BREAKDOWN – The impact of trading James Harden on the Thunder

Confronted with the burdens of the new collective bargaining agreement the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder traded all-star guard James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and future 1st round draft picks from Dallas and Toronto.

Bottom line Oklahoma City took a big hit tonight.

According to the Locke offensive ranking, James Harden was the third best offensive player in the NBA behind Manu Ginobili and Kevin Durant. Only 5 players had an offensive ranking of 40 (10 is league average) and only 7 players had a ranking above 30, James Harden ranked as a 41.6. James Harden is one of the elite offensive players in the NBA.

Harden averaged 17 pts, 4 rebounds and 4 assists but his unreal efficiency is what separates him from most players in the NBA. For Jazz fans I hope this will put this in perspective. Jeremy Evans averaged 1.15 pts per possession. Evans basically only catches alley opps and dunks. Harden who plays a complete game averaged 1.12 pts per possession.

Harden was using 15 possessions a game, he was the best wing player in the NBA at pts per possession. Kevin Martin has always been known as an efficient player. His best year was in 2007-08 where he scored 1.11 pts per possession. However, since then he was been 1.01, 1.07 and .99 pts per possession over the last three years.

Martin is also a very high possession user. He will have to make a significant adjustment playing with OKC. In the last four years he has used, 23 possessions a game then 20, 21, 22 and 17 last year. Martin is a far less willing passer than Harden has been in his career.

Let’s make two assumptions. First, he will use the 15 possessions a game that Harden was using not more despite what he has averaged. There is a high possibility he uses more than this. Second, let’s assume Martin performs better than he did last season which was by far his worst year in the NBA and at age 28 he shouldn’t be slipping.

Martin’s average over the last 4 seasons has been 1.03 pts per possession. This is an uptick from what he did in 2011-12 and 2009-10 but seems likely.

Using these parameters the Thunder will slip .09 pts per possession used by Martin instead of Harden. This parlays out to 1.35 pts per game. A point is worth 2.7 wins so the Thunder slipped 3.6 games.

3.6 games is a big hit. This is offensively. According to Basketball Prospectus Martin defensive rating is 110.7. This is awful. Harden is not great but last year he was a 108.0. This is another loss of a about a point a game or another 2 losses or so. I am not as solid of defensive analysis but it comes close to 5 games when you combine these two areas.

Another number used by basketball prospectus is win %, if a team had 5 players of this player on each side of the ball how much would they win and Martin was a 52%. Harden was a 64% win % player. More evidence the drop from Harden to Martin is significant.

The wild card non numerical analysis here is for the first time the Thunder have brought a new player into their equation who wants the ball. The Thunder traded Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins but Perkins didn’t need the ball. Martin has to connect with Durant and Westbrook and he wants and needs the ball. He brings very little else to the table, he isn’t going to do it for you on the defensive end, he is not a passer and he is not going to initiate the offense the way Harden did at times freeing Westbrook to play off the ball.

From a numerical sense the Thunder seem to be about 5 games worse than they were this morning and for the first time ever we will watch to see where they are chemistry wise.