Breaking Down the Blockbuster James Harden Trade

With rumors of Houston Rockets guard James Harden wanting out, it was only a matter of time until he finally got shipped out to a team that was buying. After back to back devastating losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden voiced his frustration with the team, stating that the “situation is crazy” and “ it’s something that I don’t think can be fixed”. Center DeMarcus Cousins decided to take a shot at Harden after the loss, and said “it’s completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room.” and was upset that he pretty much gave up on the team so early into the season.

With the team against Harden, and him voicing his complaints, a trade seemed like it was coming sooner rather than later. Little did we know that it would come less than 24 hours after that loss, as it was announced on Wednesday that Houston had traded Harden in a blockbuster three team trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Nets will receive the former MVP, while Houston will receive Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs and a haul of first round picks and pick swaps in return. Cleveland will ship guard Dante Exum to Houston, along with a 2022 first round pick, while getting Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince in return from the Nets.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear cut winners in this deal. They gave up very little in this deal, as Dante Exum was only a backup guard in an already strong guard rotation, and the first round pick was the Bucks’ future pick, so it most likely will be in the high 20’s. They got some solid assets in return, in Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince, who might help this team make a playoff push.

Allen will come in and help an already solid center rotation of Andre Drummond and Javale McGee. Allen is much younger than both and fits the timetable of young guard duo Colin Sexton and Darius Garland much better. Prince will certainly help strengthen the wing rotation, which was clearly the weakest part of the team. All in all, this was a low risk deal for the Cavs that helped bring in players that can help them currently and in the future.

For the Nets, this is a very risky move. Although they just got a former MVP in James Harden who is a clear cut top ten player in the league, the fit with the rest of the team is very questionable. Harden joins a team that already has two ball dominant scorers and very little defensive ability. Harden himself is no lockdown defender, and will need to have the ball in his hands to be the most effective he can be.

The team also significantly hurt their depth, as they gave up their best bench scorer in Caris LeVert, and will now have DeAndre Jordan take over the starting center spot with the absence of Jarrett Allen. There were already questions about where they were going to get their bench scoring from outside of LeVert, and now that he is gone they will have to rely on guys like Landry Shamet and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to step up and fill in a role that they don’t seem ready for.

They also have to find out who their backup center will be with this roster now. With DeAndre Jordan, who is still a serviceable big, lined up to start at center, they will need someone to fill in his role as the first big off the bench. The only center left on the roster, other than Jordan, is Nicolas Claxton, who hasn’t even stepped on the floor for the team this season. It’s hard to believe that he will just step in and provide solid play off the bench after not playing at all, but there aren’t many other options available right now.

Ultimately, this deal creates more chemistry issues, more defensive issues, and a complete lack of depth, causing problems the Nets already had to become even bigger. They will be relying on the superstar trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now James Harden to carry them to a championship. Head coach Steve Nash will have to find a way to manage these big egos, and even if he does so, this team might not have enough to get over the top with the way the roster is currently constructed.

Despite it being very clear that Harden was on his way out and wouldn’t play for the Rockets again, they still managed to get a haul in return. They got in total four first round picks and then four first round pick swaps, which will help this team drastically when they do decide to rebuild. This deal also helps them right now, as they are able to get rid of a player who was clearly a team cancer, and was a massive distraction to have in the locker room. Despite how good of a player Harden is, it was evident that he was hurting the team more than he was helping them, so being able to get rid of him is a clear win.

The Rockets also got some pieces that might be able to help them return to the playoffs this year. Rodions Kurucs and Dante Exum both have potential to be role players off the bench for this team and help strengthen their depth. They also got Caris LeVert in this deal, but they would quickly flip him and a draft pick to the Indiana Pacers for former all star Victor Oladipo.

Although Oladipo has had some health issues, he is clearly a better player than LeVert when healthy, so this was an absolute steal for the Rockets. Oladipo will come in and most likely be the starting shooting guard right away next to John Wall. With this move, the ceiling for this team is much lower than if they had Harden, but on the flip side their floor is much higher. Don’t be surprised if the Rockets manage to squeak into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed this year. 

This deal will have some major implications for not just this season, but the future of the league. The Cavs were able to subtly improve their young roster, and may actually make the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left. Houston was able to get a load of assets for a frustrated superstar, while also keeping themselves in the playoff hunt out West. Meanwhile, the Nets have managed to build the best big 3 in the league, but have taken a major risk by combining major egos all onto one roster. In the end, this is a crazy trade, and it will be fun to see how it ends up playing out.

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