What James Harden Leaving The Brooklyn Nets Would Mean for the Houston Rockets

N.B. Lindberg
Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns
Brooklyn Nets v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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The Houston Rockets’ future, due to the James Harden trade, is directly tied to the future of the Brooklyn Nets. The Rockets outright own the Nets 2022, 2024, and 2026 first-round picks and can swap for their 2023, 2025, and 2027 first-rounders. Whether the Harden trade will be a win, loss, or draw comes down to where these picks land.   

However, the Rockets' future won’t be solely determined by the Nets. The franchise owns their 2022 and 2023 firsts before a three draft window kicks in where their first-round picks can be pillaged by the Oklahoma City Thunder per the Russell Westbrook trade. The quality of the Nets picks could provide the Rockets with an inject of premium assets at a time when their own draft is out of their hands, which is what makes the James Harden rumors so pertinent to the Rockets' future.

According to multiple sources, Harden could be on his way out of Brooklyn. Whether it’s through a mid-season trade, a sign and trade, or departing outright as a free agent there are whispers that the man the Nets mortgaged their future for could be out of their future plans. 

Does James Harden Leaving the Nets Help or Hurt the Rockets?

James Harden leaving the Nets would instantly make them a worse team. Harden has experienced a decline from his peak seasons in Houston when he was one of the three best players in the league, but he easily remains a top-25 player. 

His Box Plus/Minus (BPM) is 21st in the league and that includes an opening nine games where he struggled significantly. There are no currently available players that combine Harden’s ability to generate offense for himself and others. 

This simple reality suggests that Harden leaving Brooklyn is good for the Rockets. However, the Nets being worse right now isn’t all that relevant to what the Rockets are hoping for.