It finally happened. After months of speculation and rumors swirling NBA Twitter, we finally have the long-awaited James Harden trade. The Beard was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster four-team deal on Wednesday afternoon that included the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. With Harden linking up with Kyrie Irving and reuniting with former teammate Kevin Durant in the East, how will this seismic trade impact the rest of the league?
Winners and Losers of the James Harden Trade
Full Trade Details
Houston Rockets Receive: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, 3 BKN 1st-Rounders (2022, 2024, 2026), 1 MIL 1st-Rounder (2022 unprotected), 4 BKN 1st-Round Swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
Brooklyn Nets Receive: James Harden
Indiana Pacers Receive: Caris LeVert, 2nd-Rounder
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
The Cleveland Cavaliers
Let’s ease into this dissection with a team that gave up very little to get a whole lot. The Cavaliers added yet another big man to their rotation by acquiring Jarrett Allen in this deal. Allen’s talent went unappreciated in Brooklyn due to being shadowed by the star power by Durant and Irving in addition to splitting time with DeAndre Jordan. Now, as far as the latter issue goes, he may face the same challenge in Cleveland as he battles for minutes with Andre Drummond.
Cleveland gave up an injury-plagued Dante Exum and got a 22-year-old big man in Allen to play alongside their young backcourt in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, while also adding a solid plug-in player in Prince. The Cavs are slowly but surely developing into a young franchise on the rise that the league should keep an extra eye on down the line. Maybe not this year, or even next year, but soon enough, Cleveland may be building a strong core to make a return to the playoff picture in the future.
It is likely that Cleveland is not done making moves, as they are very crowded in their front court with pieces that should have a sought-after market. However, despite neither acquiring nor losing The Beard, Cleveland emerged as a winner in the James Harden trade.
The Indiana Pacers
Following the news of the James Harden trade between the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets, Victor Oladipo was dealt to the Rockets and, in return, the Indiana Pacers received Caris LeVert from the Brooklyn Nets. LeVert is a young talent in this league who just happened to had to split time with two of the best players in the NBA in Durant and Irving, and sharing rotation minutes with Spencer Dinwiddie until the latter was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL. LeVert needed a fresh start in order for his career to blossom, and Indiana can be where he really takes off and reaches his potential.
As of Wednesday night, the Pacers are tied for third in the Eastern Conference, as they have been extremely impressive despite some offseason uncertainty surrounding their core. Adding LeVert to their young group in Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis, not to mention the stellar defensive ability from Myles Turner we have seen this season, and Indiana remains a threat in the East. NBA fans can watch LeVert play in a new scheme where he will be a more featured player in the offense, as we have seen what his ceiling could be numerous times, including a 51-point performance against the Boston Celtics last season, with 37 of those 51 coming in the 4th Quarter and Overtime.
Call it a lateral move if you like, but as far as being primed for a playoff run now and in the future go, Indiana came out of the James Harden trade as a winner.
The Houston Rockets
Now we get into the two teams directly affected by this blockbuster transaction. Harden is among the top ten players in the league. Wherever he goes, he will play a featured role in the offense. In Houston, he was the offense. This season, he posed too many chemistry issues in the locker room and with the front office that was irreparable. After Tuesday night’s blowout loss and Harden’s blatant notion that relations were irreparable between both sides, the Rockets moved forward with a trade.
Whatever the team was going to receive in a James Harden trade was going to match the value that Harden is worth. However, the team received some help to remain competitive now and to have an actual future ahead of them. The Rockets received Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, four 1st-round picks, and four BKN pick swaps. Maybe other teams had better packages to offer Houston, but the Rockets were well compensated for the transaction.
Aside from Harden this season, the Rockets have a handful of players who are looking to compete for Houston and play team basketball. Now, without The Beard and all the media attention he has received dating back to the offseason, the team can refocus on the task at hand and look to the next phase of the organization’s rebuild. While Oladipo is a downgrade from Harden as far as being a franchise superstar goes, he is still a former All-Star who is not far from his top form.
Perhaps Houston could have received a better package by another team in any James Harden trade. Philadelphia was rumored to have offered a package including Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, and Matisse Thybulle, which absolutely trumps the package of players Houston did receive from Brooklyn, Cleveland, and Indiana. That being said, while the Rockets were able to rid themselves of a player who clearly no longer wanted to be a part of the team, losing a player like Harden sets any team back, and that puts them as the first loser of this blockbuster trade.
The Brooklyn Nets
No other team in the NBA has greater star power than the Brooklyn Nets right now. The combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and now James Harden makes for one of the greatest offensive trios in league history, on paper. How that translates on the floor remains to be seen, as does the likelihood that this trio can co-exist for a greater common goal.
Harden was not going to win a championship ring as Houston’s number one option. Now, in Brooklyn, he is likely number two behind KD, or even number three behind Kyrie depending on if Irving is willing to defer to The Beard or not. Brooklyn already has enough drama on their plate with Irving and his current whereabouts, both physically and mentally. Whenever Irving decides to rejoin the team, which continues to look more like an if at this point, he’ll have a new face by his side.
However, the James Harden trade extracted a great price. Brooklyn sacrificed much of their depth, relinquishing Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and Rodions Kurucs to welcome in the former MVP. This is a sacrifice the team had to make if they really wanted to trade for Harden, as they traded in their depth for star power. The team is also with Spencer Dinwiddie this year as well, further dwindling their numbers.
Fans should be cautiously optimistic about this newly formed trio, both NBA fans and Brooklyn Nets fans alike. No conclusions about the season should be written at the moment, as there is still plenty of talent across the league and the Nets have yet to prove anything. At best, this team is a championship contender. At worst, a crippling disaster that not only fails Brooklyn this season but for the next six, seven, eight years down the line.
All that being said, the Nets have reason to celebrate Wednesday night. Pulling off a James Harden trade while retaining Durant and Irving to form one of the greatest trios on paper in recent memory in a win. Thus, Brooklyn comes out of the James Harden trade as the biggest winner of all.
Is Brooklyn THE Favorite To Win The East?
It may be too early to consider the Brooklyn Nets the favorite to win the Eastern Conference or even win this year’s NBA Finals after the James Harden trade. There are still plenty of teams at the top of the East that will pose a strong threat to Brooklyn, or are still better than the newly formed bunch. The Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Indiana Pacers all rank atop the Eastern Conference in order. All are ahead of the 7-6 Nets team, which is yet to play with their star trio.
Brooklyn is for sure a favorite amongst the league’s titans. The Celtics are looking like one of the strongest teams in the league from top to bottom with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the helm, and they are still yet to incorporate Kemba Walker into the fold. The Bucks are still the Bucks, as they have been one of the best regular-season teams in the league for years now. The 76ers are finally seeing the Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid experiment pay dividends, and the Pacers may have very well improved after this same trade that Brooklyn was involved in.
One thing is for sure after the James Harden trade, with The Beard now in the Eastern Conference for the first time in his career, the race to the top just got a whole lot more interesting.