However, the Nets and Rockets were the key players in this deal as superstar James Harden will now be heading to Brooklyn with a slew of future NBA Draft picks headed back to Houston. It is also worth noting that all four of the future first-round picks involved in this mega-deal, in addition to all four of the first-round pick swaps headed to the Rockets, are unprotected, according to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic.
The full extent of the four-team trade is as follows, outside of Brooklyn ultimately receiving a 2024 second-round NBA Draft pick from the aforementioned Cavaliers—not the Pacers.
Sources: Full current trade:
Rockets: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, 3 BKN first-rounders (22, 24, 26), 1 MIL first (22, unprotected), 4 BKN 1st round swaps (21, 23, 25, 27)
Nets: James Harden
Pacers: Caris LeVert, 2nd-rounder
Cavs: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 13, 2021
Brooklyn Nets: C+
There is no other way to put this other than the Nets just hedged the team's future in exchange for former Oklahoma City Thunder and Rockets guard James Harden.
More specifically, the Nets just entered “win-now mode” as Brooklyn traded away a slew of future picks in exchange for Harden, who is a former league MVP. However, the Nets currently employ three of the most difficult players to manage in the entire NBA in Harden, point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Durant. With this trio seemingly gearing up to create a soap opera in Brooklyn, this may very well be a ticking time bomb waiting to happen, which would obviously not bode well for the Nets.
Of course, there is always a risk involved in trades of any kind let alone when a player like Harden is involved, but if the Nets are unable to win and quickly, this could go down as one of the worst trades in recent memory. The Nets were infamously on the very wrong end of a similar trade that also involved the Boston Celtics as Brooklyn acquired a slew of veteran players in exchange for an eye-popping amount of future picks. With Irving currently away from the team, Harden seemingly running out of Houston and Durant still working his way back from significant injury trouble as well as COVID-19, only time will tell if this grade can improve.
Houston Rockets: A-
The Rockets couldn't have done better here, though it is always tough to lose the services of a player like superstar guard James Harden. However, a disgruntled Harden playing alongside point guard John Wall, power forward/center Christian Wood and center DeMarcus Cousins wasn't exactly a recipe for success. Not only have the Rockets managed to garner more future picks than the team can even count, but Houston also added veteran guard Dante Exum from the Cleveland Cavaliers and forward Rodions Kurucs from the Nets.
Most importantly, though, the Rockets secured All-Star shooting guard Victor Oladipo by way of the Pacers as well.
The reason that Houston comes away from this deal as a winner despite having to trade away a player like Harden is because the Rockets added to its current roster while also maneuvering its future into quite the favorable position. Now the Rockets employ the aforementioned Wall, Wood and Cousins in addition to Oladipo, who can bring a new look to the always competitive Western Conference franchise. Not only that, but Houston found a way to land four future first-round picks in addition to another four pick swaps—all of which are unprotected.
Indiana Pacers: B
The Pacers did well here as veteran guard Victor Oladipo continued to convey that he was undecided about his future with the franchise. With the Pacers sorting out this situation for him by shipping Oladipo to the Rockets, Indiana also received the opportunity to add former Nets guard Caris LeVert, who is a talented young player that will no doubt help this franchise on the offensive end.
LeVert will be able to hit the ground running for an already impressive Pacers team that features players like guard Malcolm Brogdon, sharpshooter Doug McDermott, big man Myles Turner and power forward Domantas Sabonis—among others. It is also worth noting that LeVert is currently under team control until 2023 as the Pacers continue to build for both the present and the future. With the Nets encountering a variety of different issues toward the end of last season into the beginning of this season, LeVert definitely made the most of his minutes in what would become his final days in Brooklyn. With even more confidence under his belt at this point in 2020-21, there is a very good chance that he immediately thrives for the Pacers if given the appropriate playing time.
Cleveland Cavaliers: B+
No one is expecting very much from the Cavaliers in 2020-21, though the middling Eastern Conference franchise did upgrade its roster on Wednesday evening. With guard Dante Exum departing Cleveland in favor of the Rockets, the Cavaliers parted ways with only a 2022 first-round pick via the Milwaukee Bucks and a 2024 second-round pick in exchange for up-and-coming center Jarrett Allen and veteran swingman Taurean Prince.
Allen is one of the best young big men in the entire NBA and was just starting to come around for the Nets this season. Although Allen showed glimpses of brilliance in the past, he truly started coming into his own down the final stretch of the 2019-20 campaign into the 2020-21 regular season. Even with that in mind, though, the Cavs have more than enough centers on the team's current roster as the tandem of JaVale McGee and Andre Drummond had been holding down the fort early on.
With Allen now in the mix as well, it will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers utilize his services as other teams from around the league barely employ any centers at all. All in all, though, the Cavaliers did well here as the Cavs surely improved because of this deal. Whether the Cavaliers can play competitive basketball deep into the 2020-21 campaign or not remains to be seen, however.