Rockets general manager Daryl Morey resurrected the franchise in October 2012 as he acquired James Harden from the Thunder after missing the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. But Morey would have never gotten the chance to trade for Harden had Oklahoma City pulled the trigger on another deal just four months prior.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal revealed on Monday that he was almost traded to Oklahoma City for Harden on draft night in June 2012. Washington would have received the soon-to-be three-time scoring champion, while the Thunder would have formed a new Big 3 with Beal, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The deal ultimately didn't come to fruition, marking one of the decade's greatest sliding doors moments.
"We're sitting in the draft room, sure enough, my agent is tapping me. He's like, 'It's possible you might go to OKC,'" Beal told former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the 'All the Smoke' podcast. "OKC was going to trade up to get me, trade [Harden] to Washington for me. I would have been in OKC with [Durant and Westbrook]. ... That was a last-minute decision. It was almost done."
Washington pulled out of the deal as owner Ted Leonsis was reportedly unwilling to give Harden a five-year, $80 million contract extension. Morey didn't have the same hesitation, pouncing on Oklahoma City's offer.
The Thunder received guards Jeremy Lamb and Kevin Martin in the trade with the Rockets as well as first-round picks that were used on big men Steven Adams and Mitch McGary. And while the aforementioned haul is respectable, it's hard to view the deal as anything but lopsided. Harden and the Rockets have reached the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons, and Harden has finished in the top-five of the MVP vote five times. The Arizona State product was named the league's MVP in 2017-18.
Harden is on pace for his third consecutive scoring title in 2019-20. He is averaging 34.4 points per game along with 6.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists. The Rockets currently sit No. 6 in the Western Conference at 40–24, slated to face the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.