I hate the James Harden deal.
There, I said it.
It's a great deal for the Rockets, who clearly need some star power and scoring punch. And the Thunder made out pretty well; at this point it seems OKC got more for Harden than the Magic did in the Dwight Howard trade.
So what's to hate? The fact that a team can do everything right: acquire assets, build through the draft, and construct a championship-caliber roster of players not yet in their primes, and yet be forced to break up its core due to salary cap constraints. The small-market club has to trade a dream-teamer before his rookie deal has even expired but the Lakers can put four potential hall-of-famers on the floor to start games.
Good thing that lockout leveled the playing field, huh?
Harden will go from sixth man in OKC to alpha dog in Houston; it will be interesting to see how well he adapts to the role. But I think Harden's arrival in Houston will have a very positive impact on Jeremy Lin. He'll take some of the play-making responsibility off Lin's shoulders, allowing him to be more of a scoring threat and, quite possibly, reducing his turnovers. (That said, Lin's health and durability are still a pretty significant concern.)
Of the other players headed to Houston, Daequan Cook has the most upside.
Martin may thrive in a bench scorer/sixth man role, but he won't replace Harden's ability to serve as an alternate point guard because he's strictly a scorer. That means someone else is going to have to step up to run the offense when Russell Westbrook is out of the game, or as a pass-first backcourt-mate when Westbrook is looking to score. That responsibility could fall to Eric Maynor, who has been averaging about five assists in about 20 minutes per game during the preseason.
Also worth noting: Martin is not exactly known for Cal Ripken-esque durability. It seems reasonable to assume that he'll miss a decent-sized stretch of games at some point of the season, which will give someone like Mayor, Thabo Sefolosha or Jeremy Lamb a chance to step up and win a larger role. Dynasty players take note: you can assume that Lamb will be the replacement for Harden and possibly Sefolosha in the long-term.
Power Forwards on the Mend
It appears that several big-name power forwards will be starting the season in street clothes, which will create opportunities for several second-stringers.
Amar'e Stoudemire is expected to miss the first couple weeks of the regular season due to a ruptured cyst in his knee. That problem is compounded by the fact that Marcus Camby has missed much of the preseason with a calf injury, and the Knicks other frontcourt backups, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace, are already collecting Social Security.
Mike Woodson may opt to use Carmelo Anthony at the four while Stoudemire is out and many people think that's Anthony's best position. That would create some additional playing time for Steve Novak at the three, but likely hurt the Knicks' overall defense. Using Thomas gives the Knicks better defense and rebounding as well as a mid-range jumper opposing defenses will have to respect, but how many minutes can Thomas, who's the oldest active player in the league, realistically play?
The sleeper option is Chris Copeland. A 28-year old rookie that has played in Europe for the last five seasons, Copeland was the Knicks' leading scorer for much of the preseason. He's an active defender and has the ability to play both forward spots. He's not a good rebounder, which could hurt his chances of winning a regular role, but don't be surprised if he gets significant minutes while Stoudemire and Camby are on the mend.
In Minnesota, Derrick Williams, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, is the logical candidate to step in while Kevin Love recovers from a broken hand. But don't sleep on Dante Cunningham, as the ex-Bobcat and Grizzly is a far superior rebounder.
Andrei Kirilenko, who's returning to the NBA after a year playing in Russia, will be in the mix at both forward spots. He generally puts up better fantasy numbers at power forward, however, because being closer to the basket allows him to block shots and disrupt passing lanes more.
Elton Brand is slated to start for the Mavs in Dirk Nowitzki's place, but the Mavs' frontcourt situation might best be described as "fluid" at this point. In theory, Chris Kaman is Dallas' starting center but he's been banged-up for much of the preseason. Look for Brandan Wright to get significant playing time, assuming he's fully-recovered from an ankle injury, and for rookie Jae Crowder to get a look when Rick Carlisle opts to go small.
Odds and Ends
-The Celtics will use Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green as their starting power forward depending on matchup. Sullinger probably has the most long-term upside, but none of the three will have much value until the situation is settled.
-Lavoy Allen will be Philly's starting center until Andrew Bynum is ready to play.
-AJ Price will be John Wall's primary fill-in.
-Nate Robinson has been thriving in Kirk Hinrich's absence.
We'll return this column to the regular "who's available" format next week. Until then, if you've got a question about a specific player, post it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @charliezegers.