There has been much debate since February of 2011 on whether the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green, who ended up with the Boston Celtics, was the right move. However, while that trade has always been seen from Boston’s perspective locally, no one has delved into Oklahoma City’s side of the deal. Over two years later, Jeff Green has found his place with the Celtics, and has won a few games for them as the playoffs are right around the corner. For the Thunder, Kendrick Perkins didn’t pan out or match the numbers he was putting up with the Celtics. Did Oklahoma City get the worst end of the trade? Did they make the same mistake when they traded James Harden?
The Thunder are currently second in the Western Conference standings and well on their way to another deep playoff run. But there is one player who plays for Oklahoma City that could once again negate their chances of winning a title. Russell Westbrook. This is where arguments can be made, but Westbrook cannot, and has not coexisted with Kevin Durant. Sunday’s game against the New York Knicks was a prime example. Westbrook finished with 37 points 11 rebounds and 8 assists. While those are tremendous numbers for a point guard, he’s taken away too much from Durant’s game as Durant is not getting the ball when he’s most effective, which is late in games.
This has happened plenty of times before. Westbrook turns into a shooting guard at the wrong time and plays selfish, hero-like basketball, which on multiple occasions has lost a few games for the Thunder because of that. Now, I’m not taking anything away from Westbrook, but it’s not his team, it’s Durant’s. Durant is the player who should have the ball in his hands late in games, not Westbrook. This discussion can be endless, so without continuously beating a dead horse, I move on.
Before this season began, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets. Again, the Thunder got the worst end of the trade. Harden has stepped up and has become a leader, which he wouldn’t have become if he was still in Oklahoma City. Houston is now playoff bound because of Harden. But was letting him go a big mistake on the part of the Thunder? Once again, I’m saying yes. Had they given the money they spent on Westbrook to Harden, and turned around to trade Westbrook for a real point guard, Oklahoma City would be much better. This is a strong accusation on my part, but the results don’t lie. Harden wasn’t getting in Durant’s way and neither was Jeff Green. Yes, I’ve brought him back into the picture.
The Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Jeff Green was enough to win championships for years to come. But that will never be known after the trades split the trio apart. Now Oklahoma City has two superstars who don’t compliment each other in certain situations of a game, especially late in the fourth quarter. Sure, they’re winning games and could go deep into the playoffs, but they won’t overcome the obstacles known as the San Antonio Spurs or Miami Heat.
In the final analysis, there is one other side to this ordeal. Would Jeff Green and James Harden be as good as they are today if they were still playing for the Thunder? I truly believe the combination of Durant and Green would have been a dominant force in the front court. The length of both players would have caused matchup problems, which is exactly whats happening in Boston as Paul Pierce and Green have become a force to be reckoned with. Harden on the other hand was in the shadow of Durant and Westbrook, and didn’t fully shine in his time with the Thunder. His game is better suited with the Rockets as he’s become the superstar, the go-to-guy, the player who his team looks to late in games. He’s averaging 25.8 ppg which is almost 9 points more than what he’s been averaging throughout his career.
The Thunder ultimately made the mistake by letting two great players go and keeping a point guard who would be better if he lead a team on his own like Derrick Rose with the Chicago Bulls. Oklahoma City may return to the Finals this season, but they’re not as good as they once were, or could have been today.