James Harden trade: Rockets send All-Star to Nets in four-team deal involving Cavaliers and Pacers, per report

James Harden trade: Rockets send All-Star to Nets in four-team deal involving Cavaliers and Pacers, per report

James Harden is getting the trade he wanted. The Houston Rockets are sending their former MVP to the Brooklyn Nets in a massive blockbuster deal that includes four teams and multiple star players, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania

The Rockets will receive four first-round picks and four-pick swaps, all unprotected. Those picks will come from Brooklyn in 2022, 2024 and 2026 along with Milwaukee in 2022 (previously owned by Cleveland), and the swaps will come from Brooklyn in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027. They will also receive Rodions Kurucs and Dante Exum. Additionally, Caris LeVert will be sent to the Indiana Pacers, who will send Victor Oladipo to the Rockets. Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince will go to Cleveland in the deal. 

Harden has been pushing for a trade to the Nets, specifically, since initially requesting a trade during the offseason. He played with Kevin Durant with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first three seasons of his career, and now that the two of them have reunited, Brooklyn should have the NBA‘s best offense by far. 

Considering how much they just gave up, though, the Nets still have work to do if they plan to build an all-around contender. After a hot start defensively, the Nets have given up 113.2 points per 100 possessions in their past eight games, ranking 25th in the league in that span. Harden is not known for his defense, and neither are most of the role players that remain in place. Still, the Harden-Durant pairing with a practically limitless supply of shooting should give Brooklyn quite a bit of leeway as they are likely to have the NBA’s best offense. 

That should only be confirmed when Kyrie Irving returns, but the fringe benefit of this deal for Brooklyn is that Harden provides a measure of insurance against either injury or personal absence on Irving’s part. The Nets have two offensive superstars regardless of what happens with Irving now, and in all likelihood, will enter the playoffs with three of them. 

The Rockets, meanwhile, appear headed for a full-scale rebuild, and it was one that they needed considering the assets they’ve already lost. Houston owes first-round picks to the Thunder in 2024 and 2026, as well as swap rights in 2021 and 2025, and with no path to immediate contention in sight, needed to use Harden to refill their coffers. They’ve done so with this deal, earning full control over Brooklyn’s draft capital through 2027. The Nets may be dominant now, but once they age, those picks are going to become quite valuable. Meanwhile, in acquiring Oladipo, they’ve given themselves a path to short-term relevance. He and John Wall may both have injury concerns, but at their best, they are both All-Star-caliber players. 

The deal may not grant the Rockets the franchise centerpiece they’d been hoping for, but it gives them more freedom to rebuild at their own pace without necessarily tanking. It will be a frustrating few years in Houston, but once Harden publicly declared the situation unfixable, the Rockets had no choice but to move on a deal. They’ve done so now, and in the process helped two other teams in need of retooling. 

The Pacers were proactive in turning Oladipo, who will be a free agent at season’s end, into LeVert, who is under contract through the 2022-23 season. The budget-conscious Pacers will now pay LeVert only $52.5 million over the next three seasons when they might have had to give Oladipo the max to keep him. The Cavaliers were in a somewhat similar position with Andre Drummond, whose contract expires after the season as well. They’ve replaced him with Allen, whose contract expires as well this offseason, but who is a restricted free agent. Cleveland can match any offer sheet made to him, and as he is only 22 years old, he fits the timeline of Cleveland’s young lottery picks, Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro

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