue that Harden (age 23) could be a top shooting guard in 4-6 years.

    Those factors all add up to max contract. No matter how upset you are at how poorly he did in the Finals, you can’t really argue otherwise.

  2. xLith - Sep 12, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    I would love for the Rockets to get Harden. I’ve been cheering for him and OKC in our mediocrity. OKC is what I hope the Rockets can pull off in the next few years. I miss the glory days of the 90s when we actually mattered. This middle-of-the-pack crap is so old now.

  3. kdn4 - Sep 12, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    I think it would be an awesome coupe for whatever franchise that ends up in Seattle to get him. Because we know that Chris Hansen isn’t going to be afraid of a little luxury tax.

  4. sylpkt - Sep 12, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    I think its pretty clear Harden will get his MAX deal (PHX, DAL our HOU), but the Thunder don’t have any reason to offer him the Max now.

    Either he signs a team friendly deal before the season or he plays it out this season and is motivated to get his MAX deal, is offered the MAX from one or all of the 3 teams and OKC matches and then amnesties Perk.

    With the Perk amnesty in the back pocket for the Thunder, I don’t think there’s any way that the Thunder don’t match.

    (and I hear you “but dwight howard is on the lakers and perk is a dwight stopper – yada yada” crowd, but If you hadn’t noticed, the Thunder have been signing young, cheap centers all offseason and have a couple stashed in the D league and overseas to prepare for this. Ibaka hopefully will learn the nastiness/defensive leader role that Perk learned from Garnett in Boston and should step into that role. He will also play more center as the team continues to run the league out of the gym with the “small” lineups of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Maynor/Tabo/P Jones, Ibaka/Collison)

  5. cmehustle - Sep 12, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    All you guys make good comments. I think its going to be fun to see how this ends up playing out. We know both him and Chris Paul are going to be free agents and I cant wait to see how this ends up playing out. The Thunder are a smart franchise though and I believe in them. I think they know thier team and if they decide to let him go its because they got somebody behind him now who can help pickup some of the slack.

  6. max20characters - Sep 12, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Couldn’t pick a better picture, Kurt?

    • Kurt Helin - Sep 12, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      I love that picture of Harden.

  7. nokoolaidcowboy - Sep 13, 2012 at 5:15 AM

    This guy is having too much fun! No one going to mention the name Urkell? Snort, snort, snort!

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