With all the turmoil that has surrounded James Harden this season —from showing up late to training camp to demanding a trade— it wasn’t a surprise to hear that ‘the Beard’ was finally on the move.
The Brooklyn Nets were always one of the rumored landing spots for the former 2018 MVP winner, along with the Philadelphia 76ers.
However, the NBA’s landscape changed on Wednesday afternoon when it was announced that the Nets were acquiring Harden in a four-team deal.
The trade comes less than 24 hours after Harden told the media that he didn’t believe that the Rockets were “good enough” after the team lost a 117-100 game to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Aside from the Rockets and Nets, the trade itself also involved the Indiana Pacers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Below is what each of those four teams acquired through the deal:
- James Harden (via HOU)
- 2024 second-round pick (via CLE)
- Victor Oladipo (via IND)
- Dante Exum (via CLE)
- Rodions Kurucs (via BKN)
- Three unprotected first-round picks via BKN (2022, 2024, 2026)
- Four pick swaps via BKN (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)
- 2022 CLE first-round pick (via BKN from the Milwaukee Bucks)
- Jarrett Allen (via BKN)
- Taurean Prince (via BKN)
- Caris LeVert (from HOU via BKN)
- 2023 second-round pick (via HOU)
Harden will be paired alongside his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant, as well as Kyrie Irving. The trade gives the Nets a “Big 3” that the league hasn’t seen since Durant teamed up with Stephen Curry and Play Thompson, or at least since the Miami Heat “Big 3.”
The trade leaves the Nets with three roster spots open, which means they may see a lack of depth until they make some signings or trades to fill out the roster. A few options that they have to add bodies to the team are using a $5.7 million mid-level exception and a $ 5.7 million disability exception.
Nets now the favorites to win the Eastern Conference
Despite the Nets’ new lack of depth due to the trade, the acquisition of a superstar player like Harden has increased their odds of winning the Eastern Conference, according to FanDuel.
FanDuel lists the Nets as having +270 odds to win the NBA Championship, surpassing the Milwaukee Bucks, who now sit at +700, as the Eastern Conference favorites.
The only team the Nets have lower odds than league-wide are the Los Angeles Lakers, who are the favorites to win the NBA Championship at +260.
Anything can change as the league is still over two months away from the trade deadline, meaning the Nets still have a lot of time to become the favorites.
Nets need to win now
The last thing the Nets want is for the Harden trade to become another Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade.
Just as a refresher, the Nets traded for Pierce and Garnett in 2013, sending three first-round picks and more to the Boston Celtics. In the end, the trade backfired on the Nets and the Celtics, through using the picks for drafting and trades, ended up with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum — two cornerstones on their team.
The Nets can’t afford to have that happen again.
Obviously, Harden is better now than Pierce and Garnett were at the time, but if the Nets don’t win the NBA Championship in the next few years, what will the point be?
Harden has two years left on his deal, plus a player option for a third that would make him a free agent after the 2022-23 season.
Irving and Durant (should he take his player option) would both become free agents after the 2022-23 season as well, meaning that if all three superstars choose to leave if the Nets don’t win a championship soon, this trade could spell disaster from Brooklyn’s future.
With that being said, there are still many games to play before that point and until then, all eyes will be on Harden’s Nets debut whenever that happens.