The trade of James Harden to Houston (for Martin, Lamb, 2 first round picks and a second round pick) just further illustrates the sad state of the NBA. An offseason that saw the Heat and Lakers continue to pile on talent and salary with seemingly little regard to financial considerations now gives us the Thunder waving the white flag. It is a tacit admission that the top level of the NBA only belongs to those franchises with huge huge bucks.
The Thunder were the last hope that a small market, sensibly budgeted team could play with the deep pocketed elite. Against all odds the Thunder managed to compete with the big guns, by drafting amazingly well and developing their young players so fast, before they all graduated out of their rookie contracts.
But alas it was not meant to be. A team like the Thunder only has a chance if a significant portion of their talent is underpaid. But eventually the underpaid players get their payday.
The luxury tax rules that were meant to re-establish some sense of parity of team payroll seem to be having the effect of separating the league into the super-rich and everybody else. It is really only the top 4-6 teams that have a chance.
Even a perfect storm of young underpaid talent like the Thunder eventually has to give up and face reality.