A quiet January in the regular season has turned into a franchise-altering day for several teams across the league with James Harden heading to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade that puts together three of the top scorers in the NBA in New York.
Let’s first look at the details of the deal, first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com:
Rockets get: Victor Oladipo (from Pacers), Dante Exum (from Cavs), Rodions Kurucs (from Nets), 3 unprotected first-rounders (2022, 2024, 2026), one unprotected Bucks first-round pick for 2022 (from Cavs), four options to swap 1st round picks with Nets (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
Nets get: James Harden
Pacers get: Caris LeVert (from Rockets), 2nd-rounder
Cavs get: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince (both from Nets)
Five thoughts on the swap through a Celtics lens:
1. The Rockets really didn’t like any of the Nets assets enough to keep them: The long-running rumor was that while the Nets were a preferred destination for Harden once he asked out of Houston, the new Rockets front office did not like the Nets’ player assets enough to pull the trigger on a deal. This four-team deal falls in line with that thinking. While Houston got the maximum draft haul from the Nets (three first-round picks, four pick swaps), they only end up with one player from the current Nets roster in Kurucs. Instead, they shopped around the Nets' best talent in the deal and were able to dump some unwanted money (Taurean Prince) and nab an extra first-round pick for Jarrett Allen. The decision to turn Caris LeVert into Victor Oladipo is a bit of a gamble (more on that later) but it did land them the more proven player in Oladipo. Houston will likely try to give him a test run in their system in the coming weeks before deciding whether to commit to him long-term (expiring contract this year) or flip him at the trade deadline for additional future assets.
2. The Nets got desperate to win now after a .500 start and Kyrie going MIA: Brooklyn’s situation here is what matters most to the Celtics. They have the best top-three scoring punch in the NBA now on paper but the problem is one of those players is MIA in Kyrie Irving for the interim. There have been a variety of reports floating around on Wednesday that Irving hasn’t been happy with the Nets organization or the hire of Steve Nash but that’s all speculation for now. What is true about this trade is that the Nets weren’t going to wait around for Irving to return or to get his approval before making a deal like this. Kevin Durant is 32 years old so his window to win is right now. He also is under contract for just another year and a half before having the option to opt-out. With the Nets starting the season slow (6-6), they likely weren’t going to bet on Irving being back at a high level being enough to get them out of the East. Instead, they push all their chips in with young talent and draft capital bringing in Harden. The Durant/Harden duo being reunited should create one of the best offenses in the NBA immediately (even if Irving stays away from the team for a while). However, there are holes for this team to fill in from a defensive and depth standpoint. DeAndre Jordan is a limited defensive center at this stage of his career and there is no proven big around anymore to back him up. Outside of Bruce Brown, there are no defensive wings on this team either. The Nets have some money to work with on the free-agent market and a potential disabled player exception for Spencer Dinwiddie but lack any meaningful assets to move in a trade now beyond Landry Shamet, Joe Harris or their stars. They are going to have to win shootouts every night or hope that the buyout market brings some defensive talent their way.
3. The Pacers might be the sneaky winners in this deal: Victor Oladipo has been rumored to want out of Indiana