What the Kevin Durant trade to the Phoenix Suns means for the Rockets

N.B. Lindberg
Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans
Brooklyn Nets v New Orleans Pelicans / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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The Nets title hopes are over, but that doesn't matter to the Rockets

The Nets’ ambitions to win a championship have all but evaporated, but they’re also unlikely to be terrible. The James Harden trade was about banking on the Nets being horrible at some point and recouping premium draft picks on the back end. Instead, the Rockets are likely to land picks between 10 and 20 for the next half-decade from the Nets. 

The difference in expected career outcomes for a player selected in the top five compared to from six to ten is massive. The same goes for players selected outside of the top ten. The old Bill Simmons adage that four quarters don’t equal a dollar is true here. It’s better to get the first pick once and the 25th pick in the next five years than it is to get the tenth pick in each of those drafts. 

The short and long term ramifications of the Durant trade for the Rockets

In the short term, the Nets picks got more valuable to the Rockets, but in the long term, they’re looking less likely to be truly premium picks. Actually, Rafael Stone was dead right in saying you can’t judge the trade until 2030. The Nets could end up a dumpster fire by 2026, but right now I wouldn’t bet on it. They look poised to be a mediocre team with the perfect assortment of role players for a single star can elevate to a 50-win team. 

Celebrate the Kevin Durant trade and the Nets’ demise. They’re not winning a championship anytime soon, but the whole point of the James Harden trade and securing the Nets draft through 2027 was that they would act like a championship team and push every last available resource in the short term to win it all. Instead, they’ve pivoted to the middle and once again have the assets to make a large splash. 

The Nets don’t have Kevin Durant, James Harden, or Kyrie Irving anymore, but they now have a team that should be competitive enough through 2027 to not rack up massive lottery odds and gift the Rockets a young superstar. In the end, the Rockets and the Nets may both have lost the James Harden trade.

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