It finally happened. The James Harden Saga is over in Houston as the star has been shipped to the Brooklyn Nets. The situation surrounding James and the management in Houston has been tumultuous over the past few months. I have another article outlining that as well. But, most NBA fans were under the impression that Harden was not going anywhere any time soon. The Beard has two years left on his contract, the Rockets reloaded this offseason, and the organization relentlessly displayed the unlikelihood of a trade coming this season in an attempt to mend their relationship with the former MVP. Sadly, this effort was to no avail and fell apart after a demoralizing loss to the Lakers. In a post-game interview, Harden stated that his relationship with the team is unfixable. Within hours, James Harden was traded.
Photo By: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
The Final Deal:
Brooklyn Nets: James Harden
Houston Rockets: Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, 3 BKN 1st round picks unprotected (22', 24', 26'), 22' CLE 1st round pick via MIL, 4 BKN 1st round pick swaps (21', 23', 25', 27')
Indiana Pacers: Caris LeVert, HOU 2nd round pick
Cleveland Cavaliers: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
This deal has sent shockwaves around the league. It has sent players and analysts into a frenzy. All parties trying to conjure up who won the trade and what implications come with it. Now that most of the dust has settled, it is fair to say that each team came away with solid pieces. No team got fleeced in this deal, no team won this trade by a mile, but each team came out with what they wanted.
Brooklyn Nets: Starting with the Nets, they received James Harden. Let's not get it twisted, Harden is arguably the greatest offensive threat in the league today and possibly of all time. He can shoot, dribble, drive, pass, get to the line, shoot free throws, and handle the ball at an elite level. There are no flaws to his offensive game, the only thing that has gone wrong in the past is the coaching around him. James has even pioneered new ways to dominate with signature moves like the step-back three, and hooking defenders to draw fouls. Harden has been a top-three player in the league since 2016. You add him to a team featuring Kevin Durant (and possibly Kyrie Irving) and you have a championship-worthy roster. Durant and Harden are two of the top five scorers of all time, and Kyrie is just as dazzling on that side of the floor. However, while the team did increase their ceiling to championship favorites, they also lowered their floor to defensive liability. The Nets have always been able to drop 140 points on any given night. Even with KD, and Kyrie missing time Brooklyn still managed to do great things with Dinwiddie (Pre-Injury), LeVert, and Allen leading the way. The only thing holding the team back in the early part of the season was their lackluster defense. In this trade Brooklyn only got worse defensively, and lost all that depth that made them so dangerous. They have bought into this full-blown offensive arsenal in KD, Kyrie, and Harden. If they give a solid enough effort defensively as well then they will be better off for this trade, but if not then there is no chance of this team winning a championship as constituted against the Lakers.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets are the biggest winners in this deal as they are now in one of the most desirable positions you could want your team in. They have the perfect mix of assets, veterans, picks, and talent to stay a competitive ball club while stockpiling picks and building through the draft. Oladipo, Wall, and Cousins are all players that have at one point or another been an All-NBA level talent and they all look to recapture their previous success with this new beginning. On top of that, they have Christian Wood, who has been the most improved player so far this season. This roster is explosive in the backcourt and versatile in the front-court. Honestly, anyone would be an improvement over a disinterested James Harden in terms of chemistry and culture, so they should also perform better even while losing a top five talent. Also, they added 4 first round selections and pick swaps with Brooklyn through the 2027 season. This slew of picks is a massive return for a player that was cancerous for the locker-room. The Rockets got the most out of a bad situation, and depending on how new GM Rafael Stone manages these assets, they could be the winners of this trade by the time that 2027 selection is made.
Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers: The Pacers and Cavaliers were hidden players in this trade that no one expected to be involved in. The Pacers added Caris LeVert in return for a disgruntled Oladipo. LeVert is an extremely talented passer and perimeter scorer that should fit in better with the Pacers. He is also under a better contract situation than Oladipo who seems to want max money come free agency. Besides, they took a second round pick in a deal that will go down as a definitive win for Indiana. The Cavs on the other hand fleeced the Nets. The Nets ended up with Harden, so they did not lose the total trade in its entirety, but to make the money work, Brooklyn needed to send players to a third party. They traded Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cavs, and in return, they received a Milwaukee pick that will end up at the bottom of the first round in 2022. Allen has been having a career year and is more aligned to their timetable than current Cavaliers center Andre Drummond. I am not sure how they will fit together in the meantime, but in terms of talent for talent, that trade was as one-sided as it gets. The Nets needed it to happen that much more, and the Cavaliers did not need to take part at all. Cleveland played their leverage perfectly to push for young talent and depth on a team that looks to make a playoff push in the upcoming seasons.
All of these teams got a good return for what they gave up in their trades. However depending on how they manage their assets going forward will impact how we look at this trade 5, 10, 15 years down the line. No matter the result, the focus right now is on Brooklyn and what they will do with these three superstars. This is one of the largest blockbuster trades in league history, and all fans should e excited to see how it all plays out.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan