Trade grades are one of the most fun aspects of blockbuster deals. In one of the most anticipated moves of the season, James Harden of the Houston Rockets has finally been traded. Harden got his wish and will play for the Brooklyn Nets with his former teammate Kevin Durant. After two blowout losses in a row to the Los Angeles Lakers, Harden was officially done giving Houston chances. They had dropped to 3-6 and their chances of contending for a title this season were slim to none.
Not 24 hours later, the deal was done. Harden to the Nets is the headliner but there is plenty of intrigue with the other parts of the deal. Let’s take a look at who went where and examine how much every team benefited from this trade.
James Harden Trade Grades
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the smallest role in the trade but may have come out as the biggest winners. They gave up a future Milwaukee first-round pick, a second-round pick, and Dante Exum for Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen. While none of these are big names, Allen is an absolute stud. Allen is averaging a double-double and 1.6 blocks per game while making over 67 percent of his field-goal attempts in this young season. All that in only 26 minutes per game.
The Cavaliers got one of the best young centers in the league for two picks that will likely amount to nothing and a below-average guard. Not to mention the fact that Prince is a solid wing shooter who can help a Cavaliers team that is riddled with injuries.
Arguably the biggest surprise is the inclusion of the Indiana Pacers in this trade. Coming out of nowhere, Indiana gave up Victor Oladipo to Houston for Caris LeVert and a second-round pick. Second-rounders are basically worthless so this was an insurance policy for Indiana. Now they do not have to worry about Oladipo leaving them in the summer since LeVert is signed until the summer of 2023. While he is a downgrade from Oladipo, LeVert is two years younger and will be significantly cheaper. This hurts the Pacers’ ceiling for this season but probably helps them in the long term.
The Rockets claimed they wanted a blue-chip prospect in return for someone as valuable as Harden. After all, he is an MVP caliber player. Instead, the Rockets settled for four first-round picks, four pick swaps, Oladipo, Exum, and Rodions Kurucs. Yikes. Yes, that is a lot of picks and maybe one or two of them will actually become a top 10 pick. However, there is no surefire great piece here outside of Oladipo, who is already 28-years-old and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he leaves, the Rockets are huge losers in this trade. Especially when there was potential for a Ben Simmons deal.
There are so many factors to consider when deciding the trade grades for Brooklyn. In isolation, simply looking at who the Nets gave up for what they got, this is a huge win. Players like Harden do not become available every year or even every decade. So giving up a boatload of picks doesn’t really matter much. Most of the picks traded, if not all, will end up as role players. Even if the later picks in 2025 or 2027 turn out to be lottery picks, it will be worth it if the Nets can compete for a title right now.
Durant is already 32-years-old. Who knows when he will fall off from his superstar status, so you need to give your team the best possible chance to win a title while he is elite. The Nets did just that by acquiring a third All-NBA caliber player. Even if you think LeVert and Allen have All-Star potential, then you still make this deal 10 out of 10 times. In superstar trades, the team that wins the trade is almost always the team that gets the best player. Harden is by far the best player in this trade.
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