Well, the upper echelon of the Western Conference looks just a wee bit different tonight. After James Harden turned down a 4 year $52.5 million contract extension, the Thunder decided they couldn't afford to risk losing Harden in free agency long term. They have traded him to the Houston Rockets. Heading to Oklahoma City are Kevin Martin and rookie Jeremy Lamb, along with draft picks (which I assume are pretty good ones).
I don't know much about the rookie Lamb, but unless he's been pegged as a player who might be elite in the very near future, it seems clear to me that Oklahoma City made themselves worse in the short term with this trade. Kevin Martin is a nice player, an excellent and efficient scorer, but his defense is extremely suspect. He does fit better into the starting lineup with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but OKC loses having a truly dynamic player coming off the bench, something that they, along with the Spurs, have been using to great effect for years. The Thunder are getting Eric Maynor back from injury to fill that void as well, but to move Harden from a team that was so locked in last year is a risky move. This may make the Thunder unstoppable in a few years if the picks or Lamb pan out, but their chances of winning this year decrease significantly.
It's shotgun analysis, but the road to the NBA Finals looks to be just a bit easier for the Los Angeles Lakers tonight.
(Update: Added a side by side comparison of their 2011-2012 campaigns.)