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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
Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Grading the players the Houston Rockets received

Grade: B-

The players that the Rockets received in return for James Harden are a tad bit underwhelming and only earns a B-. Victor Oladipo was truly fantastic in 2017-18 but has been injured and less effective since that breakout season.

Further dampening the enthusiasm about Oladipo is that he is on an expiring contract and looking for a max-deal, which means the Rockets are on the clock to determine if he is a part of their future. Receiving a player in return for James Harden that you let walk after one season would be catastrophic.

The Rockets in all likelihood will work hard to extend Oladipo, but the question remains if he is worth it. Oladipo’s 2017-18 breakout was explosive as he averaged 23.1 points a game on 47.7-percent shooting and made the All-Defensive and All-NBA teams.

Oladipo suffered a slight dropoff his following season before suffering a serious injury that kept him out for the rest of the season and most of the 2019-20 season. Further removed from the injury in 2020-21 Oladipo is back to the form he showed in 2018-19 when he was an All-Star.

Oladipo is not the offensive player that Harden is but he is an elite defender and an excellent finisher. A good comp for Oladipo is that he is an older version of Jaylen Brown but unlike Brown, he is not under contract for the next few seasons.

While the Rockets will have to wait and see if Oladipo can be their franchise cornerstone, they know that Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs are simply rotation players. Kurucs was buried on the Nets bench this season but is 6’9 and has hit 40.7-percent of his corner 3-pointers.

Kurucs is good depth at the power forward position and could be insurance if the Rockets decide to move PJ Tucker at some point this season. Exum, on the other hand, is an interesting player who has been snake bitten by injuries throughout his career but was a highly regarded prospect.

Exum hasn’t done much in his pro-career but he was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft and is worth an extended look at to see if he has anything to offer. Sometimes high draft picks don’t work out, but they almost always have real talent that if activated can make patient teams look smart.

All things being considered, there were better prospects to receive for Harden than Oladipo and both Kurucs and Exum are bench players who likely won’t make much of a difference this season. The Rockets could have gotten more NBA talent if they traded with another team, but that doesn’t mean the trade was a total bust.

Next: The final GPA   

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