Winners, losers from James Harden to Brooklyn blockbuster trade

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The NBA drama never stops.

After months of knowing James Harden wanted a trade out of Houston but talks around the league moving at a glacial pace, the climate changed quickly in the last few days. Maybe it was Kyrie Irving being away from Brooklyn, maybe it was Harden’s postgame slamming of the Rockets, but this deal came together in just a couple of days.

It morphed into a blockbuster four-team trade — with the Pacers and Cavaliers jumping in — that breaks down this way:

• Brooklyn gets James Harden
• Houston gets Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, and Rodions Kurucs; unprotected Brooklyn Nets first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026; the 2022 Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick (via Cleveland); and unprotected Nets pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027.
• Indiana gets Caris LeVert and a 2023 second-round pick from Houston.
• Cleveland gets Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince.

Who won and who lost in the Harden trade? Let’s break it down.

Winner: James Harden

Harden got what he wanted. From the start, he wanted out of Houston and to play on a contender with his friend and former teammate Kevin Durant. That wish came true.

Will Harden be happy in Brooklyn? How long will it take to play himself into shape? Will he just blend in around Williamsburg with the other bearded hipsters? There’s a lot of questions to answer, but Harden wins because he got what he wanted.

Now we’ll see what he does with it.

Winner: the Brooklyn Nets offense

Talent wins out in the NBA.

We can debate the fit of three isolation heavy players in Harden, Irving, and Durant — this is where you can insert your “there’s only one basketball” joke. We can debate whether Harden is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to win a championship (Durant and Irving have both done that, even if neither seemed particularly happy about it).

But Brooklyn now has three elite offensive players, plus they have a sharpshooter in Joe Harris to help space the floor. They have three stars that may do the most damage in isolation but who can play off the ball. They should be able to have at least one of the game’s great scorers on the court for all 48 minutes.

Mike D’Antoni — a Nets assistant coach — believes elite talent figures out how to play together, how to make it work. If that’s true, Brooklyn will have the best offense in the NBA. And that makes them a threat to win it all.

Loser: Brooklyn Nets defense

The Brooklyn Nets defense isn’t good right now — it’s been 23rd in the league over the past eight games (stats via Cleaning the Glass) — and they just sent out their best defender and rim protector in Allen. Brooklyn is already a bottom 10 defensive rebounding team, and they just shipped out their best rebounder in Allen.

DeAndre Jordan, when healthy enough to play, is not making up that difference.

Effort can cover some of these defensive issues in the regular season. Durant is a good defender; Irving showed more effort on that end of the floor this season (until he went MIA). But there are not many good defenders, not a lot of depth anymore on this roster (especially after Spencer Dinwiddie‘s injury).

Even if Brooklyn’s offense comes together with its three superstars, will the defense be good enough to win the East (let alone beat the Lakers or whoever comes out of the West)? I’m not convinced it is. If the Nets defense isn’t good enough, they just gave up a lot of draft picks to get marginally better.

Loser: Steve Nash

Nash the player was a relatively ego-less superstar.

These Nets? Harden has had a franchise wrapped around his little finger in Houston for eight years, then just forced his way out the door. The Nets aren’t totally sure where Kyrie Irving is or when he is coming back. Durant has run hot and cold with coaches, teammates, front offices, and fans over the years.

Do you want the job of getting all of them to pull the rope in the same direction?

Winner: The other Rockets’ players

Think they were a little sick of Harden’s pouting, trade-me antics? This is DeMarcus Cousins after Tuesday’s game (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle):

“The disrespect started way before any interview,” Cousins said [referring to what Harden said about the Rockets after their latest loss to the Lakers. “Just the approach to training camp, showing up the way he did, his antics off the court, the disrespect started way before. This isn’t something that all of a sudden happened last night.

“It’s a way about having business. He can feel however he wants to feel about the organization, whatever his past situation is. The other 14 guys in the locker room have done nothing to him. For us to be on the receiving end of some of the disrespectful comments and the antics, it is completely unfair to us. We showed up to work. It’s completely unfair to the rest of the guys in the locker room.”

John Wall added:

“When you have certain guys in the mix who don’t want to buy in, all as one, it’s going to be hard to do anything special, to do anything good as a basketball team… We can’t dwell down on it because it’s only been nine games. Come on man, you want to jump off a cliff after nine games?”

The rest of the Rockets will tell Harden not to let the door hit his a** on the way out the door.

Winner: Houston Rockets with the draft picks

Houston wanted a cargo ship full of draft picks in a Harden trade, and they got them. This is a haul worthy of trading away an MVP. Brooklyn wants to win now and pushed nearly every tradable asset into the pile to make this deal happen.

The 2022 picks — both the Brooklyn and Milwaukee first rounders — are likely late in the first round. But by 2024, we will see if this trade worked out for Brooklyn, if this trio aged well (and all of them decided to stay in Brooklyn) because if they didn’t, those last couple of picks could be very good ones.

By the summer of 2026, Durant will be 37 and Harden will be 35. If they are with the Nets still, how good will they be? Those picks down the line could be great ones for Houston.

Loser: Houston Rockets with the players they picked up

Houston was never high on Caris LeVert and it showed — rather than bring him in, the Rockets found a third team to take him on.

Why?

LeVert just averaged 31 points and nine rebounds a game in the three games both Durant and Irving missed in the past week. He’s no Harden — he’s not efficient like you need a No. 1 option to be — but he is a volume scorer who can get buckets, play an important role on a team, and is under contract for two more seasons after this one at a reasonable number ($36.3 million total for those seasons).

Oladipo is a former All-NBA player but has not returned to that form since his ruptured quadriceps tendon, he’s not scoring a lot more points and is barely more efficient than LeVert (Oladipo is not finishing well at the rim this season), plus he is a couple of years older. In addition, Oladipo is a free agent next offseason and is looking for a big contract. Houston can just let him walk, but why not just keep LeVert?

Houston could have gotten more in shipping out Jarrett Allen as part of this deal. Dante Exum is a good rotation player and defender when healthy, but he’s not moving the needle.

Winner: The Indiana Pacers

Oladipo is a free agent who reportedly asked for a trade — he had one foot out the door in Indiana.

The Pacers land a solid scoring wing — not an efficient guy, more of a volume scorer, but he can get you buckets — who is under a very reasonable contract for two more seasons after this one.

Straight up right now the Pacers may have gotten the better player, and they control his rights for longer. Whether this is a big win depends on how far you believe Oladipo can ultimately bounce back, how close he can get to his All-NBA self. But the Pacers did well and landed someone who can plug and play next to Malcolm Brogdon right now.

Curry drains 7 3-pointers, Nets start homestand with win over Blazers

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Seth Curry added a season-high 29 off the bench and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-94 on Sunday.

Curry was 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and had his highest point total with the Nets and the most by a Brooklyn reserve this season.

“I’ve always felt like if I get good shots I’m going to make them at a high clip,” Curry said. “Our offense was flowing pretty well. Guys found me open early on to start the game and I felt pretty good, aggressive.”

Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets. Ben Simmons took just three shots but had 12 rebounds and eight assists.

“Ben did a great job of getting downhill,” Curry said. “He’s a great passer (and) he knows how to find me out there on the floor.”

Jerami Grant scored 29 points for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Anfernee Simons added 15 points and Justice Winslow had 14.

The Nets have won four of their last six games, while the Trail Blazers, who are playing without Damian Lillard, have dropped five of six.

“Tough little stretch that we’re in right now,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “It is what it is. Every team goes through it.”

Brooklyn made 52.6% of its shots from the field overall, and 42.9% from 3-point range, in the second matchup between the teams in 10 days.

“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Durant said. “It’s about baskets.”

With the Nets leading by four entering the fourth, Curry scored Brooklyn’s first eight points of the quarter. Royce O'Neale‘s free throw gave the Nets a 93-87 lead and following a Portland turnover, Curry made a 3 that extended the advantage to nine.

Nurkic sandwiched a hook shot and free throw around two free throws by Irving to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 98-90. However, after a timeout, Durant hit a 3 to push the lead to 101-90.

Brooklyn led 58-57 at halftime, and 84-80 after the third quarter.

T.J. Warren targets Dec. 2 for return to court for Brooklyn Nets

2022-2023 Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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T.J. Warren was a breakout star in the bubble, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers.

Warren has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

The Nets signed him this season hoping he could get healthy and provide some depth off the bench at the four. We’re about to find out if that can happen on Dec. 2, with Warren targeting his return then Toronto, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Nets have not confirmed this timeline. However, coach Jacque Vaughn has recently talked up Warren’s workouts and hinted that a return is getting close.

A healthy Warren could be a big boost for a Nets team looking for more of a spark off the bench.

 

LeBron becomes oldest player with 39 points, 11 boards, seven 3-pointers (he’s also the youngest)

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The first question after LeBron James put up 21 and 8 to help the Lakers beat the Spurs Friday night was whether he would play in the back-to-back Saturday. He had just missed five games with a groin strain, after all.

Not only did LeBron play Saturday, he had a historic night.

LeBron had 39 points, 11 rebounds, and shot 7-of-12 from 3 — making him the oldest player in the history of the NBA with a 35+, 10+ with seven 3-pointer game.

The youngest player ever to put up that stat line? Also one LeBron James.

The 39 points were also the second most points ever scored by a player in his 20th NBA season, trailing only Kobe Bryant gunning his way to 60 in his final game.

The Lakers got the second straight win over the Spurs on Saturday behind LeBron, 143-138, a game more likely to be remembered for Zach Collins getting ejected for a foul that left Russell Westbrook bloody. The Lakers have won three straight and 5-of-6 but have done it against a very soft part of the schedule (three of the wins were over the tanking Spurs). Los Angeles beat the teams in front of it and started to show signs of life this season, but now they have to carry that over into a stretch against better teams, beginning Monday against the Pacers.

Watch Deandre Ayton put up 29 points, 21 rebounds, lead Suns past Jazz 113-112

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PHOENIX — There was much debate during the NBA offseason about whether Deandre Ayton was worth a max contract.

On nights like Saturday, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ayton notched season highs with 29 points and 21 rebounds, Devin Booker added 27 points and the Phoenix Suns held on for a hard-fought 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz led 81-78 after three quarters, but the Suns pushed ahead 99-93 by midway through the fourth. The game remained tight through the final minutes, but Phoenix never lost the lead. On top of Ayton’s scoring and rebounding, he also had a crucial steal in the final minutes that helped thwart a final Jazz rally.

“I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I should have been over there.”

Ayton grabbed his 21st rebound of the game on the final possession, securing Booker’s miss off a 3-pointer to keep the Jazz from a final possession. Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal during the offseason after the Suns matched an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.

“That young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (coaches), so that he can be prepared for moments like this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s just good to see the work pay off. It’s good to see him have monster games against really good teams on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ayton was the first player to have at least 28 points and 20 rebounds in a game for the Suns since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. He shot 11 of 19 from the field and added three assists and two blocks.

“I want to do more, I feel like I can do more,” Ayton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can to contribute to my team.”

Curiously, the Jazz didn’t foul the Suns on their final possession, essentially allowing them to run out the clock. Utah coach Will Hardy said the last play simply didn’t unfold like the team expected and there was some miscommunication.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Booker’s hands, and then foul,” Hardy said.

Ayton scored a season high for the second straight night. He poured in 28 points against the Pistons in a 108-102 win on Friday. Booker had a tough night shooting, making just 8 of 27 shots.

Utah was one of the NBA’s surprise teams in the first few weeks of the season, starting with a 10-3 record. The Jazz are just 3-7 since that point.

“One game, one stretch of the season doesn’t define your season,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. “You’ve got to go through ups-and-downs. Adversity – learn from it and come out the other side better for it.”

The Suns have an 11-1 record at home this season and have won four straight games.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton added 20 while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz had a 54-51 lead at halftime. Clarkson led the Jazz with 12 points while Ayton had 11 points and seven rebounds.