Brooklyn Nets: James Harden trade, another future mortgaging deja vu?

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If one google’s the Brooklyn Nets, it is unsurprising that one of results of the search points to what many scribes consider to be the worst or most lopsided trade in NBA history.

The year was 2013 and the trade partner were the Boston Celtics. Here’s what happened then where the Nets mortgaged their future by going all-in for a championship run:

They give up Gerald Wallace (a salary dump); MarShon Brooks; Kris Humphries (an expiring contract); Keith Bogans; Kris Joseph; first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018; and the right to swap 2017 first-round picks.

They acquired future Hall of Fame forwards Paul Pierce,  Kevin Garnett, reserve guard Jason Terry, and reserve forward D.J. White from Boston.

That move was a desperate one for a franchise which hasn’t won it all yet since joining the NBA. The closest the got were during the 2001–02 and 2002–03 seasons. Behind the play and leadership of Jason Kidd, the Nets advanced to the finals but they lost each time.

After that trade, the Nets sported a dynamic young and old lineup composing of the starting five combination of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez and Shaun Livingston, Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche off the bench.

The Nets lineup looks to have a formidable 10-man rotation and a starting five with a combined 35 All-Star appearances under their belt, although Garnett was 37 years old and Pierce 35 at that time.

Thing is the Nets figuratively and literally had to pay for this move.

They become liable for a payroll totalling to around $101 million and a luxury-tax bill around $83 million while losing the capability to acquire young replacements for their aging veterans for a championship window of around 2-3 years considering Garnett and Pierce’s ages.

We all know how this turned out. They finished sixth in the East after the regular season and pulled out a thrilling first round upset to send home third-seeded Toronto Raptors before being eliminated by eventual runner-up Miami Heat.

Pierce would leave in the subsequent offseason to Washington via free agency while Garnett would be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves midway through the next season, marking the end of the experiment that send the team down a deep hole.

The Nets are attempting a similar coup this year. Well, kind of.

They pulled off another blockbuster trade recently by acquiring James Harden for a slew of young players and draft picks.

According to reports, they had to give up Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs, their 2022, 2024,  2026 first round picks, and the right to swap 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 picks with the Houston Rockets.

The diference is Harden is not Garnett or Pierce. He is still in his prime, just 31 years old, although coming at a significantly higher salary at $41.3, $44.3 and $47.4M for the next three years.

Harden is expected to continue his elite production better than the Boston duo did in Brooklyn and he is under contract for two more seasons with a player option in 2022-23.

While the Pierce-Garnett duo has the definite advantage in defense, Harden’s offensive contributions will make up for the deficiency and should probably outscore and outassist them.

Harden averaged around 33 points, 6 rebounds, and almost 8 assists in the last three seasons, although these numbers are expected to dip on account of his forming a trio with the two other legit superstars.

His presence will convert the Nets’ new starting five to Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving (if and when he returns ready to play basketball), Joe Harris, and DeAndre Jordan and afford the team at least a five-year championship window.

This would make the team the new favorite in the Eastern Conference, and probably in the entire NBA, at least on paper.

Thing is, they are now paying their superstar trio some $113M, $118M, and $126M for the next three years (Durant $38.2M, $38.8M, $42M and Irving $33.5M, $35M, $36.4M), making it harder to assemble a decent and dependable bench.

According to as of posting date, the total taxable salaries of the team amounts to $163M. Combined with its estimated luxury tax worth $87M, the total payroll of $250M make the Brooklyn Nets the biggest spender this year.

Just like in 2013.

By: Armando M. Bolislis