The Brooklyn Nets went from championship contender to championship favorites and the Houston Rockets went from a playoff team to the worst team in the entire NBA. However, it wasn’t just those two franchises that had their fates altered, every team that engaged the Rockets in trade talks missed a chance to change their championship outlook.
Rumors ran rampant over who was offering what, who was untouchable, and what it would take to land Harden, but the most concrete trade that never was, was a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers centered around Ben Simmons. How different would the playoffs have gone if Joel Embiid had partnered with James Harden? And would the Rockets have made a playoff push with Ben Simmons at the helm?
Why the Houston Rockets accepted the Brooklyn Nets offer
While the Simmons for Harden trade never materialized, the deal made with the Brooklyn Nets also contained a few what-ifs. At the end of the day, the Nets traded Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks, and four pick swaps to land James Harden.
The Rockets could have simply taken this immense return and tried to make a playoff push. Instead, they opted to reroute part of their return from the Nets for assets they coveted more.
Caris LeVert and a 2nd round pick were sent to the Indiana Pacers for Victor Oladipo and Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince went to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Dante Exum and the Milwaukee Bucks 2022 first-round pick. It needs to be remembered, neither of these trades had to happen for the James Harden deal to go through.
Now that every participating party has seen their season end, the first real reviews of the Harden trade can be made. The Nets looked like world-beaters until ill-timed injuries, the Pacers fell apart due to chemistry and coaching problems, the Cavaliers were their usual dumpster fire, and the Rockets made the Cavaliers’ dumpster fire look like an elegant candle.
The full review of the James Harden trade will take years to be written, but the trades not made will always be a part of the story. Trades don’t happen in a vacuum, and the trades not taken inevitably tell us a lot about who really came out ahead. Here are the Rockets’ grades for the James Harden trades they decided not to make, starting with the Pacers and ending with Sixers.