No, this isn’t going to happen. But can we argue that it should?
Can’t we rationally sit-down like adults and legitimately theorize why the Brooklyn Nets would be better off including Kyrie Irving in the expected James Harden deal?
The obvious concern is that, yes, there’s only one ball for the Brooklyn Nets to play with, even before striking a blockbuster trade. The deal itself to land Harden will likely cost Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, plus the necessary draft and salary filler to execute. (If I’m Houston, that’s Nicolas Claxton and multiple first-round draft picks.)
I mean, maybe Taurean Prince could replace LeVert or Dinwiddie at the core of the deal for you to work around, but if I’m Houston, why the hell would I do that?!
So let’s reasonably assume the deal is based around Harden for Dinwiddie, LeVert, Allen, Claxton and picks. This would leave the Nets with Irving, Harden, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Rodions Kurucs, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, and the newly acquired Bruce Brown.
Or … or … you move Irving and far less depth.
Yes, on the surface, that’d seem pretty foul. It’d be like when Mike Greenberg suddenly angled to leave Mike Golic and form his own show in a prime morning slot. But it probably saves you LeVert at the very least.
The deal could easily become Irving + Allen (and maybe a Kurucs or Claxton) and picks for Harden, which is a lot less painful as it pertains to the Nets’ depth. Harden is an irrefutable upgrade from Irving, Allen would be backing up Jordan anyway, and if you have KD, do you actually need but so many draft picks?
Moreover, unless the Rockets want a full-blown rebuild and would prefer the former trade package, they’d get a nice young center in Allen, a star in Irving — and maybe you could flip him as well — plus the draft capital you’re seeking to obtain anyway.
As presently constructed, the Nets have injury concerns up and down the roster: Irving’s had season-ending injuries in two of his last three and three of his last six seasons. Durant’s coming off a torn Achilles at nearly 7-foot tall in what will be his 14th season in the league. LeVert’s played 213 games in four years and came into the league having had three-foot surgeries in college. Those are the three guys you’re currently led by.
Harden, for all that comes with him, is as durable as Frank Gore in a sport that is much more forgiving to the body. That said, you do wonder if his body will betray him given his running back style of basketball.
In 11 regular seasons, Harden appeared in 833 games, and the only times he played less than 72 in a year were because of the 2011 and 2020 lockout/shutdowns, where he still logged 62 and 68 games, respectively. In the playoffs, he shows up — some would disagree, but that’s for another discussion — having played 128 career postseason games. (Many of those were with new Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni, by the way.)
Heading into year 12, Harden’s still getting to the line more than 10 times per game, and still with usage rates in the low-to-mid 30’s. We know that should drop next to Irving and Durant, but it would even drop next to Durant alone.
Maybe injuries surface someday for Harden and his high-contact style of play catches up to him as he grows into his thirties. But at age 31 until next August, for the Nets core, you’d at least have a go-to guy with a history of being durable every single year he’s played basketball. Plus, you’d maintain some depth while doing so, and Dinwiddie is a starting level point guard as is.
No, it probably won’t happen. But it’s always fun to roll around out-of-the-box trade scenarios, just like you do in all those video game deals you never make.