Grading the Rockets return for Harden

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

Grading the Houston Rockets draft pick haul

Grade: A+

The Houston Rockets have to earn an A+ for the draft pick haul they received from the Brooklyn Nets. Securing four first-round picks, all unprotected, plus four unprotected pick-swaps, and a second-round pick is an unprecedented return in the modern NBA.

While the draft picks from 2021 to 2024 likely won’t be lottery picks, the picks and swaps from 2025 to 2027 could become incredibly valuable. The Nets core of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving is a championship level core but it is a unit that’s a championship contender only for a few more seasons.

Durant is 32-years-old, Harden is 31, and Irving is soon to be 29. By the time the 2023-24 season starts this core will all be approaching the end of their primes if they’re even still in them.

Not to mention, there is no guarantee that Durant, Irving, and Harden will stick around as they all have player options for the 2022-23 season. If the three remain as productive as they have been throughout their careers, there is a genuine possibility that all three will opt-out, and the Nets will have to give out three max-contracts in the same offseason to players well into their 30’s.

The Nets have mortgaged their future to try and win a championship with one of the most high powered trios in the history of the league, but the long term pain could see the franchise in the abyss as the decade heads towards 2030.

The fact that none of the picks have any form of protections is a fantastic development for the Rockets, and largely unprecedented. The Rockets are set up to have a tremendous amount of draft capital for the first half of the decade and can use it to either bolster their current rosters or use it to build through the draft.

Draft picks are best used to acquire proven NBA talent and the Rockets now have enough to go out and secure the next disgruntled superstar that comes down the line. Even if the Rockets decide to take the more organic approach of drafting and developing players they’ll have enough picks to have a speedy rebuild.

Rafael Stone deserves praise for his ability to extract the most draft capital through one trade in recent memory. This facet of the Harden trade deserves an A+ and positions the franchise to have a healthy and fruitful future.

Next: Grading the players