Here are details of Harden trade, and how it affects Bulls originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The James Harden saga has reached its conclusion (we think), and it ends with the maligned superstar a Brooklyn Net.
Here are the details as best we can glean from The Athletic's Shams Charania's reporting. It's a doozy:
And here's a quick attempt to summarize the logic for each party involved:
- Rockets: Control over the Nets' next seven drafts (along with that Bucks pick) is plenty appealing. Brooklyn's current nucleus -- Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving -- won't keep those picks in the late 20s for long. Fliers on Exum, Kurucs and, last but not least, Victor Oladipo, are gravy. Oladipo is off to a hot start to a contract year and figures to fit snugly alongside to an invigorated John Wall and emboldened Christian Wood. The Rockets can be decent now and the cupboard is loaded for the future, especially if they eventually look to flip P.J. Tucker. With Allen's deal expiring (and Wood locked in long term), swapping him for even a late first makes sense.
- Nets: Question the fit, interpersonal tenability and Kyrie Irving's whereabouts all you want, the title window is wide open. Harden replaces Caris LeVert. Allen (in a contract year), Taurean Prince and Kurucs represent small additional price to pay. The draft picks are... not. But if you're serious about winning one or multiple championships, this is sometimes the cost. The Nets are. And, to be honest, they're not completely depleted:
On plenty of nights, that team is going to allow 140 points. And feature a lot of DeAndre Jordan. But they should also be the Eastern Conference favorites. Your top eight is all that matters come postseason time. With the Irving situation pending, three of theirs are generational talents.
- Cavaliers: Beautiful work by Koby Altman and company. With Giannis Antetokounmpo entrenched with the Bucks, that 2022 Milwaukee first has little to no chance of falling higher than the Nos. 25-30 range. Jarrett Allen is really good and still 22. Yes, they now have approximately 74 centers on the roster. But how many are long-term pieces? Andre Drummond's contract is expiring. JaVale McGee? Thon Maker? If Allen pops, they got him with house money. Taurean Prince can aid a depleted wing rotation.
- Pacers: Get out from under an Oladipo extension decision, and slide in a younger, less expensive, longer team-controlled (LeVert is set to make $17.5 million in 2021-22 and $18.8 million in 2022-23) wing scorer that displayed cajones of steel in the bubble last season? Looks solid. Second-rounders are cool.
Oh, and the Rockets and Pacers got under the luxury tax. Proud of them.
We know what you're thinking. I'm reading this on NBC Sports Chicago... How does any of the above affect the Bulls? The answer is: Marginally.
Yes, the middle-to-top of the Eastern Conference was just seismically shaken. But the Bulls aren't in that stratosphere for the foreseeable future.
Two division "rivals" made prudent moves? Not a needle-mover.
Should the Bulls have been on the Harden sweepstakes? Any player of his caliber is worth seriously discussing. But mortgaging their future to the extent Brooklyn did without guaranteeing title contention in the next two seasons -- after which, Harden could walk -- would have been a massive risk. We've seen how the unhappy Harden experience can go.
(The Bulls also, of course, could have played a similar faciliatory role as Cleveland. But with possession of only their own first round picks moving forward, their circumstances are not analogous.)
The elephant in the room is Zach LaVine's status. Last offseason saw suitors reportedly take the Bulls' temperature on parting with their best player and, in turn, thrusting into full rebuild mode. LaVine's contract expires after next season. While he's 25 and still improving, he's a few years beyond the rest of the young core's timeline. And, the way he's playing, he'd likely fetch a haul. It's a possibility worth considering.
With Harden traded, LaVine and Bradley Beal now grab center stage in the 'premiere perimeter shot creator and scorer that could become available' market -- which the Nets have also now exited. LaVine's perception probably continues to lag behind Beal's on a leaguewide basis. But he's come out the gate scorching this season, with glances of defensive and playmaking improvements. His value is growing, and he'd clearly be an asset to almost any team come playoff time (especially one with an established lead creator for him to play off of).
The Bulls could also opt to continue building around their budding star. There's no urgency yet, the new front office is in evaluation mode and -- really, it bears repeating -- LaVine has improved every season he's been in Chicago. It's early, but the 2020-21 campaign, LaVine's first under Billy Donovan, doesn't look like it will be an exception.
Still, it's something to track. For now, let's allow the dust to gently settle on one of the most bizarre soap operas in recent NBA history.