Trades are always a topic of discussion in professional sports. Sometimes they headline news stories that are received positively by fans, akin to Steve Nash’s arrival in Los Angeles. Other times the news simply gets swept under the rug as the trade consists of benchwarmers and late-round draft picks.
Then there are those trades that turn heads for the wrong reasons and leave fan bases flabbergasted and asking, “Why on earth did this happen?”
When Oklahoma City Thunder traded fan favorite sixth man James Harden to the Houston Rockets, the decision was met with collective criticism not only from Thunder fans, but from NBA fans in general.
Harden was a key component in the rise of Thunder basketball from bottom-feeder into a title contender. To deal him away when the organization was finally reaping the rewards of its hard work is both cruel and mind-boggling.
The Thunder obviously saw an opportunity to improve as a whole through this trade, but the product the team already had wasn’t exactly shabby either. As a young team coming off of an appearance in the NBA finals, you’d think it would be the organization’s main goal to keep the nucleus of those players together so they could chase titles for years to come.
Clearly OKC management saw the value of Harden as less than was offered to them, and on paper, that could very well appear to be the case. However, the distribution of players isn’t always the mathematical formula that front offices view it as.
Harden wasn’t just a good player for the Thunder but a beloved member of the Oklahoma City team and fan base as well. The front office might be able to calculate the on-court output value of a player, but it’s the intangibles that don’t get taken into consideration as often.
Organizations might see an opportunity to improve through a trade, and for a team that’s struggling mightily, that can be a logical approach. But for a team on the cusp of greatness, like the Thunder, trading away a program stable in hopes of a quick boost to bring home a championship seems shallow.
The lack of loyalty shown toward players makes rooting for professional teams difficult. In college athletics, trading or switching teams midseason isn’t an option; programs are focused on improving over time with the players they have. Could you imagine waking up one day to find out Rodney McGruder was suddenly a member of a different team?
The fans are hurt the most by trades like these. How are supporters suddenly supposed to accept that they have a new roster and have to root against players that used to be their favorites?
The problem with trading players in professional sports is that it can take away from the sense of consistency within teams, leaving fans feeling like they are cheering only for a logo rather than the group of athletes representing an organization.
Often with NBA teams, it seems like organizations don’t consider that players will improve over time and are eager to trade away half of the roster at the first sign of trouble. OKC may very well be a better team after the Harden trade, but to risk disrupting the team’s chemistry that was key in to their road to the finals last season for a chance of slight improvement is a high risk to take for minimal reward.
Fans would rather see the team that was so close to the NBA’s biggest prize last season return intact to make another run at a title, but a lack of loyalty and an overly business-like attitude by NBA front offices has led to the trade of a staple of Thunder basketball.
Donald Pepoon is a sophomore in business administration. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.