What to make of the James Harden to the Nets

On Wednesday of this week, James Harden was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets. The deal included the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. The addition by Brooklyn adds Harden to a team that already possesses Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — both former NBA Champions and perennial All-Stars. 

The entirety of the deal is as follows:

Rockets get: Victor Oladipo, Rodions Kurucs, Dante Exum, four unprotected first-round picks (Brooklyn 2022, 2024 and 2026, Milwaukee 2022), and four unprotected first-round pick swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027). 

Nets get: James Harden

Pacers get: Caris LeVert, 2023 second-round pick (from Houston)

Cavaliers get: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince

Now, to come right out and say it, this definitely doesn’t automatically make the Nets the favorite for the NBA title. Even the casual fan can point out all of the glaring issues with this team after little-to-no thought.

Let’s break it all down.

Kyrie Irving

Irving has spent enough time in the spotlight for NBA fans to know he’s a bit eccentric. Prior to his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, the Duke product was known as a quiet, but incredibly talented young player who hit one of the greatest game 7 shots of all time to down the 73-9 Cavaliers. 

Following that season, though, Uncle Drew decided to head for the hills, making it known he no longer wanted to be a Cavalier. Irving was traded to Boston where, shocker, the team won games, but couldn’t get much done in the playoffs, and he made his way to Brooklyn last season.

In the middle of all of this, Irving once came out and said he wasn’t sure if the Earth was round or not: “Can you openly admit that you know the Earth is constitutionally round?” he said. “Like, you know that for sure? Like, I don’t know.”

I’m sorry, what?

He referred to the media as ‘pawns,’ when he said he wouldn’t be speaking to them this season. “I do not talk to pawns,” he posted on his Instagram story. “My attention is worth more.”

He did later elaborate to the media and said it wasn’t about them, and he’s begun doing regular media sessions since. But still, for any media member, that’s pretty damn irritating.

He’s sneakily dissed LeBron on several occasions, one of which making fun of his “I’m coming home,” tribute to Cleveland when he returned following his stint in Miami. Irving sang the song on his Snapchat after travelling to China for a business trip recently following his trade request in 2017. He also referred to Durant as the lone other player he trusted in late game situations: “One thing I’ve always been comfortable with, I felt like I was the best option on every team I played for down the stretch,” Irving said, according to ESPN. “This is the first time in my career I’ve looked down and be like, ‘That motherf***** can make that shot too.’ And he’ll probably do it a lot easier.”

Going after the best player of this generation? Okay, Kyrie.

He was also videotaped burning sage in his most recent trip to the Boston Garden, has the occasional rant on his Instagram story and has now departed from the team for “personal reasons.” In the middle of his sabbatical he’s been seen not wearing a mask in public.

He’s a guy it’s difficult to find continuity with on the court, and on top of that, he’s just odd. 

Only one ball

Previously in their careers, each of these players has been the number one option on their respective teams. Sure, one could say that about previous super teams like the Miami Heat of 2010-2014, the Golden State Warriors of 2016-2019 and the Celtics of 2007-2012.

But here’s the thing — there were players on each of those teams that took a dramatic step back. Chris Bosh went from 24 to 18.7 points and 10.8 to 8.3 rebounds in one season. Steph Curry knew he was no longer the man when Kevin Durant showed up. Kevin Garnett became a defensive stalwart and rebounding machine and Ray Allen solidified his position as a knock-down three point shooter.

Who on this team would be willing to do so?

We know Kyrie left LeBron freaking James because he wanted to be the number one option elsewhere. Kevin Durant was the best player on what was arguably the greatest team ever assembled. James Harden has won the last three scoring titles, averaging over 30+ in each season and playing a boat-load of isolation basketball.

While KD isn’t known for this issue, Irving and Harden have consistently been players that need the ball in their hands to get into a rhythm offensively. Harden almost pouts without the ball in his hands, and Irving has one of the greatest handles in the history of the game.

It’s been iterated so much when it comes to previous star-studded teams in this league. It’s different with these Brooklyn Nets.

Um, defense?

Yeah, there’s another side of the ball believe it or not, Brooklyn.

Not only did the Nets go out and get The Beard, who is strictly known for offense, they got rid of their best defensive player by far. In adding Harden, Brooklyn said ‘see you later’ to Jarrett Allen, who has done much of the work on that end for them and wasn’t even rewarded a starting position for it.

Apparently Brooklyn prefers slow, out-of-their-prime centers who no longer can do the thing they’re known best for — be explosive. I’m talking, of course, of DeAndre Jordan who is not a shell of what he once was when he donned an LA Clippers uniform. 

To quote a friend who covers the Nets for SBNation’s Nets Daily:

To reference the remainder of the role-players on this squad, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green are the Nets’ only hope. Brown is in just his second year in the league and stands at 6’4. He won’t be guarding the elite wings particularly well any time soon. Jeff Green is 34 years old. Don’t expect too much from him.

While Durant grew astronomically as a rim protector in his tenure with Golden State and is well-known for his use of his length defensively, he’s not what he once was. An Achilles tear will do that to you, even if you’re Kevin Durant. 

For Irving, we know he’s certainly capable defensively when he wants to be — not All-NBA Defense material or anything, but capable. Notice the key phrase ‘when he wants to be

The depth of the East

The West is no longer the far-and-away conference in today’s NBA. While it is more top-heavy, many regard the Eastern Conference as more deep and likely having more parody down the stretch than that of the West. 

The Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and Nets are all perceived to be capable of making a playoff run and earning an appearance in the 2021 NBA Finals. 

With the depth, defensive talent and newly formed roster the 76ers have, it’d be easy to see them taking over Brooklyn in a seven-game series. The same goes for the Bucks

While Celtics, Pacers and Heat aren’t generally thought of as being in that same tier (at least at the moment), they’re more than capable of giving the Nets a hell of a time in the first and/or second round of this season’s NBA playoffs.

The bottom line

For any team trying to win an NBA title, a lot has to go right. You have to get lucky a couple times, if not more than that.

For Brookly, a lot  is going to have to go right. This team will have to mesh. They’ll have to be friends. Somebody is going to have to take a step back, somebody is going to have to step up from the bench and somebody in the East is going to have to make some mistakes for this team to win the Finals — let alone get there in the first place. 

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