Will teaming up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving be basketball artistry at work or will it be a beautiful disaster? Who knows! We can't wait to see. In the meantime, here are the biggest winners and losers from the blockbuster trade that completely changes the NBA landscape.
The Rockets were put into an impossible position: they had a superstar player who wanted out and told everyone as much in public appearances. In the end, they got an incredible haul. From the Nets, the Rockets received three first-round picks and four pick-swaps. They also got Caris LeVert. Houston then turned around and sent out LeVert for Victor Oladipo. Not only did Houston get a draft haul worthy of a player of Harden's caliber, they landed a good-to-great player in Oladipo who, if things break right, could be the face of their franchise for years to come. Considering the lack of leverage they had coming into the day, the Rockets have to be happy about this.
Who knows if it'll actually lead to a championship, but Harden got what he asked for. He was clearly disinterested in the court in recent weeks, didn't show up to training camp in shape, and has been a problem in the locker room if DeMarcus Cousins is to be believed. He's reuniting with Kevin Durant on a team with a legitimate title shot. Say what you might about the methods employed, but Harden managed to force his way out and ended up on a winning team in one of the biggest markets in the country.
Indiana slipped in unexpectedly for this deal and managed to land LeVert in exchange for Oladipo. There were rumors Oladipo wanted out before the season began, but Indiana had no interest in trading him unless the return was right. The Pacers were on a ticking clock, though, because Oladipo's contract was up at the end of the year. They found a willing partner in Houston. LeVert can definitely score and is under contract for the next three seasons at a fairly reasonable sum. The pecking order on the team is more firmly established without Oladipo around. The hometown kid story was fun, but LeVert joins a playoff team that looks more dangerous now.
Allen was subjected to one of the more bizarre coaching decisions over the last year and change when he was relegated to the bench behind DeAndre Jordan, whose best days are several years behind him. It's likely due to the fact that Jordan is buddies with Kyrie and KD, and Allen got the short end of the stick. Now he has his chance to shine for a bad Cavaliers team and fits their timeline perfectly. His earning potential just went through the roof as he's going to hit restricted free agency this offseason, and playing in Cleveland will allow him to put up the stats that match his potential as one of the league's better paint protectors and rim-runners.
You may balk at Brooklyn being a loser here. The Nets did just acquire a former MVP to pair with their other former MVP and All-NBA point guard. If it brings even one ring to Brooklyn, it'll be all worth it, no matter the cost. But the sheer amount of picks given up is mind-boggling, not to mention the fact that they're all unprotected. Brooklyn will be without a first-rounder until 2028. 2028! Who knows what the world will look like then?
Durant is 31. So is Harden. Irving is 28. They will all be free agents in 2023. Even if this all goes perfectly and the Nets win several championships, there is a real chance they will be without star power by 2024. And then they won't have a first-round pick for four years after that. Not every superstar ages like LeBron James. There's no way to know how it'll go for now, but the likelihood of that trio leading the Nets to the playoffs into their late 30s is low, and that's assuming there are no chemistry issues that blow it sky-high beforehand. But Brooklyn has banked everything on its ability to do just that.
On the court, Nash is a big winner. You literally cannot go wrong in scheming up plays for a scoring trio of Harden, Durant, and Irving. No matter what he does, the result will be buckets. But off the court ... I mean, my god. Do any of us envy Nash's task to keep everyone happy? Harden just pouted his way out of Houston and Irving has been MIA for an entire week. Durant has his own history of hot and cold behavior towards his teammates. It is going to be a Herculean task to build up chemistry and camaraderie for this new team, and it has to be done on the fly in the middle of a pandemic. It will not be easy, that is for sure.
The on-court product in Brooklyn is going to be fascinating to watch. What we know for sure is that the defense in Brooklyn is not going to be a pretty sight. Kyrie Irving has always been a below-average defender and Harden mostly considers that end of the floor optional. Durant is solid on that end but is also coming off an ruptured Achilles tendon. The Nets might score 160 points a game, but unless everyone locks in or Jordan finds a fountain of youth, they'll be giving up 150 in the process.