Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What do you expect out of James Harden in Houston this year? And how much will the trade affect the Thunder?
Steve Aschburner: I acknowledge Harden’s talent, especially his ability to get to the foul line, and expect that he’ll do well as the Rockets’ No. 1 option. But he’ll have to do it against serious game-planning by opponents — there’s no Durant or Westbrook to draw most of the defensive attention. So be careful what you wish for, James. As for OKC, I think they made a great save with what they got in trade, but tinkering with a winning formula — for whatever reason — is risky. Short term, they could regret GM Sam Presti‘s pro-activity.
Fran Blinebury: Harden will put up a lot of points as top gun on a bad team. It remains to be seen how effective he can be in late game situations without playing off Durant and Westbrook. Kevin Martin will replace his scoring and late FTs in OKC, but they’ll miss Harden at the point.
Jeff Caplan: Harden will be a scoring machine in Houston. Just look at the roster. He has to be. He will take loads of pressure off of Jeremy Lin and with the media no longer obsessed with Linsanity, Harden will give Houston something it wouldn’t have had otherwise — relevance. Everyone will be interested to see how Lin and The Beard mesh and more so how Harden performs as a starter for the first time in his career — and on a team that doesn’t feature two dominant scorers. As for the Thunder, chemistry — these guys really liked each other — and fourth-quarter execution will stand out. Martin will go bonkers with the open looks he’ll get, but Harden was a beast with the ball in his hands during crunch time and the Thunder will have to make adjustments.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Harden will do well. He will move from complementary offensive weapon to Durant and Westbrook into a centerpiece role and thrive while paying for the opportunity in losses. The team he leaves behind, the Thunder, will obviously be impacted. They traded their third-best player for Martin. That is definitely a step back for a team trying to win a championship.
Sekou Smith: Harden will get his chance to headline alongside Lin, and that should be good for some excitement here and there. But they don’t look like a playoff team to me. And the Thunder will survive his departure with a re-stocked bench and a scorer (Martin) more than capable of filling Harden’s spot in the scoring column.