James Harden’s thunderous OKC exit

Spencer Chase

Missed it by that much.

We had the chance to watch one of the best young dynasties in the history of basketball develop and potentially wreak havoc on the NBA and run rampant with the league as long as they could afford to keep everyone together.

And that’s where it all went wrong.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder failed to agree to an extension with James Harden and ultimately shipped him to the Houston Rockets, they didn’t realize it, but I think they started the end of their dynasty before it even began.

Was Harden the only true impact player on the Thunder? Most certainly not. The fact of the matter is Harden is probably one of the lower-talent players on the team, evidenced by the fact that he isn’t a regular starter with the club. Aside from his occasional X-factor performance that he could come up with, Harden’s production is very replaceable. He’s averaging 12.7 points per game on the career, and his production did suffer a slight dip during the playoffs. Quite honestly, there are a lot of guys in the league like Harden.

What Oklahoma City has done is just the first crack in the floodgates. With their young nucleus intact, they had the potential to be serious title contenders for the next decade barring any kind of drastic injury. And this wasn’t a team that was just hodge-podged together. They were drafted and developed within the organization and grew into an elite team together. They still hung out like college roommates, played video games at each other’s houses and played one of the most exciting styles in the league.

Make no mistake; they still have two of the best players in the league in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. With the right drafting and trading strategy, they can rebuild very easily. But now, they’ve cut the first cord. They’ve gotten rid of the first player, partially because he didn’t agree to the extension, but now where does it stop?

Maybe getting rid of Harden will allow the Thunder to keep Westbrook and Durant, but they’re going to have to shell out a decent amount of money to make that happen. Yes, Harden was probably the least talented of the three, but now they’re going to have to shell out the financial and emotional support to keep the other two around.

This is seemingly how the great young teams end up. They tear it up, nearly win a title or two, make us drool over their potential, and then follow the money. Remember the Mavericks teams with Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki? Early Timberwolves with Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett? Heck, even Lamar Odom and Elton Brand with the Clippers? And those are just NBA examples.

Now, not only does the Thunder need to have a few bake sales to raise enough money to pay the two of them and surround them with an adequate supporting cast, they now have an angry locker room. And statistically speaking, zero percent of unhappy locker rooms have productive post-season play. Did I just make that statistic up on the spot to prove a point? Yes. Did you find it surprising? Didn’t think so.

The Thunder doesn’t know it yet, but they’ve just opened a serious can of worms.