Yep. I named my award after a 20 year old rap skit. Hey, my site, my rules.
The JD’s Gafflin’ Award for excellence in one-sided trading goes to…
Daryl Morey, for getting James Harden from Oklahoma City for about 40 cents on the dollar. Listen, we’ll never really have the full grasp of how big a heist this was until we see what becomes of the draft picks the Thunder got, but let’s just say I have my suspicions.
This trade is not only a commentary on how far ahead of the rest of the league Morey is these days, but it’s a cautionary tale about the NBA’s new financial climate and a hard lesson about the perils of panicking when you have a prime asset.
Really, it’s tough to pin down the exact reasons why Sam Presti felt it wise to deal Harden a full year ahead of when he could leave via free agency, and on the eve of the season, no less. Three theories were passed around at the time: one of them was some nonsense about “getting the distraction out of the way”, another one about to do with Harden’s unwillingness to sign for anything but the max and the Thunder being put off by his selfishness, and the third had to do with OKC”‘s steadfast unwillingness to go over the new luxury tax, thus forcing their hand.
Anyway, reason #1 is goofy, reason #2 is some James Dolan-level egotistical garbage and #3 is the most reasonable, and unfortunate.
None of it matters now, though. What does is that for whatever reason, Presti felt like he had to trade Harden right now, as opposed to playing out the season in search of the championship they fell just short of and worrying about Harden later. No doubt he knew he wouldn’t get full value for a player who had superstar potential, but if he could get a player who could do a decent job of replicating his production, save some money and get a few draft picks out of the deal, that would have to do.
That’s where the Gafflin’ comes in.
Daryl Morey pulled off the basketball equivalent to a carjack, getting James Harden, just 23 years old and already one of the top 10-15 players in the league for what amounted to a couple spare draft picks and a player they had been shopping for years and no longer had any use for. After a summer spent accruing assets in a failed attempt to trade for Dwight Howard, they ended up parlaying that into what may be a better option for their future, and did so at a fraction of the cost.
Because he was prepared for the new the new NBA financial landscape, because his roster was lean and mean, replete with young, talented prospects and draft picks aplenty, Morey was able to pounce on the first opportunity to land a superstar player, should one come available, and just that quick, the Rockets have joined the list of NBA up-and-comers. They can boast a roster full of young, inexpensive talent and a superstar that they still have plenty of cap space to build around.
Runner-up goes to the overall body of work put together by Rob Hennigan, the young Orlando magic GM. Roundly ridiculed for rejecting Andrew Bynum or Brook Lopez as compensation for the departing Dwight Howard, Hennigan instead turned D-Ho into Aaron Afllalo, Al Harrington, Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and five draft picks. Using the model Daryl Morey built, Hennigan can now rebuild around a bushel of young, players and draft picks, and after next season will be working with a totally clean salary cap. Oh, and months later he was able to turn the departing JJ Redick into Tobias Harris, a young player chained to the Milwaukee bench who has since turned into a dynamic scorer and future building block for the magic, averaging 17 points and 9 boards a game since the trade.
Just like that, the Magic has a few solid building blocks and a guaranteed top 4 pick in this years draft. Mark my words, this team will be back in the thick of things and no less than three years, and Hennigan deserves all the credit.