After a day of waiting and speculation, the news finally broke. According to ESPN’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets made a deal to send star shooting guard James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
As the trade became more widely reported, we learned of many more factors in the deal, with the Pacers and Cavaliers also moving players as a part of the deal. Here is a breakdown of each teams’ haul from the blockbuster deal
Receive: SG James Harden
Trade: SG Caris LeVert, C Jarrett Allen, SF Taurean Prince, F Rodions Kurucs 3 First Round Picks (2022 Unprotected, 2024 Unprotected, 2026 Unprotected), 4 Pick Swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
Far and away, the best player included in this deal; the Nets reunited Kevin Durant and James Harden with this move. Harden has expressed his desire to leave Houston on multiple occasions, and now his wish comes true.
Harden needs no introduction as one of the top players in the league. An eight-time All-Star and former MVP, Harden is one of the greatest offensive players ever to play the game. He excels in isolation as he lulls defenders to sleep before hitting his patented, step-back threes with regular occurrence.
The media gives Harden a bad rep as an on-ball defender. However, he has proven to be capable of being disruptive on the defensive end. Despite lacking effort from time to time, Harden led the NBA in steals last season. He also ranked 12th amongst all shooting guards in defensive real plus-minus for the 2019-20 season. When engaged, Harden can be productive defensively.
What This Deal Means for the Nets
The Nets now become the undisputed favorites to win the Eastern Conference, if they weren’t already before. Adding a top-5 player can only enhance a team, and the combined offensive firepower of Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant will be one of the best in the league.
With that being said, Harden did not come without an enormous cost. There is no debating that Harden is by far better than any player the Nets gave up. However, the cumulative value of players and assets that the Nets sacrificed raises some cause for concern.
Caris LeVert was the best of the players that the Nets gave up, and Brooklyn will miss his presence in the second unit. Averaging 18.5 points per game so far this season, LeVert has stepped up in a big way in Kyrie Irving’s absence. He is excellent at creating his own shot and had formed a nice pick-and-roll partnership with Jarrett Allen.
After Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury, Levert was the undisputed leader of the team’s second unit, enjoying the highest usage rate of his career so far this season. Again, Harden’s talent was too good for the Nets to pass up on. However, losing LeVert will result in a significant drop-off in the Net’s second unit.
Allen and Prince also are losses to the team’s bench unit. Allen was performing well and arguably should have been starting over current center Deandre Jordan since Day 1. Prince is a solid 3-D wing who played solid minutes for the Nets.
Receive: SG Victor Oladipo, SG Dante Exum, F Rodions Kurucs, 3 Brooklyn First Round Picks (2022 Unprotected, 2024 Unprotected, 2026 Unprotected), Cavs 2022 Unprotected 1st Round Pick (via Milwaukee), 4 Pick Swaps with Brooklyn (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
Trade: James Harden, 2nd Round Pick
While losing Harden hurts, the Rockets got a lot of solid pieces back, considering they were moving a disgruntled asset. There are a lot of moving parts, and not all of them come directly from the Nets.
After initially acquiring LeVert from the Nets, the Rockets immediately flipped him and a second-round pick to the Pacers in exchange for Oladipo. They also acquired Exum from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kurucs from the Nets, two mediocre rotation players.
The four picks in the deal are arguably the most valuable pieces in the trade. In all likelihood, all four selections will be in the 20-30 range. However, the Rockets have many other first-rounders that they could package together to move up in the draft. The Rockets still own multiple picks from the Blazers (Robert Covington deal) and selections from Washington (Russell Westbrook deal). While each pick at face value appears to have minimal value, the Rocket’s gradual accumulation of picks could amount to a big leap in the draft order.
What This Deal Means for the Rockets
LeVert and Oladipo are similar players, so the deal could mean one of two things for the Rockets. The first option is they are in win-now mode. Oladipo has one year remaining on his current contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Oladipo is a marginally better player and has played well so far this season after missing most of last year with an injury. The Pacers have relied on Oladipo heavily, as his usage percentage was the highest of all Pacer players.
The other option is that they are looking to rebuild. Getting rid of Harden’s contract and having Oladipo off the books next season will give Houston a lot of cap space to work with this offseason. LeVert recently signed a three year, 52 million dollar deal and will not be a free agent until 2023. Getting Oladipo instead of LeVert gives the Rockets a lot more cap flexibility in the near future. The multitude of first-round picks means that the Rockets could be taking the OKC Thunder route and looking towards the future after trading their franchise player.
Receive: C Jarrett Allen, SF Taurean Prince
Trade: 2022 Unprotected 1st Round Pick (via Milwaukee), SG Dante Exum
The Cavs came out of nowhere in this deal but left with a solid return. Losing Exum doesn’t hurt the team at this point. The former Jazz guard was averaging 3.8 points per game for the Cavs through twelve games so far this season. Losing an unprotected first-rounder for a rebuilding team hurts. However, with the Bucks anticipating a deep playoff run, the pick holds less value than a traditional first-rounder.
What This Deal Means for the Cavaliers
Adding Allen and Prince addresses the present and future for the Cavs. Prince will provide veteran leadership to a young Cleveland team. He also brings solid defense and floor spacing as a three and D wing.
Allen was a great pick up for the team. The former Texas product was averaging a double-double through twelve games with the Nets this season. An athletic rim protector, Allen’s presence in the paint will be a welcomed addition for a Cleveland team that surrenders the third-most offensive rebounds to opposing teams. This move also takes the pressure off Cleveland’s front office to resign center Andre Drummond, who’s out of contract at the end of this season.
Receive: SG Caris LeVert, Houston 2nd Round Pick
Trade: SG Victor Oladipo
The Pacers continue to make strong moves as moving Oladipo in exchange for Levert helps the present and future of the team.
While Oladipo was a big part of this team, the Pacers recognized that he would never return to his pre-injury form. He is also an expiring contract and would probably demand above market value to resign with the Pacers. Instead of waiting for an unnecessary standoff, the Pacers decided to move him before it came to that.
LeVert is two years younger than Oladipo and just recently signed a new contract. He is earning 17 million a year under the terms of that deal, according to Spotrac. Had LeVert stayed in Brooklyn, that contract may have been a slight overpay given the circumstances. However, now that he will most likely be a starter in Indiana, he has a chance to outperform that contract.
What This Deal Means for the Pacers
This deal was a great piece of business by the Pacers. LeVert and Oladipo are comparable players at this point in their respective careers. LeVert will slide in next to point guard Malcolm Brogdon in the starting lineup and not miss a beat.
With shooters like Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Doug McDermott on the outside, the floor will open up for LeVert and allow him to play to his strengths. The Pacers will hope that LeVert can make up for some of the production lost in T.J Warren’s injury.