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NBA AM: Are The Thunder Better Now?
Posted By Steve Kyler On October 30, 2012 @ 10:13 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Are The Thunder Better After The Trade?: Trading James Harden was not the first option for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Plan B isn’t nearly as doom and gloom as some are painting it. Harden was the Sixth Man of the Year last season, but his replacement in shooting guard Kevin Martin is no slouch either.
Martin has struggled with injuries over the last few years, but when he is on the floor he remains one of the most efficient offensive players in the league. He is a proficient three-point shooter that draws fouls at an incredible rate.
For the first time in Martin’s career, he’s on a team with a real chance at a title and he plans to make the most of it. He couldn’t be more thrilled with his new situation.
“Coming to an organization and a team that is building a great team with a great supporting cast in the community,” Martin said to Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, “I think they just have the right makings for any player to want to come and play for them.”
“I’ve been wanting to play on a team like this for a while, with two other big-time scorers. I knew I was going to have an opportunity someday. I’m glad it came this soon.”
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said that he expects Martin to play from the bench for the most part, something Martin says he’s fine with, especially for a chance to win.
“You want to sacrifice things for wins,” Martin said. “I’ve been wanting to be in a situation like this for a long time instead of putting up numbers and being done playing in April … So I’m ready to sacrifice whatever they want me to.”
The Thunder added more than just Martin this offseason, which is why downgrading Oklahoma City because they traded Harden might be foolish. Not only did the Thunder add an 18 point-per-game scorer in Martin, they also get back reserve guard Eric Maynor who was out with a torn ACL last year. The draft yielded Perry Jones III, who has been playing very well for the Thunder in the preseason. And then when you factor in the addition of the 12th overall pick Jeremy Lamb, who was a 17-point-per-game scorer at UCONN last year, the Thunder added a lot to a team that won 71 percent of their games last season and made it to the NBA Finals.
The Thunder may take a hit in the chemistry department. However, they clearly added more talent to a roster that was already among the best in the NBA and they removed the cloud of doubt from their locker room regarding Harden’s future.
The 2009 Extension Update: Wednesday is the deadline for those players drafted in 2009 and still on their first-round rookie scale contracts to sign extensions.
Last Thursday in this space we covered were things stood with a number of the notable players. Sam Amick, new to USA Today Sports, hit on the topic today as well. Here is where things stand today:
James Harden – Houston Rockets
The Rockets and Harden are expected to reach a deal before Wednesday’s deadline, the question is how much and for how many years? It’s believed the number being thrown around is five years and $70 million plus incentives. The Rockets can go as high as five years and $78.6 million, which would be a complete max contract. It’s unclear if Houston will go all the way to max money or give themselves a little breathing room. Harden has said since arriving in Houston that he’ll sign a new deal with the Rockets and it seems the two sides are ready to ink a major deal. The question becomes at what value? It’s been widely reported that Houston will go all in on Harden; they have until Wednesday to consummate the deal.
Tyreke Evans – Sacramento Kings
The Kings and Evans are not going to reach a deal. The two sides have never seriously engaged on a deal to make the kinds of progress necessary to ink something before the deadline. Evans’ camp would like to explore his value next summer in free agency and the Kings have, in recent months, talked about trading Evans. Neither side seems near a divorce today, but if Evans struggles to shoot the ball early in the season, he may very well be traded before the February 21 trade deadline. Don’t expect an extension before Wednesday.
Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
Both sides have basically tabled contract talks, mainly due to Curry’s continued ankle problems. Both sides want to reach a long-term deal but trying to establish value and duration now wouldn’t yield a very good deal for Curry, so they will talk more next summer. The Warriors continue to say they are 100 percent committed to Curry, so a trade at the deadline seems unlikely.
DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
Much like Curry, it’s far more likely the Raptors do a deal with DeRozan next summer than in the next few days. It’s equally as unlikely that DeRozan is going anywhere this season. The Raptors will likely let DeRozan set his value as a restricted free agent next summer, rather than try and low ball him and create uneasiness. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston got into this topic last week in this installment of HOOPSWORLD TV
Brandon Jennings – Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks and Jennings are not going to reach an extension deal. One source close to the process said Jennings’ camp was looking for a deal in the $9 to $10 million range and the Bucks just don’t seem willing to engage that at this point. For Jennings to have a shot at a deal in that range, he’ll have to earn it on the court this year or get another team to offer it as a restricted free agent next summer.
Jrue Holiday – Philadelphia 76ers
Holiday and the 76ers will not be making a deal before the deadline. Both sides talked, but the value on the table just isn’t going to get a deal done. Sources close to the process say the 76ers offer was in the $8 to $9 million per season range and that would include incentives. Holiday is positioned to have a great season in Philadelphia, so it’s likely smart for him to wait out the process and see what free agent offers trickle in. Philadelphia sources have been adamant that an extension now would be about security and a price on their terms, but also said that matching almost anything Holiday is offered is expected next year, especially once the Andrew Bynum situation is resolved.
Ty Lawson – Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets and Lawson seemed like they were progressing toward a deal, and it is still possible they reach one before the Wednesday deadline. Sources close to the process say there was a very good back and forth going and that the broad strokes of a deal were basically there, it’s just now about final value. Lawson says he wants to stay in Denver and head coach George Karl admitted that the process was a distraction. The two sides are not that far apart according to sources in Denver, so a deal before the deadline still remains likely, although the final inches of a deal sometimes can derail a lot of progress and that’s where things stand with Lawson.
Taj Gibson – Chicago Bulls
The Bulls and Gibson have been talking for most of the summer and while the deadline to reach a deal is Wednesday, it still looks like a 50/50 proposition on a deal at best. K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the two sides are still significantly apart on a valuation for Gibson, but that is fairly common as these kinds of deals come together. Most of the extensions that get done are either obvious no-brainers like the Los Angeles Clippers’ deal with Blake Griffin or deals that tend to be just below expected value but close the issue and add security. Both Gibson and the Bulls have said they want to close the door on this topic, but given where Chicago sits cap wise, every dollar in this deal matters, especially with the Bulls over the luxury tax. There is a chance that Gibson and the Bulls reach a deal, mainly because both sides seem like they want one, but there is an economic side that’s real for the Bulls, and Gibson will have free agent value next summer too.
There has been very little movement on anyone else in the 2009 draft class. Thunder GM Sam Presti admitted to tabling talks with Eric Maynor, although they are expected to try and make a deal next summer.
Sources close to the Hawks say there were talks with Jeff Teague, mainly to reassure his camp that he is still very much part of the plan moving forward, but that Atlanta is focused on creating as much cap flexibility for next summer as possible, so Teague will likely have to wait for his deal until July.
The Bobcats apparently had similar conversations with Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens. The Bobcats are hoping for a big season from Mullens and are more interested in seeing what the market is like next summer, but have repeatedly expressed that Mullens is part of the core they are trying to build around and having flexibility next summer is a key part of that building process. The Bobcats will have roughly $21 million in guaranteed contracts next summer, but will also have to deal with Henderson and Mullens as potential restricted free agents. Bobcats sources say keeping both players is part of the plan, but having flexibility trumps everything at this stage for a rebuilding Charlotte team.
Chandler Parsons A Big Part Too: When the Houston Rockets announced that they had acquired James Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder, Rockets owner Les Alexander applauded his exciting young core, naming Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons, who emerged last season after being selected with 38th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Parsons started 57 games for the Rockets last year and told HOOPSWORLD he hopes to build on last season and make a big leap forward.
*** The Rockets waived Shaun Livingston yesterday to trim their roster to 15 players.
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