What the Kevin Durant trade to the Phoenix Suns means for the Rockets
Rafael Stone’s gambit has finally paid off. When he traded James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets for a historic draft haul (unprotected first-round picks or swaps from 2021 to 2027), he told the world the trade couldn’t be judged until 2030. Stone was dead right and dead wrong. He was right to bet on the Nets’ eventual collapse, but he was wrong on the date. It’s 2023, and the trade, on the surface, looks like a massive win for the Houston Rockets.
Why the Rockets took the Nets James Harden offer
The initial thinking behind the James Harden trade was to bet that a team going all in with a core either in their 30s or approaching it would eventually come out the other side in shambles. Stone believed the Nets’ competitive cycle would lead to an old, highly expensive, and unproductive roster approaching 2025. Instead, the Nets just internally combusted for non-basketball reasons.
First Harden demanded a trade after 12 unhappy months, then Kyrie Irving asked out and ended up in Dallas, and now Kevin Durant has had his summer trade wish fulfilled. The returns for Harden and Kyrie were light considering their talent (Ben Simmons for Harden and Dorrian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie for Irving), but the reported return for Durant is hefty.
The Nets return for Kevin Durant is massive
Phoenix is reportedly sending Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, four first-round picks, and additional draft compensation to Brooklyn as part of the deal. While neither Bridges nor Johnson are stars, they’re both incredibly valuable players and fit the bill of stars in their roles. Bridges is maybe the best 3-and-D player in the league, and Johnson is one of the league’s best stretch-fours.
The Nets went from having three stars and little depth to having no stars but maybe the most depth in the entire NBA. Star players are necessary to win at the highest level, but to be truly awful you need a dearth of competent NBA players, and unfortunately for the Rockets, the Nets look poised to be competent for years to come.