The young trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden took the Oklahoma City Thunder to greater heights. The Thunder front office played all the right cards, assembling the Hall of Fame trifecta through the NBA draft. Also, they played together for three seasons. They even made it to the NBA Finals in 2012, but were beaten by LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
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DraftKings contributor Jeff Pratt and RotoWire’s Nick Whalen join The Sweat to discuss James Harden’s free agency and whether he’ll return to Philadelphia or make a move.
The trio was split the following season when James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets. Harden’s departure was influenced by several factors, the most prominent of which was money. In truth, The Beard was always worth more than OKC was willing and able to pay him. He always deserved those superstar minutes and the massive paycheck he received from the Rockets.
However, a member of that OKC team revealed information that only a few individuals might be aware of. Kendrick Perkins recently featured in JJ Redick’s The Old Man and The Three podcast. He revealed how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony, during the 2012 Olympics, manipulated James Harden to pursue his own team.
“What ended up happening was when James (Harden), KD, and Russ all went to the Olympics, and they won a gold medal, everybody like LeBron, DWade, Carmelo was gassing up James saying, ‘you need your own team.’ And they weren’t gassing him — they were right. He actually did need his own team. But at the same time, they was trying to break the Oklahoma City Thunder up so they could win more titles,” Perkins stated.
If Perkins’ statements are correct, it clearly worked for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Harden joined the Houston Rockets, while the Miami Heat clinched a repeat by winning the NBA championship in 2013.
James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook all had successful individual careers
Although James Harden took his talents to the Houston Rockets, it did not mean a downfall for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In fact, they all claimed the MVP award and went on to have Hall of Fame careers.
Kevin Durant was the first of the trio to be named MVP. In the 2013-14 season, he lifted the individual accolade. In fact, KD is the only one of the three to win an NBA championship. Durant, like Harden, chose his own route when he signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2016. The forward won two straight NBA championships with the Dubs, earning Finals MVP honors on both occasions.
📅 On this day in 2018, the @warriors Kevin Durant had 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a title-clinching win over the Cavs in Game 4 of the Finals.
Durant was named Finals MVP for the second straight year. He’s one of six players to win the award in consecutive Finals.
Interestingly, the year Durant left for the Warriors, Russell Westbrook took home the MVP honors. Brody, in fact, unlocked his triple-double prowess, going on to average a triple-double for three seasons in a row. When Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets, he became the last member of the trio to depart OKC.
He rejoined forces with James Harden because of the trade. However, the reunion tour only lasted one season before Westbrook was traded to the Washington Wizards. But the trade didn’t put an end to his triple-double prowess as he averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in his career.
When he joined the Houston Rockets, James Harden morphed into a whole different beast. He averaged 29.6 points, 7.7 assists, and 6.0 rebounds in nine seasons with the franchise. Those numbers demonstrate how lethal Harden became after fleeing OKC. In 2018, he took home the MVP award.
Individually, the three stars have benefited from the split. But who knows how many titles the trio would have won if they had stayed together?