I've always wondered why there was such a huge band wagon for OKC. It's always seemed quite obvious to me that their ceiling as championship contenders was tied closely to the development of James Harden. Westbrook and Durant were both obviously going to take a large leap and Harden to some peoples surprise was making huge strides as well. With Harden making that next leap they were poised to utterly dominate the decade. You can argue that Harden may not be the same player he is now by having to play behind Russ and Durant but talent wins out over flaming out with a player like Harden. He has a natural affinity for the game. He is simply a great ball player and so long as you don't have an inept coach or a dysfunctional franchise to set him off track, a player like Harden was simply bound to improve. We see that Harden's transformation was not dependent on coach or system. His first game as a Rocket he goes off for like 38 points or some shit. He is simply sick wit it.
The Harden trade was one of the worst trades in NBA history. Refusing that luxury tax was ridiculous. OKC can spin it however they like, but it does not take even a basic basketball mind to see that OKC's core was obviously Harden, Russ and Durant. Ibaka is an above average rim protector and a decent mid range threat. He shoots a great percentage for a big yes, but he is merely average offensively due to his utter reliance on anyone other than him creating an open look and no back to the basket game. He is slightly overrated as a rim protector. He is not in the elite category quite honestly. He is not Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan or Rudy Gobert(Have you seen opponents FG% at the rim? Insane). OKC simply miscalculated here. They overrated the dangers of the luxury tax and Ibaka's ceiling as a player and they will pay for it by not winning a title with the players they currently have.
A completely healthy OKC team is a contender I willingly admit as much but they are by no means a lock whatsoever. Kanter is nice but he's putting up empty stats and is a sieve on defense. Ibaka is Ibaka. Westbrook is legit as he's ever been and Durant is still not better than LeBron. The talent they have makes them contenders but with Harden instead of Ibaka they would have been able to build around a core that would have been unmatched in the NBA today, talent wise. You would not be able to name 3 players as talented as Harden, Russ, and Durant on the same team. Instead I predict them getting close/semi-close but never getting over that hump. I have an extremely hard time seeing them reach the finals again honestly.
Mileage will vary of course but these are my beliefs on the Harden trade.