All the headlines surrounding the Houston Rockets and their star player James Harden pointed to him being moved. The situation was troublesome at best when the season began and that quickly moved to untenable just a month into the year. Houston finally came to the decision they had to move off of the perennial All-NBA guard and start fresh. Here are the full details of the deal:
Rockets receive: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodionis Kurucs, 3 1st-round pick from Brooklyn (22, 24, 26), 4 1st-round pick swaps with Brooklyn (21, 23, 25, 27), and 1 1st-round pick from Milwaukee (22)
Nets receive: James Harden
Pacers receive: Caris LaVert, 1 undecided 2nd-round pick
Cavaliers receive: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
There is a lot to take in here because of all the teams, players, and picks involved, but we’ll do our best to keep things simple. The Cavaliers made their way into this trade due to Brooklyn’s need to shed salary in order to bring in Harden. Taurean Prince is making $12 million this season and was the obvious candidate to be the salary filler. Allen became involved because Prince’s performance hasn’t warranted him alone being enough for Cleveland to get involved. With Andre Drummond playing as well as he is for Cleveland, Jarrett’s inclusion is a bit confusing, but it gives the Cavs more flexibility in terms of what they want to do going forward. Drummond is set to be a free agent at year’s end and Allen could be good enough for the team not to resign Andre. Something to make note of is how Allen’s addition has already affected the team. Reports came out on Monday that Kevin Porter Jr. wasn’t happy his locker was given to Allen. Now, Cleveland feels like they have to move off of KPJ one way or another.
The Pacers got involved as a way for Victor Oladipo to change hands. Vic has made it clear he is going to test free agency once his contract is up at the end of the season and Indiana didn’t want to deal with that kind of uncertainty. Oladipo has had a great season and the market he will have should be a pretty solid one. The Pacers just didn’t want to have to worry about the competition involved in resigning him. Indiana ends up with Caris LaVert who has been the obvious trade chip everyone has talked about when speculating about the deal prior to its completion. LaVert hasn’t been all that efficient this season and he’s dealing with a scary injury which is an issue he has faced throughout his playing days. Despite some of the negatives on his resume, Caris should fit Indiana quite well. He isn’t a true star and he plays both sides of the ball. His contract isn’t out of hand either. I don’t think this moves the needle much for the team; it just reshuffles the deck a bit.
The Nets are the winners of this deal because they get the prize piece. They have traded away essentially every one of their picks for the next decade and gave up some depth in the process, but they got the star. I question Harden’s fit on the team and I worry about the dynamic of the three stars on the team. KD left Golden State because everyone said he didn’t earn the rings he got with the Warriors. What will people say now that he’s surrounded with superstars again? Kyrie left Cleveland in the first place because he didn’t like playing in LeBron’s shadow. Now he’s the third star. At least Irving was the Robin to James’ Batman; now he’s like the Aquaman of the Justice League. Harden has played his own style of ball for nearly a decade. How will he deal with having to play within the scheme of a real offense? These are all parts of the equation that cannot be ignored. They may be overshadowed, though, by the fact that talent is talent and this team now has loads of it.
Houston hits the reset button with this trade in a peculiar way. While they gave up a franchise altering star and got back mostly picks in the process they also got Oladipo. The reclamation project he’s turned out to be has been astounding and he’s looked like the Vic of old. This isn’t a situation where the team is going to absolutely plummet. The Rockets have John Wall playing well alongside potential All-Star Christian Wood and adding Oladipo to the fold makes this a fun team to watch. Obviously, the picks matter most. Daryl Morey traded away ever pick the team had to make Harden happy and it is time to restock. Houston needs to accumulate draft assets as much as possible now, but that does not mean they need to bottom out from a competitive standpoint. The team is obviously less talented now, but I think the Rockets have to feel good about how this all worked out.
Deals involving a player of Harden’s magnitude are going to be odd because we just don’t see them that often. Adding in the fact that there were a total of four teams involved and nine draft picks changing hands makes it more likely we will never see anything like this ever again. With that being said, I think it all went smoothly. Every party involved got a piece or two they can be happy with and none of the players changing teams leaving me scratching my head. Losing Jarrett Allen is a tough pill to swallow for Brooklyn, though. He is a great young big who would supplant DeAndre Jordan as the main big in a year or two. As much as it hurts to see him leave, I think a 3-time scoring champ and former MVP is a pretty good consolation prize for the Nets.