Basketball

Grading the James Harden Trade

It’s been less than a week since news broke of the blockbuster 4-team trade sending NBA All-Star James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets joining former teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. So far we’ve seen a small glimpse of what the impact of this trade will have on each team, but it will be interesting to see more as the season progresses. The trade itself included the following package:

Brooklyn Nets Receive:

  • James Harden

Houston Rockets Receive:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Rodions Kurucs
  • Dante Exum
  • Four Unprotected 1st Round Picks (Brooklyn 2022, 2024, and 2026, Milwaukee 2022) and Four Unprotected 1st Round Pick Swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:

  • Jarrett Allen
  • Taurean Prince

Indiana Pacers Receive:

  • Caris LeVert
  • 2023 2nd round pick (From Houston)

In this article, we’ll break down the grades each team receives from the trade as well as the impact this trade has on the NBA as a whole.

Brooklyn Nets Grade: B-

The Brooklyn Nets received superstar James Harden to their star-studded roster paired with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The talent is there and has one of the best starting lineups in the entire league competing with the Lakers of the West for that honor. The Nets are in win-now mode with their elite 3 superstars. Based on chemistry with the stars, we don’t know if it will flow as well as Lebron/AD joining together or what Kevin Durant had during his time with Golden State. Harden and Durant both have court general presence when playing and the 2 played together during their days in OKC, but it’s been a long time since then. The Nets made a similar team years ago with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and company. The Nets attempted to build a win-now team of superstars, albeit, the predecessors were on the older side and past their primes, this trade feels awfully similar to the Nets nearly a decade ago. The Celtics were the benefactor from the Nets awful trades years ago and we will see the Houston Rockets capitalize off of what the Celtics have been able to do. The Nets gave up 4 picks, 4 pick swaps, and several young players who were the future of the franchise for James Harden who is a top talent in the league but he doesn’t always play nice with others. This trade will ultimately hurt the Nets in the long run with the pieces they have lost, they might make a deep run in playoffs in the next year or two, but after their 15 minutes of fame are over with, we don’t expect the Nets to be relevant again for years to come. 

Houston Rockets Grade: B+

The Rockets look very different this year with both Russell Westbrook and James Harden now playing in the Eastern Conference. In exchange for the 2 superstars, the Rockets received a handful of 1st round picks, John Wall, Victor Oldaipo, a couple role players and several pick swaps. Victor Oladipo and John Wall were both disgruntled by their former teams which makes this unlikely duo a nice fit with one another. The biggest drawback for the Harden trade is how long Oladipo will stay with the Rockets. Oladipo has been limited by injuries in recent years, but has shown flashes of his old self. If Oladipo can remain healthy and if the Rockets can flip him before he walks or if he stays, the Rockets will have made out well. With the uncertainty of Oladipo, we still gave the Rockets a favorable grade due to the bulk amount of picks they acquired but the next couple seasons will be stuck in mediocrity.

Indiana Pacers Grade: A-

The Pacers were able to move a player who did not want to play for them and acquired a diamond in the rough with Caris LeVert. LeVert is coming off a season where he averaged a career high in points with 18.7 per game as well as career highs in assists, steals, rebounds, and minutes played. LeVert is comparable to the output that Oladipo produces without the health issues and someone who is eager to compete. LeVert can be a leader with Sabonis and Turner on an Indiana Pacers team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs after sitting in the middle of the playoff pack for what feels like forever. 

Cleveland Cavaliers: A

The Cavaliers committed highway robbery by snagging a future All-Star in Jarrett Allen. Allen is in his 4th season and is only 22 years of age. Allen has slowly gotten better and better each year he has been in the league. This year he is currently averaging a double double and is set to have his best season yet. Allen will only get better as time goes by which allows for the Cavaliers to be the big winner of this 4-team trade. The Cavs will have a good future to build around with Allen and Sexton leading the charge for the foreseeable future. With their continued development, the Cavs can look to trade Love or Drummond to go younger and think more about the road ahead. Overall, Cleveland was the biggest winner of the 4 teams involved in this trade. 

Other Winners:

The Western Conference won this trade with both Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden all joining the Eastern Conference in the last 2 seasons has allowed for less competition for teams like the Lakers. This also makes the Eastern Conference more competitive as the West has been dominating for years excluding Lebron’s time in the East.

NBA stars won this trade as players are getting more and more power in their contractual agreements. The contracts are getting less meaningful as players can demand to get out of their contract at almost any time it feels like. This is not the ideal situation for management but they’re having to give in to these star demands in order to succeed as they will refuse to play. The NBA should look into contract clauses or set up a new agreement with the players regarding contracts as this is not the direction the NBA should be moving towards.

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