After failing to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, the Thunder shockingly traded James Harden (along with Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward) to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second rounder. Despite a nucleus that had the looks of a dynasty, Oklahoma City inexplicably refused to give the 23-year-old Harden a max contract, and the ramifications will be felt sooner than expected as a result.
The main worry here is how will this affect Harden's fantasy value, which could be looked at two different ways. On one hand, he's leaving a system he's clearly thrived in and moving to an inferior team. However, he'll now undoubtedly be joining the starting lineup and immediately becomes the centerpiece of an offense as opposed to the third option. Harden is set to sign a max deal with Houston and is probably looking at around 5-7 more minutes per game and possibly an equal amount of more shot attempts as well.
OKC's PACE ranked seventh last year, while Houston's was tied for 11th, so there's not a huge drop off there, and Harden was somehow the 20th most valuable fantasy player despite coming off the bench. In fact, there were 72 players who saw more minutes per game, so there's every reason to be excited about his new role. Harden's "True Shooting Percentage" (66.0%) was the fourth best in the NBA last season, and the bet here is that this trade results in him becoming an absolute fantasy monster and a first round type commodity.
As for Martin, who is the key on the other side of this deal (especially if the draft picks don't end up in the lottery, which is a distinct possibility), don't expect a big change in fantasy value. Martin is a highly efficient scorer who will no longer see the opposition's top defender, but he also will see a decrease in FG attempts as his new team's No. 3 scoring option. He likely loses some value, but not as much as Harden gains (and Lamb's path to playing time just got a whole lot tougher). Martin is horrible on the defensive end, so it's not hard to feel for Thunder fans shaking their heads at this transaction.