What does the Martin for Harden trade mean for the Denver Nuggets?

The NBA world was rocked on Saturday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded away James Harden to the Houston Rockets.  There is no doubt the deal made the Thunder a less dangerous team this season, but what does the trade mean from the Nuggets perspective?

The Thunder acquired two key components in Kevin Martin and rookie Jeremy Lamb.  Martin will attempt to fill Harden’s role in the short term while the Thunder are hoping that Lamb can be a key contributor over the long term.  The primary issue for the Thunder is Martin and Harden are completely different players.  Harden is a killer coming off a ball screens and attacking the rim.  Martin is a player who runs off of a lot of screens away from the ball and then relies on pump fakes and hesitation dribbles to get open shots.

Harden fit in so well with the Thunder because he was able to do everything from hang out on the weak side to leading the offense.  Harden could carry the team offensively without dominating the ball or requiring the rest of his teammates to set him up with a series of off the ball screens.  In addition do not forget that Harden was the crunch time defender against Kobe Bryant and played some significant minutes against LeBron James.

Martin is a scorer and only a scorer.  He does not set teammates up or do the little things like set screens or crash the boards.  I assume that Martin will fill the role of providing offense off the bench as Harden did.  The question is will the Thunder overhaul their offense and implement some Martin friendly sets and if they do, how effective will they be?  Keep in mind Martin is in the final year of his pricy contract.  Will the Thunder be interested in changing what they do for a one year rental?  Martin could turn into the highest paid offside three point sniper in the NBA although he does have a fantastic ability to move without the ball and he is very adept at getting to the free throw line.  Those are qualities that most coaches will be successful in taking advantage of.

The bad news for Denver is Martin has traditionally been a difficult cover for them while Harden has not created nearly as many problems.  Even if the Thunder do not install sets that run Martin through a series of screens as Sacramento and Houston have, he will still cause problems with his deadly three point shooting.  With the amount of attention that Durant and Westbrook draw, Martin will be open and waiting for kick out and skip passes on the off side.  We are all well aware of Denver’s struggles to rotate and defend the perimeter.  Because of those shortcomings Martin may continue to give the Nuggets fits even if he is simply spotting up.  If the Thunder are able to integrate Martin into the offense in a way that allows him to freelance and play to his strengths the Nuggets will really struggle to slow them down.

On the flip side, Martin’s defensive deficiencies have been well documented.  Martin will struggle to defend nearly any Nugget he is likely to be assigned to.  The only player the Thunder could conceivably match him up against without giving up as much as they gain would be Corey Bewer, although Brewer has shown a better offensive game in the preseason.

Looking forward Lamb is the player that fits the Thunder’s philosophy both stylistically and financially.  How he develops will determine if the Thunder truly remain co-favorites with the Heat year after year.  Plus, with Martin possessing an expiring contract and the ability to score, it will be interesting to see if the Thunder decide to flip his contract for a player who is a better long term fit.

All in all, swapping Harden for Martin certainly makes it less likely the Thunder will dethrone the Miami, but it does not necessarily make things easier for the Nuggets.  I have commented previously that the Nuggets have been built to combat the Thunder with numerous wing defenders, an athletic four and a triumvirate of lanky centers.  The fact is the Thunder just added a player whose style of play has caused Denver great consternation in the past to place alongside two other players who have had a great deal of success against Denver in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  It is true Scott Brooks has not been given high marks for his offensive philosophy; however, if Brooks can successfully integrated Martin into the Thunder’s game, it will probably make the Thunder even more difficult for the Nuggets to defeat than they were with Harden.

The primary benefit for Denver could be Oklahoma City will likely win fewer games now than they would have with Harden.  Should the Nuggets fulfill their promise, they have a better chance of winning the Northwest Division now than they did on Saturday afternoon.

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  • Young Pep Dash

    Great read.

    I can’t decide whether I like the trade from OKCs perspective or not. Harden is obviously a gun who fit their team perfectly but Martin should fill some of that void this year and Lamb looks like he could be really good.

    Plus they got 2 first rounders, one which is in the late lottery. If they have 3 first rounders next year as well as Lamb, they could conceivably get a high enough pick to get say Shabazz Muhammed or Cody Zeller. I think that is an underrated part of the trade

  • al68

    I think we have too many hopes in Denver this year, I do not think we have a better team than when we got to the conference finals. Igoudala not think it’s as good as some say Mcgee is a pretty weak center, I’m surprised that people who follow basketball so long not see that a player is never going to be a star and not going to make the team better when in court, not the first nor the last player moron who does not understand the game and also is believed to be better than others.

    After seeing three preseason games the defense is still very bad at first p & r players are misplaced like an amateur team in attack not clear which are Muestros first choices ultimately I’m always very critical but it I’ve seen in preseason I liked and I think Masai, against what most people think is wrong with changing Mcgee and Iggy

  • al68

    I used google traslate.

    • Kalen

      You should do that every time! I’m a much better reader of english than spanish.

    • Jeff

      It actually turned out pretty good, I was able to understand it..

  • Chris

    I’m happy no more James Harden coming off the bench to kill us, Kevin Martin is a Bum, he’s a volume shooter, so the likey hood of im killing us not going to happen, and Harden is way more of an explosive player.

    • mike

      Martin is actually an extremely efficient scorer for a wing. Last year he was meh, but most every other year he has been stellar… He is a FT artist to boot.

  • OriginalJakeSauce

    Thunder make a strong long term move. Houston again goes out of their way to get fleeced. Denver better take this year seriously, and do whatever is necessary to win every single regular season game. Homecourt is gonna be huge this year.

  • Legalize Denver nuggets

    I think okc is slightly worse and Houston is slightly better in the short term and both are better in the long run, but it really doesn’t shake things up this season except for the fact that okc has less of a chance to beat the heat if they make the finals again. As for us, we better still be running our asses off.

  • Guy

    I think chemistry will be the biggest issue with OKC. If Martin can fit in with Durant & Westbrook they should be just as good as last year. Something that’s being overlooked is how much OKC depended on 3 guys to do almost all of the scoring. Now with legitament talent in Lamb & PJ3 their bench should be much better. Just a year ago both Lamb & PJ3 were thought of as top 5 lottery talent and if they can fit in to OKC’s system they could be scary for a long time.

    • slugdugg

      Martin doesn’t fit in with anyone… it’s just him and the ball and the basket. They will look for him to score off the bench when the big two are out of the game. This definitely hurts OKC bigtime, as adding KMart to the lineup late in the game with the others is a big downgrade over Harden.

      • Guy

        There’s no question Harden is a better player than Martin but he also has never played with the kind of talent that OKC has. I’m always leary of players that put up big numbers for bad teams, which is why I think Kevin Love is the most overrated player in the NBA (but that’s another subject), so time will tell if this is going to work out. I do like the overall increase in the talent level of their roster though. I think the addition of PJ3 and Lamb is a big upgrade over Daquan Cook and Derrick Fisher although they are rookies and will have some growing pains.
        I don’t see OKC sliding very far with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka all probably continuing to improve although the first part of the year might be more difficult getting used to all the new players.

  • Ray

    Wow people actually think Houston got fleeced? Harden is a VERY good player, better than anyone on the Nuggets, and OKC traded him away for an oft-injured one dimensional player way past his prime and 3 unproven rookies. This makes OKC MUCH worse, probably in the neighborhood of 5 games.

    • Guy

      Where is James Harden going to lead the Houston Rockets?? I don’t think Houston got fleeced but I also don’t think he’s a max contract player. Teams get in trouble when they throw big money after players who aren’t really franchise players (see Joe Johnson, Stephan Marbury, Vince Carter…..) In the process of getting Harden Houston gave up possibly 3 lottery picks. That might be worth it if he’s a franchise player but I think he’s what he was on OKC, third banana on a good team. I don’t see Houston making the playoffs in the deep Western Conf. anytime soon.

    • NuggLove

      Hey, I do agree that OKC does get worse.

      BUT “Harden is a VERY good player, better than anyone on the Nuggets” — Are YOU KIDDING ME!!?!?!?!?!?!?

      Harden is a good player, that’s a fact. But HOW IN THE WORLD CAN HE BE BETTER THAN IGUODALA or LAWSON. Harden can pass, he can score, but he is not a one-man wrecking crew that Lawson is about to approach.

      If Harden really is better than any of our Nuggets, then why just execute a Lawson-Harden trade!? Yeah, it will work to your eyes.

      • Ray

        Harden had more wins produced, better adjusted +-, better RAPM, higher PER, greater efficiency by a mile, better Roland Rating.

        I don’t think any one advanced stat in a vacuum is worth much, but Harden being >Iggy/Ty in ALL of them would indicate that he’s the better player overall.

        • mike

          Iguodala you can make a contention is better because most advanced stats struggle with attributing defensive value and seem to capture 80-95% of offensive value. Harden is a significantly superior offensive player to Iguodala and similarly Iguodala is a significantly superior defender.

          Lawson you can’t even make a contention is better. Some nuggets fans need to take a breather with him. He is a very nice point guard who is certainly in the discussion for top 10 PG in the league, but he has very little defensive upside given he is small for the position and doesn’t seem to have even above average ability to swip his own man or when helping on post ups. His offense is very strong, but not near a dominating level. He had a very good year and a GREAT series against the Lakers, but everyone knows the Lakers were very poor against quick pick and role PGs. As I have written here before He would need to develop his game in the half court to a style of Chris Paul or Steve Nash for him to dominate games on the offensive end. He has looked good so far, but this is not a likely scenario as he has not shown a significant ability to use hesitation dribbles or use positioning of his body to create passing lanes and fouls. Those two are Uniquely dominant half court dribblers while Lawson is merely very good.

          Harden was RIDICULOUSLY efficient last season. Harden is unquestionably one of the top 5-7 SG in the league and if he continues his current path has a legit shot at being THE BEST SG in the league in 2-3 years as Kobe, Manu will be mediocre and Wade may have lost enough athleticism.

          • NuggLove

            Harden got more WS because he’s playing with Durant and Westbrook.

  • Peter

    I’m really not sure how this trade is going to work out in the end, but in the short term I think it helps the nuggets from a perspective of the Thunder’s chemistry gets worse. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder change a lot of their offese for Martin, or if they just try to fit him in with what they already do as he is a totally different player than Harden.

  • SmokinNugs

    I think James Harden is overrated, should mesh perfectly with the equally overrated Jeremy Lin

  • Tom

    James Harden has been very nearly the most efficient offensive player in the NBA since he entered the league. He will easily be the best SG in the league in a couple years. The dude is not overrated. OKC will miss him dearly, and Denver would happily trade any of its players for him straight-up.

    This trade makes OKC 3-5 games worse, which should be enough to give Denver the division.