Winners and losers of the James Harden trade


Houston Rockets dealt franchise cornerstone James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.

Varun Vishnubhotla and Mihir Kulkarni

Shockwaves rippled through the NBA when the Houston Rockets agreed to deal franchise cornerstone James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster. The trade placed all-star Victor Oladipo with the Rockets, along with four first-round picks and four pick swaps, a massive haul for a player even of Harden’s caliber. Just as the league began planning for the Nets’ onslaught of offensive talent, the rich only got richer, while the Rockets decided to hit the reset button after meddling in the dreaded “wild card” position for the last eight seasons.

To meet the NBA’s salary cap regulations, the Nets were forced to bring in the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers, two teams that are looking to develop their young cores. The Nets dealt their rising star Caris Levert, Rodions Kurucs and an assortment of first round picks until 2027 to Houston. Additionally, the Nets gave up promising big man Jarret Allen and key role player Taurean Prince to Cleveland, who sent a first-round pick and Dante Exum to Houston in return. The Rockets then flipped Levert and a second-round pick for Indiana’s Oladipo. But who were the real winners and losers of this mind-boggling trade?


Winner: James Harden

Disagreeing with Harden’s off-court antics is understandable, but Harden got what he wanted. After reportedly throwing basketballs at his teammates and condemning the front office in public interviews, Harden is on his way to the Nets, set to play with his close friends Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. When this whole saga began, the Nets were Harden’s first choice, so it would be unlikely for him to continue this behavior given his already awful reputation. In terms of his value as a team player he can only go up, but his eye-popping stats might take a slight dip considering the talent that is now around him. 


Winner: Steve Nash

For any head coach, especially for a first year head coach, the goal is always to win a championship. Nash could be next in the line of Hall of Fame coaches who’ve won a championship as rookie coaches. The talent is definitely there. With three of the greatest scorers to ever suit up in NBA jerseys, Nash has a team that most coaches could only dream of. Managing his stars’ inflated egos will present a major challenge, however, as both Harden and Irving have been known to be locker room disruptors. Unlocking the right balance between the three and keeping them engaged on the defensive end will help the Nets achieve their lofty goals. This trade is a perfect opportunity for Nash to cement his legacy beyond his playing days, but there will be immense pressure to deliver.


Loser: NBA

The NBA has made an effort to eliminate superteams from the mix with its anti-tampering rules, but it’s clear that none of them are working. Star players are demanding trades left and right, and the NBA stands helpless in restoring the power balance. Loyalty has become largely non-existent, and it is becoming increasingly worrisome that a team’s beloved star can throw a tantrum to get his way. This is especially concerning for small market teams, as stars overwhelmingly choose large coastal markets to team up with other superstars. It is time for the NBA to revise its rules on tampering and trade demands as the league’s officials are becoming push-overs to the biggest and brightest stars. 


Loser: Eastern Conference Contenders

In what seemed to be a relatively open conference, many teams in the East liked their chances of making it to the finals. This all changes now that the Nets have Harden, and it will be an uphill battle for any team to beat them in a seven-game series. Teams like the Bucks, who gave up major assets to try and improve their team, will now have a serious roadblock in their path. Other contenders may now be forced to go all-in and trade away future assets in order to compete with the Nets. These kinds of moves can be extremely risky, so teams will have to make the difficult decision to maintain control of their future or put all their chips on the table. 


Loser: Kyrie Irving 

Irving is undoubtedly the biggest enigma in the NBA. A key piece in the greatest finals comeback ever, Irving has become more associated with his controversial comments than with his play on the court, and deservingly so. It seems that every year Irving creates conflict with his teammates, simply because he can’t put his ego aside. We saw it with the Cavaliers, where he couldn’t play second-fiddle to LeBron James, despite winning a championship. We saw it with the Boston Celtics, where he grew unhappy with all-stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s emergence onto the national scene. There were even reports of discontent last year with the Nets, which resulted in the firing of Head Coach Kenny Atkinson. With another ball-dominant star, Harden, added to the roster, Irving’s touches are sure to decrease, and history tells us that Irving could become unhappy, just as he did on his other two teams. NBA fans are growing increasingly agitated with Irving’s actions, and it would be in his best interest to make this trio work.