After weeks of speculation, the James Harden saga reached a fever pitch Tuesday night when Harden (very publicly) reiterated his desire to be traded out of Houston. Less than 24 hours later, his wish was granted.
As part of a multi-team deal involving the Cavaliers, the Rockets agreed to deal Harden to the Brooklyn Nets, who handed over a massive cache of future draft capital, as well as Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs. Allen and Prince were re-routed to the Cavaliers, while Houston immediately turned around and flipped LeVert to the Pacers in exchange for Victor Oladipo.
Here is how the trade played out from the perspective of all four teams involved, as well as the fantasy implications it will carry:
Nets receive: James Harden
Harden finally got his wish to get out of Houston and to a contender. In joining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets have as much top-end talent as any team in the league. The cliche concern of "there's only one ball" comes into play here, but all three players are fantastic shooters. Durant and Irving have learned to work off-ball before – Durant spending time running around in Golden State and Irving playing next to LeBron James in Cleveland. But, that's clearly not what they want to do.
There will be a usage hit here for everyone, including Harden. On previous superteams, that's been alleviated from a fantasy perspective by increased efficiency and, sometimes, more assists.
The question everyone probably wants to know the answer to is: Who is the Chris Bosh? I have a hard time imagining it being Harden, even though he's the one joining the team. I also think Durant is too good to just stand in the corner while Harden and Irving go one-on-one, even if he's theoretically the best one to do so because of his pure shooting ability. That leaves Irving, who is the least talented of the three and the least consistently available given his extensive injury history. He might be comparable to late-stage Big 3 Dwyane Wade in that sense.
The irony of the situation is that Durant left the Warriors to have the ball more and Irving left Cleveland because he was sick of being the little brother to LeBron James. Now they've ended up in another situation where they'll be competing for touches. Good or bad, this will be a whirlwind. Good luck to Steve Nash.
Fantasy-wise, it's again Irving who likely takes the biggest hit. But who knows when he'll even rejoin the Nets, so for the time being, Harden and Durant should be an extremely productive two-man show.
The real winner here is DeAndre Jordan. He lost his starting spot to Jarrett Allen last week and will now be thrust back into the lineup and into a much larger role, overall. The Nets gutted their depth to acquire Harden, so Jordan is currently the only true center on the roster, outside of 2019 second-round pick, Nic Claxton. Brooklyn will probably add another big man, but it's unlikely to be anyone who truly moves the needle. - Alex Barutha
Rockets receive: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, four first-round draft picks (unprotected), four draft swaps (unprotected)
Even if you'd rather Houston kept LeVert instead of flipping him for Oladipo, this is an extremely strong haul for a player who did virtually everything he could to back the organization into a corner. Oladipo should help the Rockets immensely in the short-term, and the cache of draft picks measures up well against the other superstar mega-packages in recent years.
Ultimately, are the 2020-21 Rockets better without James Harden? Probably not, but the toxicity of Harden had clearly infected the rest of the roster, so there's a case to be made that this is a textbook addition by subtraction situation. Harden is, of course, a vastly better player than Oladipo, but Oladipo has looked much better this season, compared to when we last saw him in the bubble. A core of Oladipo, John Wall, Eric Gordon, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins should still be enough to challenge for a playoff spot in the West.
Fantasy-wise, this should be a mostly lateral move for Oladipo, who goes from sharing touches with Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis to doing the same with Wall, Wood and – to a lesser degree – Gordon and Cousins. Both Wall and Gordon could receive slight fantasy boosts with Harden gone, but more than anything else, the improvement could come from Houston playing a better and more productive brand of basketball. - Nick Whalen
Cavaliers receive: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
If there's a major loser in the deal, other than Steve Nash, it's Jarrett Allen. It was only eight days ago that Allen finally pried the starting center gig away from DeAndre Jordan. His reward for averaging a double-double on 71 percent shooting? A trade to Cleveland, Ohio.
With Andre Drummond, Larry Nance, JaVale McGee and Kevin Love on the roster, Allen goes from a very good fantasy situation to one of the most complicated in the league. He and Drummond are vastly different players, but they're relatively comparable as fantasy assets. Drummond has a much higher counting-stat ceiling, while Allen is far less of a liability when it comes to percentages.
The problem is the two can't necessarily play together – or, rather, they shouldn't play together. Neither player is capable of spacing the floor for a team devoid of elite shooting all over the roster. With Love (calf) still sidelined indefinitely, the Cavs will get creative and probably try some two-center lineups, but something will have to give once Love returns. If you're a Drummond or Allen manager, hoping one of them is dealt before the deadline is probably the best-case scenario. - Nick Whalen
Pacers receive: Caris LeVert
Victor Oladipo wanted out of Indiana, and the Pacers were able to do surprisingly well in grabbing LeVert from the Nets. The immediate concern for Indiana's title hopes – which I would argue are semi-legitimate given how this season is going – is that LeVert was discounted because he's always hurt, having played just 225 regular-season games since his 2016-17 rookie year. He's also not nearly the defender Oladipo is.
Still, if the 26-year-old can continue rounding into form and stay relatively healthy, this will have been a good swap for the Pacers. LeVert fits right into the shooting guard spot next to Malcolm Brogdon, where Oladipo was taking a similar amount of shots and handing out assists at a slightly-less-but-comparable rate. So, LeVert's usage probably doesn't take a major hit, and he can probably run the second unit like he often did in Brooklyn. - Alex Barutha