Tramel: Harden Will Always Be Presti's Albatross

Sam Presti has made a lot of great moves as Thunder GM; trading James Harden to Houston is not one of them

Reiter Than You
July 11, 2019 - 9:22 am
Sam Presti Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder have been consistent winners for the last decade. They’ve made the playoffs nine of the last 10 years, reached the conference finals four times and played in one NBA Finals. 

But after trading Paul George and Jerami Grant, it’s clear the rebuild is coming. How is the city handling it?

“It’s been remarkably non-crazy,” Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel said on Reiter Than You “People are disappointed, but this is not like it was when Kevin Durant left. People sort of realized it wasn’t working great to start with. And losing George is bad, but the trade that they got for George was unbelievable. Two good players, one of them a 20-year-old blossoming star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, plus five first-round draft picks is historic. So that made people feel a lot better. Reality eventually will settle in, but some things sort of softened the blow.”

Thunder fans should be confident in general manager Sam Presti, who has a track record of building winners.

“I would say his strength is not necessarily talent evaluation,” Tramel said. “They drafted well and had some great drafts. They’ve had some busts like everybody. I think his strength is the ability to see ahead and make deals. Getting Paul George from Indiana is a great trade. The James Harden trade will always be an albatross around his neck.”

Presti traded Harden to Houston in 2012 for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick. Harden, then a Sixth Man of the Year, because a five-time first-team All-NBA performer and won an MVP.

“The truth of the matter is (Presti) thought they could potentially lose Harden for nothing – not necessarily after one year, but after two years,” Tramel said. “He felt James wanted out. Trading Harden was not the cardinal sin. For one thing, they didn’t know how good Harden was – and most people didn’t. If somebody did, they would have offered a lot more than what Houston gave up. He should have gotten more out of the Rockets because Houston did want him really bad. That was the critical error. 

“Everything else, they’ve been an excellent organization,” Tramel continued. “They’ve had excellent teams. They could have won a couple of titles; they just didn’t. They were in position to win a title or two, and they just didn’t get it done.”

Click below to listen to Tramel’s interview in its entirety.