The NBA never ceases to amaze in dramatics.
Fireworks were set off earlier today when superstar James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a 4-team blockbuster deal.
How Did We Get Here?
After a second round playoff exit at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Houston Rockets were in for a busy offseason.
Houston would move on from general manager Daryl Morrey and head coach Mike D’Antoni decided to leave the Rockets in favor of joining the Nets coaching staff as an assistant coach.
Houston brought in Stephen Silas as a replacement for D’Antoni.
Star point guard Russel Westbrook was packaged to the Washington Wizards in return for John Wall, who is coming off a torn Achilles and a protected first round pick.
This series of events would lead to frustration from James Harden towards the Rockets organization.
Harden would go on to miss the start of training camp in favor of celebrating rapper Lil Baby’s birthday at a night club, sending a clear message that he no longer wants to be in Houston and is disappointed at the direction that they are going.
To add onto it, when Harden finally arrived in Houston, he showed up clearly overweight and unmotivated to play for his team.
It wouldn’t be until after Tuesday’s game against the Los Angles Lakers where the Rockets lost 117-100 where Harden, for the first time, would publicly state his trade demands to the media and creating a further divide between his teammates.
Harden stated “I love this city. I’ve literally done everything I can. This situation is crazy. I don’t think it can be fixed.”
Teammate John Wall would add to the turmoil, calling out Harden with “It’s only been nine games. Come on man, you want to jump off the cliff after nine games?”
Ultimately, once Harden’s demands were made public, Houston felt it was in their best interest to get a deal done immediately.
Houston went as far as not allowing Harden to practice or be with the team till there was a deal made.
Throughout the season only two teams really stood out as potential landing spots for the disgruntled superstar. The Brooklyn Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
It would be the Brooklyn Nets who would strike.
With so many moving parts in this deal, what does this mean for the teams involved?
The Brooklyn Nets
Heading into the season, Brooklyn was regarded as one of the top contenders to come out of the East.
With bringing back superstar small forward Kevin Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving from injury along with the strong nucleus that Brooklyn built over the years, they are in contention for years to come.
However, Irving has been away from the team for a week due to personal reasons and the team has had limited contact with the star point guard since his departure.
Irving was spotted at a family birthday party and is being investigated on whether or not he violated the NBA’s COVID protocol.
According to multiple sources, Irving has grown frustrated at the Nets organization for the hiring of head coach Steve Nash and has become distant with his friend and teammate Kevin Durant.
In regards to the trade, Brooklyn sacrifices their future and depth for star power. Creating one of the most if not the most deadly offensive trio in league history with Durant, Irving and now Harden.
Durant, coming off an Achilles tear has shown little to no rust and seems to be close to his MVP self that he was pre injury. Durant also has prior chemistry with James Harden as the two got to an NBA Finals before as a part of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Irving’s offensive talent has always been jaw dropping to watch and if he decides to rejoin the Nets soon, this offense has the potential to be scary good to go along with Harden.
The question that looms large is can this Big 3 coexist? There’s only one ball to go around and players like the caliber of James Harden and Kyrie Irving need the ball in their hands to be effective, while also looking to get touches for Durant during the flow of the game.
But that’s the risk teams are willing to take in order to capture a championship.
With acquiring someone of the talent of a James Harden, teams must be willing to mortgage their future and depth which is what Brooklyn did.
Losing Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, 4 first round picks and 4 pick swaps that span over the next 7 years leaves a big question to what Brooklyn’s future is 3 years from now, but it was a risk the Nets were willing to take.
Essentially, the Nets have the next two years as their window to win a championship as Durant, Irving and Harden all have player options after next season and can take their talents elsewhere if they choose.
It’s championship or bust for the Nets. Let’s see what happens
The Houston Rockets
While operating from a position of weakness the Rockets came out looking pretty good for themselves.
It remains to be seen what the 8 first round sections the Rockets acquired will bring, but it’s safe to say the Rockets have a good sense of direction following the Harden Era.
Acquiring a former All Star and two-way player like Victor Oladipo is a nice filler at the two guard spot.
Houston also acquired guard Dante Exum and forward Rodions Kurucs who look to be viable bench pieces for the Rockets.
Obviously Oladipo isn’t the offensive talent that Harden is, but bringing in more defense and bringing in a guy who won’t disrupt team chemistry as Harden did is something that the Rockets should be happy about.
Oladipo may not be the same player he was pre injury, however, he’s quietly had a productive year averaging 20.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG on the year. His best numbers since the injury.
The combination of Wall, Oladipo and power forward Christian Wood, who may be the most underrated signing in free agency creates a nice trio for Houston who could make a push for the playoffs after a slow start to the season.
However, Oladipo is an expiring contract and it’ll be interesting to see the approach Houston takes.
Do they look to extend Oladipo and have him apart of their future moving forward? Or do they look to move him at the trade deadline to acquire younger talent and draft picks?
Whichever route Houston ends up taking they seem to be content with the fact that Harden is off the team and they can focus on themselves now.
The Indiana Pacers
The question that loomed over the heads of the Indiana Pacers heading into the season was what were they going to do with Victor Oladipo.
Multiple reports surfaced that Oladipo was unhappy in Indiana and that he was even telling other teams to trade for him.
As a result, Indiana decided to not take the risk of losing their franchise shooting guard in free agency and send him to the Rockets as part of the 4-team deal for Caris LeVert and a second rounder.
LeVert is a dynamic scorer who has had to take on a bigger role this season as teammate Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the season with a partially torn ACL and Kyrie Irving being away from the team.
He was exceptional in the Bubble last season and continues to show true improvement this season.
Levert is under contract for the next 3 seasons and will be a nice piece that’ll compliment All Star power forward Domantas Sabonis, former rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon and center Myles Turner.
The Pacers go a little bit younger at the 2 and have a team that’ll continue to be right in the mix in the middle of the Eastern Conference Playoff picture for years to come.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland seems to fall under the radar a little bit in this blockbuster.
Acquiring a young, shot blocking center at the age of 22 in Jarrett Allen is an underrated acquisition for this young Cavalier team to go along with forward Taurean Prince who can provide scoring and three point shooting off the bench.
Allen and Prince along with dynamic guard Colin Sexton, rookie Isaac Okoro out of Auburn and guard Darius Garland create a young and exciting team for the future.
Yet it begs the question as to what does Cleveland do with their big man situation?
With Andre Drummond on the final year of his contract does Cleveland look to deal him to a playoff team potentially or do they see him as part of their future moving forward?
Former All Star power forward Kevin Love, who has been in trade rumors over the last couple years, does he seem to be heading elsewhere? Or are the Cavaliers willing to work with this big man rotation moving forward?
Love is 32 years old on a big contract and is starting to head out of his prime.
The Cavaliers have an exciting young team, but their front office may have more questions to answer as the season progresses.
The excitement that surrounds the NBA continues to grow with a newly formed Big 3 in Brooklyn. A lot of people will be tuning in to see how this trio performs and how championship contenders will adjust to what has transpired.
Do championship contenders look to make moves to counter the Nets and make a run in the short term or do they stay content with what they have and look to the future as their window to win a championship?
Only time will tell.