This week, the Brooklyn Nets acquired superstar James Harden in a four-team blockbuster deal. The trade sent picks and Victor Oladipo to Houston, Caris LeVert and a pick to Indiana, and Jarret Allen and Taurean Prince to Cleveland.
Landing Harden arguably makes Brooklyn the favorite to emerge from the Eastern Conference. Despite giving up depth, it’s hard to envision many teams being able to outscore the Nets.
Like any seismic trade, the impact is felt by teams around the league. The Harden mega-trade will have the following impact on the Eastern Conference.
Mediocre teams could hit reset
Barring a team-chemistry meltdown, Brooklyn’s offense should get them very deep in the playoffs. At best, the Harden-Irving-Durant trio, along with Joe Harris, could score their way to an NBA Championship, even if their defense is average at best.
While there is no overwhelming favorite similar to the Lakers in the Western Conference, Brooklyn and Milwaukee, postseason woes aside, are the favorites in the East by a decent margin. A top-heavy Eastern Conference could have the effect of making some playoff teams come to terms with their future.
Teams such as Orlando and Toronto, who aren’t near the top of the conference could see the their playoff upside hurt, and decide to make roster changes and build for the future.
Philly, Boston, Miami have moves to make
With Brooklyn ascending, at least on paper, the East’s contenders outside of Milwaukee will now face pressure to make moves and improve their rosters to keep up. Philadelphia, Boston and Miami all kicked the tires on acquiring Harden at one point or another, with the Sixers being able to give the best offer to Houston in a potential deal involving Ben Simmons.
With Harden off the board of potential trade targets, each team will have to consider which trades to make before the March 25 trade deadline.
Of these teams, Boston is likely in the best position to add a high-impact player, given the $28 million Traded Player Exception vacancy left from the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade with Charlotte.
Philly and Miami would likely have to part with multiple young prospects and cap filler to bring in a star. One player both teams could potentially be after is Bradley Beal.
The bidding war for Bradley Beal is on
Perhaps the biggest impact of the Harden deal will be intensifying contending teams’ pursuit of Wizards guard Bradley Beal. While Washington has floundered to start the season, Beal has begun the yeae averaging nearly 35 points per game, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 49 percent from the field and nearly 38 percent from deep.
Most would agree Harden is the more complete offensive player between the two, but Beal’s scoring ability and three-point shooting are not far behind. In addition, his non ball-dominate style of play means he could fit on nearly any NBA offense.
The Rockets were able to receive four future first-round picks, and four future pick-swaps from the Nets. While Beal hasn’t asked out of Washington, the pressure will be mounting if the team doesn’t turn their season around.
The time to trade Beal will likely come sooner than later. Washington will have many suitors, and given what was traded for Harden, the Wizards will be looking at several high-compensation packages.
Featured image credited to NBA.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.