Let me follow on from this point. A lot of people’s history of the Thunder goes like this: Young Promising Team – Harden traded – KD Leaves – Westbrook never gets out of the first round. The reality is so much more nuanced than that.People fail to understand that the Thunder were ran to make a profit in the franchise’s early years, OKC did not have a billionaire on board who could stomach financial losses. The billionaire came later in 2014/5 in the form of George B Kaiser. It is one of the reasons why the Thunder were so risk-tolerant in the Westbrook-PG era, they had the muscle to deal with losses.You can debate whether the owners are right or wrong to run the team like this until you’re blue in the face but the fact remains that the NBA retroactively applying the Rose Rule to Durant’s extension hurt massively. The increased max meant that the Suns 2021 Playoffs Phoenix Suns 2021 NBA Playoffs Shirt would hit the repeater tax year after year if they chose to pay KD, Russ, Harden and Ibaka. The Thunder could have amnestied Perkins but getting to the Finals required an elite interior defender who could match up with Duncan. It is not as cut and dry as it is made out to be.
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Furthermore, the Harden trade was not solely about money. Money was a big factor but the Thunder held concerns about Harden’s partying habits. Harden partying during the NBA Finals was not a good look and did not benefit the team against a tough, veteran Heat team. Moreover, Harden wanted a bigger role and this would have been unlikely in OKC. Harden would have hit RFA in 2013 and Suns 2021 Playoffs Phoenix Suns 2021 NBA Playoffs Shirt questions about the Thunder’s ability to retain his services. It is still a stupid trade but you can understand some of the justification of the decision to trade Harden.Post trade was an injury-ravaged spell. The 2013 team won 60 games and looked to be a better side that the year before. Patrick Beverley inexplicably ran into Russell’s knee in the playoffs and that was a year gone. In 2014, Ibaka was injured against the Spurs and those fine margins make all of the difference. In 2015, KD suffers a Jones Fracture and OKC miss the playoffs entirely. 2016 was the only time that the Thunder were fully healthy and we saw what the Thunder were capable of.
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