By Matt Pacenza, special to Salt City Hoops
Something exceedingly rare happened a few weeks ago: an NBA team voluntarily traded a young star on the cusp of greatness.
The impact of the momentous trade of shooting guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets has only grown since Oct. 28. In his first eight games, the 23-year-old Bearded One surprised everyone–everyone not named Daryl Morey, apparently–as he smoothly stepped into his new role as Houston’s number one option. He’s averaging nearly 27-5-5, putting up vintage Dwyane Wadian statistics, and is in a virtual tie with Kobe Bryant to lead the league in points per game–easily exceeding the numbers he put up as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s third banana.
Of course, all the small sample-size caveats apply – it’s only been eight games! – but the trade and subsequent five-year contract extension looks like a franchise-invigorating move for the Rockets. Even if Harden tails off, he’ll likely be an indisputable All Star and one of the 15 best players in the league.
Now, here’s the question for Jazz fans: Could the Jazz brain trust – GMs Kevin O’Connor and Dennis Lindsey and CFO/Capologist Bob Hyde – have put together an even better offer for Harden?
The Harden trade could go down as a huge missed opportunity, a rare chance for a small market team to take advantage of the constraints of the NBA’s new economic system to land a superstar.