James Harden Dealt to Nets in Blockbuster Trade as Brooklyn Becomes Instant NBA Title Contender

Harden finally got his wish and will be leaving Houston

James Harden Dealt to Nets in Blockbuster as Brooklyn
James Harden warms up before a game against Portland.
Getty Images

After requesting a trade this offseason, James Harden was finally able to shoot (and eat) his way out of town.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on Wednesday afternoon that Harden is heading to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a package of players and picks in a deal that involves multiple other teams.

It is a bit convoluted, but here’s the breakdown (so far) courtesy of Shams Charania:

Nets get: Harden

Rockets get: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, three unprotected first-round picks from Brooklyn (’22, ’24, and ’26), one unprotected first round-pick from Milwaukee (’22), four unprotected first-round swaps from Brooklyn (’21, ’23, ’25, and ’27)

Pacers get: Caris LeVert and a second-round pick from Cleveland

Cavaliers get: Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince

Now teaming in Brooklyn with his former teammate Kevin Durant and All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, Harden will play in what is probably the best “Big Three” in the NBA today. (Harden may give that phrase new meaning.) Adding Harden to the duo of Durant and Irving, on paper at least, makes the Nets the odds-on favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference and a legit title contender, despite their now-weak bench.

While we won’t see the trio of stars together on the court this week as there are COVID-19 trade protocols to work through and Irving is still out for “personal reasons,” Durant, Irving and Harden sharing the court is a scary combination for opposing defense. How they’ll share the ball may also be a frightening issue for first-time head coach Steve Nash to work out, but there are worse problems to have.

Of course, that is assuming that Irving does eventually return to the team, which, as of now, does not seem like an iron-clad guarantee.

While we’d wager Irving will make his way back onto the court this season for Brooklyn, we’re far from certain he will be able to mesh with Harden the way the Nets likely imagine.

Durant, thanks to his time playing on the Warriors with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, should have no issue slotting in alongside Harden and Irving and tailoring his game to complement his fellow scorers.

But how Irving, who has been a complete putz this season, and Harden, who has been a larger version of the same, are able to handle playing together, especially under the watchful eye of the New York media, is far less assured.

It should be a fascinating situation to watch throughout the rest of the season.

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