James Harden’s move to the Brooklyn Nets gives a bit of the feel of an Agatha Christie book: the culprit was there from the first page, yet we had to go all the way to find out. When Harden made known his desire to be sold several months ago, from the beginning he had indicated his favorite destination in the Brooklyn Nets, to be able to return to play with former teammate Kevin Durant and another talent such as Kyrie Irving. A scenario that finally materialized last night, when after several days in which nothing seemed to move – so much so that some they speculated also a possible stay in Houston for the whole season – suddenly the negotiations accelerated, also thanks to a situation that is no longer sustainable in the Texans’ locker room.
If at least in front of the press James Harden had been reluctant to talk about his situation, dodging questions about his future and giving standard answers such as “We have to improve team chemistry”, yesterday that last barrier also fell. After the heavy defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, who at one point explicitly began to make fun of the Rockets making bets on the pitch, Harden in a very short press conference he said it is clear that the team is not strong enough to compete: «I literally did everything possible to try to win, but the situation at the moment is crazy. I don’t think it’s something that can be solved ».
Words badly taken from the locker room, so much from John Wall how much above all from DeMarcus Cousins, who spoke of a lack of respect that began well before that interview: “The approach he had to the training camp, coming here completely out of shape, his behavior off the pitch: these are not things that have begun yesterday. We showed up at the gym every day to do our job, while the way he behaved was not at all fair towards us ». It is clear that with these premises it was unthinkable to last even a day longer, and the Houston management – after trying to put pressure on the Philadelphia 76ers by leaking news about an imminent exchange for a few hours – pulled the trigger on an exchange at four that had probably been ready for days.
Sources: Full current trade:
Rockets: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, 3 BKN first-rounders (22, 24, 26), 1 MIL first (22, unprotected), 4 BKN 1st round swaps (21, 23, 25, 27)
Nets: James Harden
Pacers: Caris LeVert, 2nd-rounder
Cavs: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 13, 2021
Final details of the deal unveiled by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, who along with ESPN reported the exchange first.
The new Big Three of Brooklyn
Let’s start from a premise: every team that wants to win must make sacrifices. And you don’t get to a player of James Harden’s caliber without sacrificing a lot, in terms of players and future assets. It is impossible to tell now whether the Brooklyn Nets – Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, three unprotected first picks in the draft and four chances to trade their picks, plus Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs to make up for it – is too much or is adequate, given that the final result has a huge weight on such an evaluation. If the Nets manage to win the last game of the playoffs with this group, then any sacrifice will be justifiable; if it does not happen, however, no one knows as much as they do how painful it is to give control over their future to the Draft to another franchise, as they learned the hard way with the Boston Celtics.
Seven years of choices in the draft is a senselessly long period, also because in seven years none of the Big Three currently on the team – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden – will be around the Barclays Center. Only an NBA title can justify such an outlay in terms of future assets, not least because it is extraordinarily difficult to remain competitive long enough to prevent all those choices end up in the Lottery. But in addition to losing control over their future, the Nets also sacrificed some of their present with the two most talented youngsters in Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, who still played a key role in this team: in the last few games they were both starting parties in the quintet and in the defensive half provided a contribution that will be difficult to fill for a team that lacks good defenders.
The Nets’ bet is that those three leading a reasonably eight or nine-player rotation will be enough to make way for the playoffs, even before the regular season. Right now Brooklyn would start in the quintet Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan together with the Big Three, with Landry Shamet, Bruce Brown, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Jeff Green off the bench to mix the quintets (thanks to Spencer Dinwiddie’s knee injury). Considering a few possible arrivals from the buyout market in progress, there are enough NBA players to have a decent rotation around the stars.
Durant’s (non) hot reaction.
However, it is impossible to quantify how much what is going on with Kyrie Irving weighed on the decision to take Harden. The speech is long, articulated and still far from its conclusion, but in the last few games the Nets have left easy victories on the street due to the absence of Irving for personal reasons, also asking overtime from a Durant who – albeit mysteriously close at his pre-injury levels – he’s still recovering from an Achilles tendon rupture and should be handled with a little more regard.
Harden will therefore have to absorb the possessions left empty by the absences of Irving and Dinwiddie and the departure of LeVert, immediately taking over the reins of a team that has no other ball dealers than him. At the beginning of the season, Nash’s idea was to start Dinwiddie in a quintet alongside Irving to be able to use him further away from the ball, making him receive in motion rather than seeing him monopolize the ball from the beginning of the action without involving the others. Considering that Durant is also a player who likes to receive the ball rather than building himself, Harden has an already key position in the tactical chessboard of these Nets – even if he will have to pass the ball more than he was used to in Houston where he decided. literally everything, on and off the pitch.
Certainly Harden has the talent to fill the role of primary ball carrier in the Nets, but the real question is whether he will be able to return to playing basketball. normal in which he has to run, block and move away from the ball instead of just waiting on the spot for him to come back to dribble. He’s amassed enough individual career accolades not to have to prove anything to anyone about his talent again, but in his eight years in Houston he hasn’t been able to make the last step at the team level and return to the NBA Finals: the prospect of having around Talented enough to win the title will it convince him to play team basketball? It’s the bet the Nets hope to win.
The mega exchange seen by the other teams
The Rockets ultimately didn’t get exactly what they thought they were getting, as the famous “young All-Star” didn’t come. From the beginning for some reason that perhaps they will later explain they decided that neither Caris LeVert nor Jarrett Allen were players to their liking, and for this they diverted them respectively to Indiana (in exchange for Victor Oladipo) and Cleveland (together with Taurean Prince receiving a first pick 2022 by the Milwaukee Bucks). It is obvious, however, that the highlight of what was received is the largest treasure trove of choices in NBA history, given that four firsts and four “pick swaps” had never been obtained by anyone for a single player. And the final accounts on the exchange can only be made in 2027 when Brooklyn has finished paying its debt in terms of choices to the Draft, from which Houston hopes to get that player who can turn the page of the franchise – and who has not considered it was Ben Simmons, for whom it is unclear whether they would be able to trade or not.
The Rockets as they are structured now do not seem able to go very far, and perhaps they would not have done so even with Simmons instead of Oladipo. Certainly getting out of the way of an unsustainable situation like Harden’s will help them to proceed on the normal path of growth of a team with a new roster, a new coach and a new management, moreover managing to fall below the threshold of the luxury tax. to please the owner Tilman Fertitta, whose great economic difficulties have been rumored for some time now. It is likely that PJ Tucker will also soon leave Texas to move into a contender, while the rest of the season will serve the Rockets to understand if a core formed by John Wall, Oladipo, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins can go somewhere or if they can. quietly turn the page and start over, for example by not re-signing an Oladipo expiring contract. (Something comes out of Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs well, but they don’t move anything into the general discourse).
Oladipo’s next free agency was the main reason that led the Indiana Pacers to sell it. As things had turned out in Indianapolis, where the team had found its identity without him by modeling itself around Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, his presence had become almost too much and in all likelihood he would not have stayed in the next summer, when there will be too much wage room around the league and he is one of the biggest names. In this sense, having managed to get their hands on someone like LeVert – who is younger than two years and, above all, is under contract until 2023 – is certainly a blow to them, and even if his inclusion in the team goes wrong. by Nate Bjorkgren certainly has more market value than that of Oladipo.
In this mega exchange that involved seven players, the Cleveland Cavaliers also ended up, who identified Jarrett Allen as the player for whom it made sense to sacrifice a first choice from Milwaukee (therefore reasonably from 20 onwards). Allen has monstrous defensive numbers and with only 22 years of age he aligns with the timeline of the young core of the team (from Collin Sexton to Darius Garland to Isaac Okoro) better than all the other longs currently on the roster, starting with Andre Drummond who he will be free agent in the summer. Having Allen to re-sign should remove the Cavs from the temptation to invest in a 28-year-old like Drummond who is having a very good start to the season and therefore could be turned over to someone by the market deadline: waiting for Kevin Love’s situation to be resolved too. , meanwhile Cleveland has put in a long lead for the future – before making sense of the rest of the roster.