There has been rumors for a while now that James Harden may end up in the valley of the Suns and over the past couple days that rumor have inched closer to reality. The Thunder inked the block machine Serge Ibaka to a 4 year 48 million dollar extension which puts the Thunder at about 67 million dollar in payroll for the 2012-2013 season; 3 million away from the luxury tax line.
In the NBA it’s very rare that small market teams are willing to go over the luxury tax line due to the limited revenue income that the big markets like L.A, New York or Miami has more of which ultimately makes up for the luxury tax they have to pay. For example, the San Antonio Spurs couple seasons ago went over the tax line to acquire Richard Jefferson and even though the Spurs are a top team in the west year in and year out, Spurs owner Peter Holt actually lost money because of the lack of revenue income to compensate for the luxury tax the Spurs had to pay.
This leads us here, if the Thunder does reach a deal with Harden similar to that of Ibaka’s that means next season the Thunders will owe Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, James Harden and Kendrick Perkins roughly 66 million dollars; that’s a lot of money paid to 5 players. That being stated, the Thunder still has their amnesty option which they can use on Perkins to save some money but they would be leaving themselves more vulnerable in the paint.
The Thunder at this point if they fail to reach an extension with Harden by the October 31st deadline then it’s very likely that Harden becomes trade bait. The Thunder has an advantage at this point though because Harden is going to be a restricted free agent this summer which means the Thunder can match any offer for Harden, or they can do a sign-and-trade to get something in return.
Here’s where the Suns come in, the Suns has the advantage to get Harden over most teams right now for a several reasons. First being that Harden’s mother lives in the valley, two being that Harden’s brother is currently playing at ASU, third being Harden spent two years at ASU, fourth being Harden on paper said Phoenix is his second favorite place “Comfort Wise” And that he’d be open to playing for the Suns. The Suns also have many draft picks to throw at Oklahoma City, the Suns also has cap space to take in Harden without having to send a big contract back.
It’s tough to imagine someone of Harden’s talent would be complacent with being the 3rd option for an extend part of his career. Granted he did go on paper and that would be okay with him but let’s face it like Joe Johnson, Harden would rather be a star else where rather than a 3rd wheel; even if that team is contending.
Harden is already considered a top 5 shooting guard in the league, he won 6th man of the year last season and has been improving every year since he’s been in the league. He’s also only 23 years old and at this point the sky is the limit for him. The Sun has officially set now that Steve Nash is gone but if the Suns somehow manage to bring in Harden, the Sun may rise once again in the valley.