"James Harden To The Nets?!"
It finally happened! After months of speculations, drama and tension within Houston's locker room, James "The Beard" Harden has finally been traded. Many thought the Rockets' former and the 76ers' current GM Daryl Morey would send either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid to Texas in order to bring the former MVP to Philly, but something much more polarizing has happened: "The Beard" joins Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn.
For everyone who is yet to understand this deal in its entirety, here is the full breakdown:
-The Brooklyn Nets receive James Harden.
-The Houston Rockets receive Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, eight first-round picks - three unprotected from Brooklyn, a Milwaukee first via Indiana, and four best pick swaps with Brooklyn.
-The Indiana Pacers receive Caris LeVert and a second-round pick.
-The Cleveland Cavaliers receive Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince.
This long-awaited trade was as polarizing as you would guess. Obviously, most of the Nets' fanbase is ecstatic following the transaction. Houston-natives seem to be just as content with the former scoring champion leaving their respective organization, however. After weeks of controversy caused by James Harden, relief appears to be most common sentiment among Rockets fans. Not joining the team at the start of training camp (and instead allegedly working out individually in Atlanta), partying (or spending his night in strip clubs *cough*) during an ongoing pandemic, looking out of shape, indicating a move to another franchise since the beginning of the season and an obvious statistical decline in his on-court output are some of the reasons Houston's fanbase has been irate.
Previously, the Sixers were expected to be the frontrunner while packages including Ben Simmons were being discussed. According to TheScore, Ben Simmons and Sophomore Matisse Thybulle have been informed about a trade being finalized.
But in the end, Harden landed in Brooklyn, which is not necessarily a surprise - since Harden publicly indicated a desire to team up with former teammate Kevin Durant and undisputed All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving - but not many actually believed a deal of this magnitude would actually go through.
As terrifying as the idea of a Nets' big three consisting of Kyrie, KD and The Beard might be though, there is still uncertainty concerning the Nets future. Kyrie Irving randomly disappears on a regular basis and, although Kevin Durant is at full health at the moment, how long can he hold up without sustaining another major injury? And: If all three All-Stars actually share the court with one another, how will it play out having such ball-dominant players wearing the same Nets' uniform? What will the center-rotation look like after the departure of Jarrett Allen and only veteran DeAndre Jordan, sophomore Nic Claxton and rookie Reggie Perry remaining?
Furthermore, what about the Nets' future AFTER the current big-three - which cost Brooklyn a ton of (future) assets - is gone?
As already mentioned, Jarrett Allen, the Nets' young starter at the center-position, was dealt to Cleveland, which drastically decreases Brooklyn's depth at the 5. In addition to Allen and Prince, who landed in Cleveland, the Nets' rising star Caris LeVert is headed to Indiana.
The 26-year-old was carrying the Brooklyn Nets throughout the last season with KD and Kyrie mostly missing. According to basketball-reference.com, LeVert was averaging 18.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assist per game during the shortened 2019-2020 season. This season - over the span of 12 games - he managed to put up averages of 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
Brooklyn even added a plethora of first-round picks and pick swaps to the trade package which are all headed to Houston. Apart from all this draft-stock, the Rockets also acquired the Pacers' Victor Oladipo, the Cavs' Dante Exum and Nets' Rodions Kurucs. These acquisitions will probably not be enough to keep the Rockets in the conversation as a contender in the west, but it helps to set a foundation for the upcoming years. Also: A backcourt-duo consisting of John Wall and Victor Oladipo should not be underestimated, not to forget a rising and constantly improving Christian Wood on their side.
When it comes to Indiana and Cleveland:
The Cavs add further size and length to their already gigantic frontcourt of Drummond, Nance Jr, McGee, Maker and Love which currently performs surprisingly well paired with their "Sexland"-backcourt - I mean: Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. It is hard to imagine however, that Jarrett Allen will claim Andre Drummond's spot in the starting five since Drummond averages 19.3 points and 15.8 rebounds per game at the moment.
The Pacers received a second-round pick and Caris LeVert. The latter might prove to be extremely helpful as he adds further talent and value around Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis in Indiana. But there have been some complications already as the Pacers' medical staff - according to Shams - has found "a small mass on his left kidney" after an MRI. LeVert is now out indefinitely.
Although many view the deal critically and - of course - it is still unclear if everything plays out as expected in the long run for Brooklyn, in his debut at least Harden seemed to prove doubters wrong. Visibly happy - and in shape - in his new surroundings, "The Beard" had himself a triple-double with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists which makes him the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double in a debut-game with a new team, according to TheScore. After the game, Harden stated, "When you play with really, really good players, it's pretty easy."
We will see what the future holds...