Tramel: Every team comes out good in James Harden trade — except Brooklyn Nets
James Harden has been traded to the Brooklyn Netropolitans, and the Nets’ first order of business is to petition the NBA to change the rule and allow two basketballs at one time on the court. One for Harden, one for the rest of the Nets.
The blockbuster deal, announced Wednesday afternoon, consists of four teams.
Houston gets Victor Oladipo from Indiana, Dante Exum from Cleveland and Rodions Kurucs from Brooklyn, plus unprotected Nets first-round picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026; the option to swap picks with Brooklyn in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027; and Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 2022, via Cleveland.
Indiana gets Caris LeVert from Brooklyn.
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Cleveland gets Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn.
Brooklyn gets Harden.
Seems like a good trade for every team, with the likely exception of Brooklyn.
Can Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving really work together in Brooklyn? Three superstars have proven to be a quality recipe for NBA supremacy. But three superstars who need the ball in their hands?
Durant has proven to a fabulous player whether he’s initiating offense or not. But Durant has spent the last dozen years in a cocoon -- two franchises with strong cultures, the Thunder and the Warriors. Sure, Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green were head-strong personalities who impacted their teams, mostly for good but not always. But OKC nor Golden State turned into a circus. Durant handled all that well.
Irving helped foster unrest on contending teams in both Cleveland and Boston.
Harden became insufferable, from all reports, in Houston.
And their styles of play seem disjointed. Harden is a total ball stopper. For years, the Rockets have been the Harden show, with four spread to the corners and Harden attacking one-on-one.
The notion that Durant and Harden will work together because of their Thunder days? That’s silly. We’re coming upon nine years since Harden was that back-cut sixth man who helped make the Thunder so charming. Harden hasn’t made a cut, back or not, in at least five years.
With Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook as his teammate the previous two years, Harden often would stand disengaged if either of those premier point guards ran the Houston offense. Both CP3 and Westbrook quickly grew weary of playing with Harden, Paul after two years and Westbrook after one.
Will it be the same with Irving? How could it not be?
Brooklyn will win a bunch of games, because there’s just so much talent. But the Nets have traded LeVert, a superb scorer off the bench, and Allen, a budding force at center.
Forget the future mortgage. The trade just for the players might be questionable for Brooklyn. Throw in all those draft picks, and it seems like a losing proposition for the Nets.
As for Houston, interesting addition, getting Oladipo, a gentle soul who seemed a little out of sorts in Indiana, for reasons I never understood. The Pacers came out of the Paul George trade in great shape, with Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, and now come out with LeVert instead of Oladipo. I’d rather have Oladipo, if healthy, but it’s close.
Oladipo in Houston, teaming with John Wall, will be a skilled and electric tandem, but both have injury histories. There’s some risk there.
All that matters to the Thunder, since OKC has so many future Rocket draft picks and swaps. Houston’s first-round pick in 2021 is headed to the Thunder, unless it’s in the top four, and this trade probably assures Houston won’t be in the top four, unless there’s lottery luck involved. So that’s good for OKC.