Friday, January 22, 2021

James Harden Trade Notes: Nets are all-in in championship pursuit; Rockets work well with little leverage

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Tuesday evening, James Harden told reporters he didn’t think his situation in Houston could be fixed. Less than 24 hours later, Harden is on his way to Brooklyn.

The Rockets send Harden to the Nets in a four-team deal also involving the Cavaliers and Pacers, according to multiple reports. The 76ers appeared to be the favorites to clinch the eighth All-Star as trade conversations resumed Wednesday, but Houston ultimately accepted Brooklyn’s offer, which includes huge draft compensation.

What does this deal mean for the Cavaliers, Nets, Pacers and Rockets? Here is a breakdown of the successful trade.

MORE: Why is Kyrie Irving always missing games?

Commercial qualities James Harden

The riders receive: Jarrett Allen, Prince of Taurus

The nets receive: James Harden, second round pick

Stimulators receive: Caris LeVert, second round pick

Rockets receive: Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, Victor Oladipo, four first-round picks (all unprotected), four first-round picks (all unprotected)

  • Nets’ choice in 2022, 2024 and 2026
  • Riders’ Choice in 2022 (via Bucks)
  • Pick swaps with Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027

Threads: C +

Let’s be clear: The Nets now have an incredibly talented line with Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Each player is a three-level goalscorer capable of earning over 30 points each night. No NBA team can match these guys on paper.

But there are so many questions about this “Big Three”. Can Harden get back in shape and learn to change the game? Will Durant be able to stay healthy? Is Irving really interested in playing basketball?

Besides the major concerns, the loss of depth also poses problems on the ground. Harden, Durant and Irving all make the top 20 in the all-time ranking for percentage of use. They will have to sacrifice the touches and work together to make the Nets a contender. Defensively, oh boy. We’re not looking exactly at the 2003-04 pistons here.

A thrill may have flowed through the spine of Nets fans when this trade was reported due to the easy connection with the ill-fated deal. who brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. Harden is certainly not at this point in his career, and the Nets are in a much better position to compete for a championship now than they were in 2013.

Still, that’s a hefty price to pay for a 31-year-old who completely checked out his last squad. Harden is under contract for at least 2020-21 and 2021-22 (plus a $ 47 million player option in 2022-23), so he has time to transform into himself, but not much. The Nets have handed control of their next seven projects to the Rockets. They need their stars to align, otherwise the future could be bleak.

Rockets: A-

Houston has done an incredible job reclaiming and acquiring multiple assets after Harden seemingly lost value with his poor play and antics. The Rockets didn’t grab a potential franchise cornerstone like Ben Simmons, but they did get a awesome choice package. This will give them a new influx of young talent over the next decade.

As for the players, Oladipo is obviously the biggest piece. He looked much improved after a lackluster “bubble” last year, averaging 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. It is possible that he will develop a nice chemistry with John Wall and Christian Wood.

If the Rockets don’t see Oladipo as a good choice, however, they may look to return him before the 2021 trade deadline. Oladipo and PJ Tucker both have contracts expiring, so Houston could be selling in March.

No matter where the Rockets end up in the standings, they have cleared the toxic cloud hanging over the organization. First-year coach Stephen Silas and his players can finally move on.

Pacers: B +

Indiana looked great to kick off the 2020-2021 campaign and seemed like a real threat to the Eastern Conference. Trading Oladipo for LeVert may lower the Pacers’ cap in the short term, but it’s a smart game in the long run.

If Oladipo had continued to play at a high level, the Pacers probably would have struggled to keep him in free agency. LeVert is signed until 2023 and at only 26, he has his best years ahead of him. He needs to work on his defense and 3-point shot (33.9% for his career) so he can be a one-off threat when Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis have the ball, but it could happen over time.

Don’t sleep on the Pacers. They could make some noise during the 2021 playoffs.

Jumpers: incomplete

Even André Drummond thinks the Cavaliers have too many big guys on the roster.

Allen should fit well as a pick-and-roll option alongside Collin Sexton and Darius Garland and cover their defensive gaps as a rim protector. But will the Cavaliers pave the way for him to play, or will he be stuck supporting a veteran again?

Drummond, Kevin Love, JaVale McGee, Larry Nance Jr. – the frontcourt is way too crowded. Giving an incomplete looks a bit like a loophole, but there should be more changes to come in Cleveland. Let’s see what’s going on.



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