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Could the Houston Rockets have gotten more for James Harden?

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets
James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets: How does the James Harden trade stack up

The area that will likely most disappoint Rockets’ fans was the franchise’s inability to secure a promising young player in return for James Harden. However, to make up for that the Rockets overshot the number of pick swaps by two and a half.

The total of four first-round picks was the same as the average return for a superstar player, but what separates the Rockets from these other two deals is that all of the picks are unprotected. All things considered, the Rockets secured more draft capital than what would be expected, while getting a lesser return of players.

Dante Exum was a high draft pick but due to injury and a poor jump shot he doesn’t look like anything more than rotation depth and Rodions Kurucs is a young stretch forward prospect but has seen his minutes decrease every year of his career. Neither of these players projects as anything more than a rotation player barring an unforeseen change.

Victor Oladipo has the potential to fill the young All-Star player void, although he is not particularly young, his contract is expiring and he has indicated that he is not keen to extend his time in Houston. If the Rockets were to extend Oladipo then the calculus changes, but until that happens their return of players will remain underwhelming.

What makes the move to land Oladipo all the more flummoxing is that the Nets had included Caris LeVert in the deal. LeVert might not be as good as Oladipo but he is younger and under contract for multiple seasons going forward.

The Rockets, by virtue of flipping LeVert for Oladipo to the Indiana Pacers, made a move to save more money next season but probably hurt their roster. Examining the trade with clear eyes something stands out about this trade compared to the deals to land Anthony Davis and Paul George.

The James Harden trade was the first move to set up a lengthy rebuilding process. The Pelicans received a massive return that turbo-charged their rebuild, while the Thunder got a package that kept them competitive while providing them a steady stream of future assets.

The Rockets, in reality, primarily received future value in this trade which means a more serious rebuild could be on the way. The Rockets got the going rate for a superstar but by securing most of their value from draft picks the gains from the trade will take years to realize.

Next: Could the Rockets have done better?

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