Winners and Losers in the James Harden Trade


Photo by Michael Tipton, used with permission from Google Commons

In a massive four team trade, superstar James Harden was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets.

Jan. 13 brought the first blockbuster trade of the NBA season. Fans had long anticipated this day. After weeks of sulking, gained weight and a lack of effort to start the season, the Houston Rockets yielded to nine time all-star James Harden’s trade demands.

This was a complicated trade, with four teams involved. The Houston Rockets received four first-round picks and the right to swap first-round picks four times as well. They also received Victor Oladipo, an all-star in 2018 and 2019, with Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs thrown in.

The Brooklyn Nets received James Harden and a second-round pick. The Cleveland Cavaliers received promising young center Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince. The Indiana Pacers received Caris Levert and a second round pick. So, who won this trade? Who lost?


James Harden/Brooklyn Nets: It was ugly, but Harden got what he wanted. It involved showing up to training camp out of shape, staying out of shape despite being a professional athlete, insulting teammates and his new head coach in the press, and declaring his team wasn’t good enough. Nevertheless, James Harden is a Brooklyn Net, joining fellow all-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets already had two of the best players in the NBA, Durant and Irving. By adding an MVP like Harden to the mix, they are increasing their chances of winning a title, with potentially the best offense in the league. They gave up some of their bench players, and four first round draft picks and pick swaps, but overall, this is a win for them.

Caris Levert/Indiana Pacers: Levert has spent the last two years in trade rumors for various superstars. He was being used as a trade chip for bigger, better players. In all of these rumors, his skill could get lost. He is a strong defender, and has flashed all-star potential. Finally, he is on a good team in the Pacers that genuinely wants him and a place where he fits well on the current roster. In receiving Levert, the Pacers get a younger player with more potential. Also, Levert will demand less touches and improve the team defensively. Levert’s arrival creates more chances for the Pacers young roster. Domantas Sabonis, Malcom Brogdon and Myles Turner are all young promising players on the Pacers. Brogdon, Sabonis and Turner will have better chances to develop without the presence of Oladipo.


Victor Oladipo: After being a role player for much of his career, Oladpio became an all- star in 2017- 2018 and was the leader of a playoff team that lost narrowly to a Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers team. In 2018-19 he was voted as an all-star again before he ruptured his quadricep. After 19 injury-riddled games last year, he returned to the Pacers and demanded the same touches, shots and usage a star would get. He has performed in between the all-star version of himself, and the shell of himself 2019-20 edition. He has been in trade rumors since the middle of last season, and his preferred destination was the Miami Heat. Instead, he was traded from one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference in the Pacers, to a Rockets team that without Harden, has more questions than answers.

Philadelphia 76ers: After Daryl Morey, former Rockets general manager joined the 76ers this past offseason, there was rampant speculation they would trade for James Harden. This trade was essentially a two team bidding war between the Nets and 76ers. Despite 76ers all-star Ben Simmons being placed in trade rumors, the Rockets chose the potential of future first round picks. From the 76ers perspective, jettisoning Simmons, an additional player, and pick or two would have improved their team. 76ers center Joel Embiid is playing like an MVP to begin the year, averaging 25 points with 11.9 rebounds. Simmons, on the other hand, is averaging some of the worst numbers of his career, and simply doesn’t fit well next to Embiid. Without a reliable jump shot, Simmons leaves Embiid less space to work, by clogging the middle of the court. A player like Harden, who lives on the perimeter, would have further enhanced Embiid’s game. By losing out on Harden, the 76ers may have cost themselves a championship.

Unknown: Jarret Allen

To begin this season, Jarret Allen was in a great position playing on a potential championship team in the Nets. With scorers like Irving and Durant, Allen had no need to worry about offense and could dedicate his energy to defense and rebounding, where he excels. After Wednesday’s trade, he finds himself on a rebuilding Cavaliers team with both Andre Drummond and JaVale Mcgee at center. This seems like a big loss for Allen. But, with further examination, he could turn out alright. Mcgee and Drummond’s contracts both expire at the end of this season. Additionally, Cleveland guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton could likely form a great pick-and-roll partnership with Allen, one of the league’s best finishers at the rim. Also, Garland and Sexton struggle with defense, and will be helped by having a dominant shot-blocker like Allen behind them. Allen won’t be the fifth option offensively, like he was in Brooklyn. He will have a chance to improve his game without the pressure of championship expectations.