James Harden requested a trade from the Rockets months ago and really upped the pressure yesterday. Kyrie Irving remains away from the Nets. Victor Oladipo, despite his recent statements, seemed uncertain in his commitment to the Pacers.
Disorder invites even more chaos.
Houston, Brooklyn, Indiana and Cleveland are combining for landscape-shaking trade that sends Harden to the Nets (as he initially desired), Oladipo to the Rockets, Caris LeVert to the Pacers and Jarrett Allen to the Cavaliers.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
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
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Nets are acquiring a 2024 second-round pick in the deal from the Cavaliers, sources tell ESPN. For Cavaliers, Jarrett Allen solidifies their future at the center spot. Remember, he’s only 22 years old.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 13, 2021
The Nets are now even more loaded with firepower – Kevin Durant, Harden and Irving (assuming he returns to the team). Their ceiling is undeniable – as are the questions. How will Durant, Harden and Irving share the ball? Will they defend enough? Will everyone, with their earned egos, get along? To optimize this grouping, Harden must sacrifice more than he did in Houston.
Durant and Irving are obviously close, and Durant’s and Harden’s relationship dates back to their time together with the Thunder. But Harden hadn’t yet developed into an MVP back then. Harden and Russell Westbrook also had that prior relationship from Oklahoma City (and earlier). Harden still didn’t embrace moving off the ball/other secondary skills while playing with Westbrook.
Maybe that’ll be different as Harden joins a new team rather than have someone join what was in every way his team. But it’s hard to go from being the overwhelming focal point to sharing the spotlight.
This is another all-in trade for the Nets, who failed spectacularly with their last attempt. Though Harden (31) is far younger than Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were, this experiment could have a shelf life. Harden is fewer than two years away from being able to enter unrestricted free agency.
The pressure on Brooklyn to win a title sooner than later is only amplified.
The Rockets are moving in the other direction.
Losing Harden definitely accelerates Houston’s descent. The Rockets depleted assets while trying to win around Harden. But a misguided trade for Westbrook – at Harden’s demand, for what that’s worth – and a refusal to pay the luxury tax have hastened the downfall.
The substantial set of unprotected picks and swaps will help Houston in whatever comes next. But by including multiple teams in the trade, the Rockets essentially chose not to acquire Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. Instead, Houston picked Victor Oladipo as its player centerpiece.
Oladipo is trending in the right direction after major injury, but he’s still far below the peak he hit a few years ago. At 28, he faces questions about whether he’ll regain the athleticism necessary to again play forcefully positive offense and defense. Plus, Oladipo is headed toward unrestricted free agency next summer – which presses Houston on solving his situation quickly.
By contrast, LeVert is younger (26) and locked in for the next two seasons at a reasonable $17,500,000 and $18,796,296. In Indiana, he should get a chance to spread his wings. He won’t change the Pacers’ identity as a two-big team with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. But LeVert should fit nicely between those centers and point guard Malcolm Brogdon.
The Rockets also let Jarrett Allen join the Cavaliers, who get a sweetheart deal. Allen (22) is already pretty darned good. The 2022 first-round pick Cleveland is sending Houston should fall late in the round, and taking on Taurean Prince (who’s due $13,334,375 next season) isn’t too costly. The Cavs already had Andre Drummond at center, but Jarrett Allen is too good to pass up. Both will be free agents – Allen restricted, Drummond unrestricted – next summer. The Cavaliers can figure it out by then, likely keeping Allen. That means Drummond now invites trade speculation.
One reason the Rockets likely went this route: They got cheaper players in Dante Exum ($9.6 million expiring contract) and Rodions Kurucs ($1,780,152 salary with $1,861,068 team option for next season). Houston moves below the luxury-tax line in what is surely not a fluke.
The Rockets also move on without a malcontent. Oladipo, John Wall, Christian Wood, P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon won’t necessarily form a better team. But this group should find more joy without the dark cloud of Harden hanging over them.
But as the key pieces in this trade show, happiness can be quite fleeting in the NBA. The grass won’t necessarily be greener on the other side for everyone involved in this trade.
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