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Winners, losers from blockbuster four-team James Harden trade

The Nets landed the All-Star from the Rockets with the Cavaliers and Pacers also involved. We go over who came out on top in the deal.

James Harden of the Houston Rockets runs out of the tunnel before the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 10, 2021 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA landscape had quite the earthquake on Wednesday afternoon when the Houston Rockets finally found a home for disgruntled All-Star guard James Harden. The Rockets shipped Harden out to the Brooklyn Nets to play with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. In return, the Rockets received four first-round picks, four pick swaps, Indiana Pacers G Victor Oladipo and two rotations players. The details of the trade involving the Rockets, Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Pacers are extensive. Here’s a look at all the moving pieces, then we’ll get into winners and losers from the deal.

Rockets receive: Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, four first-round picks (3 BKN, 1 MIL), four pick swaps via BKN. All picks are unprotected.

Nets receive: James Harden

Pacers receive: Caris LeVert, second-round pick

Cavaliers receive: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince


Uhhhh, James Harden?

Like him or hate him, the man got what he wanted. Harden didn’t want to play on a lame duck team in Houston and now he’s playing with two of the best in the world in KD and Kyrie. The Nets didn’t give up too much in terms of roster depth and what the hell are they going to need it for anyway? If this thing in Brooklyn works out, it’s quite possibly the best three-headed monster, Big 3, whatever you want to call it since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.

As far as chemistry goes, most people will wonder how all of this will work. Well, Harden and Durant used to be teammates. That shouldn’t really be an issue. Durant and Irving were operating pretty well together until Kyrie went off the grid. If Irving comes back, chances are he’ll be pretty happy to be playing with arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA. Steve Nash is the head coach and he’s familiar with All-Stars like this. Mike D’Antoni coached Harden for years in Houston and they seem to have a good relationship. This seems like the perfect landing spot for Harden.

Bonus points to Harden fantasy basketball owners!

Caris LeVert

After being “The Guy” for the Nets last season, LeVert had to go to the bench with Durant and Irving healthy for the 2020-21 season. Now, LeVert should have a chance to start and make an impact on a playoff team in Indiana. The Pacers add a player on a team-friendly contract signed through 2023 who could develop into an All-Star (or close to one) in the coming years. Adding LeVert to a core of Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, TJ Warren, Myles Turner and a deep bench makes the Pacers a borderline contender. Indy could make some noise in the postseason and will at least be very competitive for the next 3-5 seasons.

NBA Fans

I mean, come on, you guys, we’re pretty spoiled, right? What other league gets this type of drama on a regular basis! It’s like following a soup opera for 20 years of your lie (at least in my case, I’m 30 years old). Forget Days of Our Lives, the NBA is all I need for daytime entertainment (and night time). One of the best players in the NBA was just traded in a blockbuster four-team deal. The team that traded him, also dealt another All-Star a few months ago. We’ve also got DeMarcus Cousins ripping Harden for disrespecting the team! Mark your calendars because the Nets play the Rockets on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Boogie will have a shot at some revenge over Harden and The Beard can stick it to his former team.

Philadelphia 76ers

I’ll keep this short and sweet. I don’t think giving up Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey and even Matisse Thybulle to bring in Harden would have put the Sixers over the top. Harden and Joel Embiid would have formed quite the tandem, but the Sixers wouldn’t have had much else on that roster and probably still struggle to get past the Nets and Bucks in the East. Maxey could be that third piece with Embiid and Simmons, plus you still have Tobias Harris as an OK 3-4 option. The Sixers have Rivers and Morey in place as well, so I trust they can figure out a way to get over the top without adding a potential locker room cancer and massive contract that could have mortgaged the future a bit.

Honorable mention: Jarrett Allen.


The Houston Rockets

Say what you want about the Rockets getting a historic package of draft picks. Three of those are going to amount to nothing unless the Nets completely fall of the face of the earth by 2026. Two of those picks are in 2022 and 2024, so there’s almost no chance they end up being lottery picks. The pick swaps shouldn’t really amount to much either considering the Rockets will probably be worse than Brooklyn. The only way this works out for the Rockets is if the Nets tank and lose all three superstars in the next 2-3 seasons. Otherwise, the Nets have a dynasty in the making and Houston only has draft picks and aging superstars on expiring contracts.

Oladipo will be off the books, so that clears cap. John Wall has the worst contract in the NBA and likely isn’t going anywhere for at least another 3 seasons. Cousins is washed up. Christian Wood is a strong asset, but by the time the team is ready to rebuild/compete, you’ve got to think he’ll be on a different team making a lot more money. Overall, the Rockets lost Mike D’Antoni, Daryl Morey, James Harden and Russell Westbrook the past 3 months and got back John Wall, Cousins, Wood, Stephen Silas, Rafael Stone, Dipo and a bunch of picks. It may be a while before Houston is competing for anything.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving fantasy owners

Both players will still “get theirs” so to speak. But with Harden in town, you can’t expect either star to have the same usage and output. Durant is putting up big stats with both players not on the court for the Nets. When Harden joins the crowd, Durant likely won’t get as much offensive usage. I’m interested to see if Harden just takes over and looks like the player we’re used to seeing. If that is the case, he’ll dominate the ball when Irving isn’t on the court. When Kyrie is out there, we may even see Harden with the ball anyway since Irving is arguably a better 3-point shooter.

The Nets coaching staff

Not only does this move put an immense amount of pressure on Nash and D’Antoni to win now, but it also makes things incredibly difficult on defense. Sure, that isn’t the point, this team likely won’t need to play much defense to win if the offense is playing like it’s NBA2K. Still, with Harden and Irving out there, both are somewhat liabilities on defense in the back court. Durant is actually a great defender but will have more to deal with, particularly in the playoffs. He’s also coming off that Achilles tear, so if that flares up, no bueno.

Nash and D’Antoni were probably already under a ton of pressure as it is. Can they rise above? Sure, the Nets could definitely end up winning it all this season with Harden in town. That may not be the case and if I were them, I’d be concerned about how the locker room reacts to Harden being added and LeVert, Allen and Prince leaving.