Well, James Harden is a Houston Rocket. Following the surprising trade, we need to re-evaluate the Western Conference playoff landscape.
No, Oklahoma City didn’t lose so much in the deal that they’re no longer among the NBA title favorites. Kevin Martin is a significant downgrade from Harden, but the Thunder still have Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, so their title chances remain solid.
But for the Houston Rockets, the addition of Harden takes them from a complete afterthought in the playoff race to a possible noisemaker at the bottom half of the West’s eight playoff seeds.
That’s bad news for the Warriors, who got a couple of fortunate breaks with the injuries to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both the Wolves and Mavs figured to be slugging it out with the Dubs for the last couple of playoff spots. But with each of their stars ailing, the playoff picture started to look a little brighter for Golden State.
But now, Houston has acquired a star talent and in doing so, has thrown itself into the mix with the Warriors, Jazz, Mavericks, Timberwolves and maybe even the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Hornets.
Harden, in a bench role last season, was one of the NBA’s most efficient offensive players. He makes everyone around him better and constantly puts immense pressure on the defense. All the guy does is make threes, get to the line and dish out assists for high-percentage looks. By himself, Harden changes the Rockets’ makeup.
So, an already crowded list of contenders for the seventh and eighth seeds in the West just got a new addition. For the Warriors, it seems like nothing’s going to come easy.