In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt star sixth man James Harden to the Houston Rockets on October 27. Unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension, the Thunder ultimately determined they’d rather get something for Harden now, rather than lose him for nothing in the summer of 2013.
For the Golden State Warriors, a few aspects of this situation are instructive.
First, the fact that Harden turned down a deal that was, according to most estimates, as little as $4.5 million less than the $60 million dollar maximum he sought shows that a low-ball offer, no matter how near it is to what the player wants, can result in a disastrous rejection. Stephen Curry is in exactly the same contract situation as Harden was with OKC. And while Curry is not the same player as Harden, the Dubs would be wise to heed the lesson learned by the Thunder. Curry’s injury status makes a big offer risky, but at the same time, Curry has the ability to reject any deal, play out the season and test the restricted free-agent waters this summer.
Second, OKC’s unsentimental decision to deal Harden is admirable in its own way. The Thunder determined precisely how much they were willing to pay Harden, and when he wanted more, they simply decided to move him for a bunch of assets. It’s cold-blooded, a little harsh and unpopular with fans, but OKC’s hard-line approach is something the Warriors need to keep in mind in their dealings with Curry.
The smart teams evaluate their players’ worth better than the dumb teams. That’s an oversimplification, obviously, but clear, cold thinking is the hallmark of successful franchises. If the Warriors think they know what Curry’s worth and he wants more than that, it might be time to move him, too.
Overall, Curry’s got a million more question marks than Harden did, and he’s simply not as good a player, but his situation is otherwise the same. The Warriors should carefully consider all their options in dealing with Curry. And as the Thunder just showed, one of the options they’ve got to think about is dealing Curry for value if he’s not willing to accept what they think he’s worth.