By Arjun Pindiprolu
One of the best scorers in the NBA, James Harden, was granted his wish to be traded. The trade included 4 teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers. I will break down the winners and losers of this 4 team trade.
Winner: James Harden
He finally got out of Houston, which took a lot of effort. He skipped training camp, broke NBA quarantine rules, and stayed out of physical shape. Now, he is on a contending team that is one of the favorites to make it out of the Eastern Conference: the Brooklyn Nets. Many view Harden as a ball-dominant player, but he is usually one of the league leaders in assists and has the ability to make plays capable of helping the Durant-led Nets to a championship. He can also run the offense on his own while Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are on the bench. Harden has positioned himself to compete for championships for the next 2-3 years.
Winner: Caris Levert
If it wasn’t for a trade, Levert may have suffered in the long run. Once traded to the Pacers, he underwent an MRI revealing a mass on his kidney. Leevert will be out of basketball indefinitely, but in the long run this trade may benefit his life outside of the court. Once he returns to the court he will play for a dangerous Pacers team destined to make the postseason.
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers gave up Dante Exum and the Bucks first round pick to the Rockets. They got Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from the Nets. A logjam in the front court continued with the addition of Jarrett Allen. Jarrett Allen is a young, bright prospect that the Cavs can use to build their young core. Now, with a starting caliber center they may be able to cut ties with Andre Drummond and Kevin Love via trade. A young core of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman, and Jarrett Allen is scary. Taurean Prince gives Cleveland a veteran presence in the locker room for the young Cavs who have a bright future ahead of them.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
With the acquisition of James Harden, the Nets have catapulted into championship contender status to join the likes of the Lakers, Bucks, and Clippers. They have a big three that is arguably the best in the league, and once they develop chemistry, their team could be deadly. Although they lack depth on their bench which is a glaring weakness, having Harden play while Durant and Irving sit on the bench could mask this problem. Brooklyn now has a championship window of 2-3 years assuming Kyrie doesn’t start any drama.
Loser: Jarrett Allen
A tough situation for Allen as he went from starting for a championship caliber team to barely a playoff contender. Allen now finds himself in a crowded frontcourt in Cleveland including the likes of former All Stars Andre Drummond and Kevin Love, as well as Javale McGee, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, and Isaac Okoro. Cleveland may decide to keep Allen because of his cheaper contract compared to Drummond and Love. Receiving less minutes would also lead to the stunting of his development as a starting center capable of playing many minutes.
Loser: Houston Rockets
Although they gained 4 first round picks, pick swaps, and Victor Oladipo, they lost out on potentially more assets by trading James Harden to the Nets. First, Victor Oladipo’s contract is expiring in a year when the team isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot. The first round picks they gained may be low in the draft, even with the pick swaps, which wouldn’t allow them to rebuild the way Oklahoma City may rebuild. Due to pride reasons, James Harden wasn’t traded to the Sixers because of Daryl Morey. Houston’s owner Tilman Fertitta refused to give Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers. They could have gotten a franchise cornerstone in Ben Simmons rather than a bundle of picks and an expiring contract of Oladipo. Imagining Ben Simmons playing with Christian Wood and John Wall is scary and would have made them a possible playoff contender. The Rockets completely failed in this trade.
Loser: Kyrie Irving
Thought to be the 2nd option on the Nets, Irving has moved to the 3rd option on the team, which clearly doesn’t suit a ball dominant player like him. He has all the intangibles to be a distributor and off ball player, but his ego will most likely prevent him from that. If you want to get the best out of Irving he has to hold on to the ball and shoot a large volume of shots. James Harden is the exact same, just a better version, with the ability to distribute when needed. Irving could also find himself being traded if he doesn’t fit with Harden and Durant. Irving doesn’t play great defensively and could ruin their championship hopes. He may find himself out of Brooklyn soon if he isn’t willing to take a lesser role on the team.