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Breaking Down The Blockbuster James Harden Trade

Over the past few months, it has been widely known that Houston Rockets superstar James Harden wanted out. Although the process took a little longer than he had originally hoped, Harden’s wish has finally been granted. In one of the craziest trades in NBA history, Harden was sent to Brooklyn where he will play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but there were many moving pieces in this blockbuster trade. With four teams involved we saw a haul of players and picks on the move this past Wednesday afternoon. Today, I’m here to break down what each team did in this trade, and what I thought about their decision. Before we begin, let’s take a look at this trade in its entirety.

Nets Receive: James Harden

Rockets Receive: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, Nets first round picks (2022, 2024, 2027), pick swaps with Nets (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027), Bucks 2022 first round pick

Cavaliers Receive: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince

Pacers Receive: Caris LeVert, second round pick

Now that we’ve seen the outlook on this trade, let’s get into my trade breakdown and grade for each team.

Brooklyn Nets

When you sign Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in free agency, you’re expected to compete for a championship, and it’s clear that the Brooklyn Nets are bought in. They have given up a substantial amount of draft capital and two of their best young players in Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert in order to acquire one of the best players in the NBA by the name of James Harden. All the eggs are in one basket now. Not to mention, we could make the argument that Harden is worth more than what Brooklyn gave up. The Nets are sacrificing their future to go all-in now, and I honestly like that mindset. Although their pre-James Harden team was capable of winning the East and competing in the Finals, the acquisition of James Harden makes them even better, and it might just take them over the top.

With that being said, I’m not putting too much stock into this team either. As talented as this KD-Kyrie-Harden trio is, the Nets still have many questions to answer and hurdles to climb. I’m still taking the Lakers to win it all this year, and there’s a definite chance this combination of egos and characters could cause an explosion. Kyrie Irving clearly cannot be trusted, and James Harden hasn’t shown us any reason to believe he’s a true winner that can play alongside other star players. The Nets must win a ring with this core in order for this trade to be worth it, and I don’t think it will happen with this core. This team has NBA championship potential, but there’s many questions they must answer and hurdles they must overcome if they want to get there. It can definitely happen, but I’m not betting on it.

Grade: C+

Houston Rockets

After yet another disappointing postseason run under Harden, I said it was time to blow it up in Houston. Then, Russell Westbrook and James Harden requested trades, and now both are out of the door. A disappointing ending to the Harden era, but the right move for Houston. It’s rebuild time. I believe you could’ve got a little more for Harden, but this is still an impressive haul nonetheless. The pick swaps and first round picks within the next couple years from Brooklyn will either be later picks, or they will serve no purpose, but the picks later down the line are the ones with plenty of potential. The Nets trio could be over with as early as 2023, which would effectively put Brooklyn at the bottom of the NBA.

It’s a risk considering the Nets could go on an impressive run for a majority of the decade, but there’s also a fair shot that they fizzle out not too long from now. Not to mention, they receive Victor Oladipo in this deal. The way things went down with Indiana is less than encouraging, and he’s only got one year left on his contract before becoming a free agent. However, Oladipo is back in All-Star form, and I don’t see the Rockets losing him for nothing this offseason.

With two and half months left until the trade deadline, Houston still has time to figure out whether or not they want to commit long term or not with Oladipo, and whether or not he wants to commit long term or not with them. If not, you can move him at the deadline, although the haul probably won’t be anything too significant at that point. That makes this trade a little riskier when you could’ve gotten someone like Caris LeVert who’s locked up for a few more years, but I’m still okay with this nonetheless. All in all, I think Houston could’ve done a little better, but this is still a solid haul with a lot of potential.

Grade: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs may have made the least noise out of all the teams in this trade, but they’re the winners as of now. I’m sure one of these other three teams will end up as the winner of this deal in hindsight considering they made bigger splashes, but the Cavaliers just committed robbery in this one. They gave up Dante Exum, a backup point guard at best that can’t even stay healthy, along with Milwaukee’s 2022 first round pick which we all know will be at the end of the first round. So, what did they receive for this chump change? Somehow, they managed to get Jarrett Allen, along with a nice bench piece in Taurean Prince, granted he’s definitely overpaid. I’m not sure how you manage to turn a career bench player and a late first round pick into a young, starting caliber but here we are.

Andre Drummond is currently the Cavs starting center, so they need to upgrade there for now, and for the future. He might fill up the box score, but Drummond is the type of player that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. He’s no good. Allen is miles ahead of him. Jarrett Allen may be a free agent this offseason, but this trade is still well worth it. If Allen and the Cavs can get on the same page, this will keep Allen in Cleveland for years to come. He’s a quality starter on the rise that fits well with this Cavaliers squad. And for Taurean Prince, his two year, $25 million dollar contract isn’t awesome, but it’s not substantial either, especially for Cleveland. This trade was a great one for the Cavaliers.

Grade: A

Indiana Pacers

The divorce between Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers has finally been made official. They are sending Oladipo off to Houston, and in return they will receive Caris Levert and an undisclosed second round pick. Oladipo’s caused a stir-up last season, and he struggled after his injury, but he’s remained fairly quiet as of late, and he’s even looked like his All-Star self again so far this season.

With that being said, this trade makes it clear to me that Indiana saw him leaving in free agency this offseason, so rather than losing him for nothing, they trade him for LeVert and a second rounder. Although Oladipo is better than LeVert, at least in my opinion, LeVert is still a great young player on the rise, and he’s locked in for the next three seasons. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the fit with LeVert in Indiana considering he’s another score first guy, but I still believe things will work out nonetheless. I don’t see this as some amazing trade for Indiana, but it’s still a smart move considering Oladipo was probably out the door this offseason, and I like the compensation they got for him.

Grade: A-

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