Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few days, you may have noticed a certain bearded NBA player involved in a trade. James Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. As my coworker, Rami wrote, “It’s championship or bust season in Brooklyn.” While the trade was exciting and certainly had Twitter buzzing; I’m far more concerned with the repercussions around the trade. Doing a deal with a player of Harden’s caliber and salary isn’t as cut-and-dry as trading player A for player B. This deal included 7 players, 4 unprotected 1st round picks, 4 first-round pick swaps and a second-round pick. Which players involved in the James Harden trade will benefit the most from the change in scenery? Let’s take a look at the ripple effects of the James Harden trade.
Caris LeVert and the Indiana Pacers
As most of my readers (probably know) I’m a huge Celtics fan. Earlier this season, we played two tough, gritty games against the Pacers. The Celtics squeaked out 1 victory and lost another to a Sabonis game-winning layup. That being said, I’m well aware of how dangerous the Pacers can be. Last season, Caris LeVert hung a career-high 51 points to lead the Nets in a comeback victory over my Celtics. Caris LeVert is now a Pacer and I couldn’t be more terrified.
LeVert will pair with Malcolm Brogdon, TJ Warren, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis to form a lethal starting lineup. On the surface, it wouldn’t seem like swapping Oladipo for LeVert would make that much of a difference. Their numbers are similar and they play a similar style. However, the upside with LeVert could be huge. He’s only 26 and aside from his play in the bubble, he has never truly been “unleashed.” Indiana will give him that opportunity.
The Pacers are 7-4 this season. They’ve got the aforementioned win over my Celtics and are currently sitting 4th in the Eastern Conference. Adding LeVert gives them an extra scoring punch and a weapon they’ll need in the playoffs. I’m not willing to go out on a limb and proclaim the Pacers as contenders but I think they will be a lot better going forward. They were tough before the trade and now they’re dangerous as well. Caris LeVert could easily end up the biggest beneficiary of the James Harden trade (among the ancillary pieces at least).
Jarrett Allen and the Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers getting involved with this trade was a savvy move for a franchise not known for such things. On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. The Cavs now have Allen, Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, Kevin Love and Larry Nance on their roster. For a league trending towards pace-and-space, it seems the Cavs are zagging the other direction with their collection of bigs. However, I don’t believe that to be the case for long.
The first casualty will probably be Andre Drummond. It seems likely that the Cavs will begin fielding offers for the talented big man immediately. Cleveland will want to build around its young core and Drummond doesn’t fit that timetable. Trading him for picks and assets seems like the smart move especially since they just got their likely “center of the future” in Jarrett Allen. This same reasoning goes for Javale McGee.
This brings us to the Harden trade. Pairing Allen with Sexland is a brilliant move by this organization. Allen is a burgeoning rim runner with elite shot-blocking skills. He fixes two issues for the Cavs just by stepping on the court. Offensively, he has the ability to set strong screens for the two jitterbug guards as well as roll to the rim with force. Defensively, he’s an eraser on the court. Sexton and Garland are hardly defensive dynamos. Yet, having Allen to clean up their mistakes will allow them to play aggressive, ball-hawking defense that will lead to easy transition baskets. Allen could end up being the best (sneaky) long term move of the James Harden trade.
Victor Oladipo and the Houston Rockets
Now we come to the main beneficiary of the Harden trade, the Houston Rockets. James Harden’s shadow over the franchise is gone. Houston’s future looks bright with the addition of so many first-round picks but losing 25+ points per game will hurt them this season. However, the Rockets picked up a player to help fill that hole. Victor Oladipo wanted out of Indiana (though he did it in a less demonstrative way) and he got his wish. Oladipo now joins the resurgent duo of John Wall and Demarcus Cousins alongside MIP candidate Christian Wood and new coach Stephen Silas.
I wrote the Southwest Division preview but I could have never seen this particular domino falling towards Houston. The Rockets will now go with Wall, Oladipo, David Nwaba, PJ Tucker and Wood in their starting lineup. Obviously, Oladipo is nowhere near the talent that Harden is but at least he’ll give a fuck (hopefully). Wall and Oladipo in the backcourt should be exciting. Wood has been playing great and Boogie looks better every game. Houston isn’t going to do much in the West but the pressure is off now which could lead to improved play. Unless of course, another trade is in the works…
So what do all these Harden ripple effects mean for the rest of this season? Likely not much. Indiana seems to be the big winner in the short term while Cleveland and Houston are looking towards the future. This Harden deal keeps getting compared to Brooklyn’s deal with the Celtics in 2013 but it actually reminds me more of the Carmelo deal from 2011. Just like with Carmelo, a myriad of players got caught in the whirlwind of James Harden’s departure. Players like LeVert and Allen could end up blossoming (like Danilo Gallinari did on the Nuggets) when given more opportunity. Oladipo could end up getting to Miami as he’s wanted to or he could fit in well beside Wall and Eric Gordon in Houston’s backcourt.
As with all trades of this magnitude, time will tell. For now, Brooklyn got what they wanted in Harden despite giving up a King’s ransom for him. However, Brooklyn could end up winning it all this season and it will all have been worth it. It’s these other guys caught up in the whirlpool who we will have to watch in order to fully grade this trade historically.