The NBA landscape got shaken to its core yesterday with the trade of guard James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. This trade stretched over four teams with tons of moving parts. This is how the trade broke down.
Brooklyn Nets Acquire: James Harden and 2024 second-round pick (Cleveland)
Houston Rockets Acquire: Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, four unprotected first-round picks (Brooklyn 2022, 2024 and 2026, Milwaukee in 2022) and four first round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
Indiana Pacers Acquire: Caris LeVert and a 2023 second-round pick (Houston)
Cleveland Cavaliers Acquire: Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince
That’s a lot of moving parts. Ultimately at the end of the day, Harden is the biggest piece moved here and Houston has to be excited that this nightmare is over. How did all the teams fare in this deal? I’m glad you asked I’m going to grade how each team did in this deal and explain why. Let’s start with Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Nets Grade: B
This is the ultimate all-in move for the Brooklyn Nets. This move makes the Nets the new favorite in the Eastern Conference and gives them three superstars all of whom have the ability to take over a game at any time. There are concerns though. Trading Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince gave up depth and defense and now they don’t really have a defensive stopper on this roster. They can always add buy-out candidates later but the Nets will be the team that has to outscore you because they will probably struggle to play suffocating defense. This also puts a ton of pressure on first-year head coach Steve Nash. Trying to get all these moving parts in place and get the chemistry down was already going to be challenging but right now you also have the Kyrie Irving issue to deal with as well. When will Kyrie be back? Will it ruin the chemistry, can Durant and Harden get going? How long until Harden is unhappy again? These are questions we will have to find out the answers to later. But these are issues I could see potentially hurting Brooklyn. With Brooklyn being in win-now mode the amount of draft capital they spent really doesn’t bother me. This move had more to do with keeping Durant in Brooklyn long term than anything. This shows Durant they are willing to do whatever they need to in order to put a winning product on the court. Now it’s time to put all the pieces together and go try to win an NBA Championship.
Indiana Pacers Grade: C
Don’t get me wrong I didn’t even know the Pacers were a part of this trade until it happened. Victor Oladipo has been unhappy in Indiana for a while now and it feels like it just keeps building up. Caris LeVert is a good player don’t get me wrong but this was to me just an alright move. LeVert has been playing well lately (26 points a game and 6.6 assists over the last six games) but it remains to be seen if he can be that guy and with Indiana currently a three seed in the Eastern Conference there is going to be pressure to not drop off. Granted not as much pressure Harden is under but still pressure none the less. I understand Indiana wasn’t going to re-sign Oladipo after the season and you have to get something for him, I agree. I don’t dislike this move, I just don’t love it. This is a good solid move and that’s why it gets a C. It’s a C with the potential to be a B or B+ time will tell.
Houston Rockets Grade: A
Houston, your problem has left the building. That alone is cause for celebration as Harden has been nothing but a distraction on and off the basketball court and getting him out of that locker room will be addition by subtraction. Are you ever going to get equal compensation when trading a guy the caliber of a Harden? No, but you can rebuild your roster and set your team for future success. Victor Oladipo is a good get in this trade for Houston as it gives them some flexibility. If Oladipo is a good fit they can re-sign him and pair him with John Wall and if he isn’t they can move him and get more assets at the trade deadline as Oladipo will be available to be moved again before the trade deadline. Rodions Kurucs and Dante Exum are young players that should be playing with something to prove as there is a chance for both of them to see playing time on the rebuilding Rockets. Houston also created a $15.4 million trade exception by doing the Oladipo deal separately. Then you have the 4 first-round picks and swaps. Houston did as good as they could have regarding the circumstance and thanks to Harden’s outburst after the game the other day it’s a deal they had to make as soon as possible. Kudos to Rockets general manager Rafael Stone as he dealt with a terrible situation I thought very well. Rockets fans, the crying and complaining is over and now it’s time for the rebuild to start.
Cleveland Cavaliers Grade: B-
I really like the get of Jarrett Allen for this young Cavs team as this solidifies their center position for years to come. The problem is the log jam in the frontcourt that the Cavaliers have with JaVale McGee, Larry Nance, Andre Drummond, and Kevin Love who should return from injury at some point. I do think this gives the Cavs flexibility to trade McGee or Drummond since they both have expiring contracts and get more draft capital and assets. In an ideal world, the Cavs would love to move Drummond, McGee, and Love by the trade deadline so they can get these young players some minutes and see what they have going forward. As a Cavs fan, a starting 5 of Garland, Sexton, Okoro, Nance, and Allen would be ideal. Taurean Prince was also a good get as he will provide some veteran leadership to a young Cavs team and also provides another player the Cavs could move at the trade deadline if a contender comes calling. Even though the Cavs are one of the top defensive teams and flirting with a playoff spot (yes I know it’s early, I’m trying to be optimistic) they are rebuilding and they need to identify what they have and move forward. Allen looks to be a key part of their future but the question of how he will fit into this logjam will be interesting to watch unfold. I suspect this is the first of many moves that the Cavs get done over the next month as they continue to try to rebuild themselves back to relevancy.
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