What James Harden Would Really Look Like on the Nets in 2021

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: NBA players Kevin Durant and James Harden with Executives from BBVA & BBVA Compass ring in the NYSE Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on February 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

With rumors surfacing about James Harden’s future, some speculate that Brooklyn would be his top choice for the 2021 season. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, along with Harden, would form a big three with two MVP caliber players and a potential top ten overall player in Kyrie. However, do these players really fit together? What would the team around them look like?

Trade Scenario: Rockets trade James Harden for Caris Levert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Unprotected 2020 1st round pick (via Philadelphia), Unprotected 2021 1st round pick

What the Nets Would Give Up

Before looking at some interesting Harden statistics, we must focus on the pieces that the Nets would be giving up. First, Spencer Dinwiddie was the backbone of the Nets offensively last season after injuries kept Caris Levert and Kyrie Irving off the court for a number of games. Dinwiddie averaged 20.6 PPG and 6.8 APG. Next, Caris Levert has had flashes of greatness in his career, including many last season where he averaged 18.7 PPG. Before the playoffs in the NBA bubble, Levert averaged 25 PPG on 48% shooting with 6.7 APG and 4.8 RPG. At only 26, Levert still has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA, with his ceiling as an All-Star small forward. 

The Nets would also be missing Jarrett Allen, who has developed significantly on both sides of the ball since his rookie season. Last season, Allen scored 11.1 PPG on an incredible 64.9% shooting (4th in NBA) with 9.6 RPG and 1.3 BPG. Additionally, the trade would most likely have to involve Taurean Prince. Prince’s numbers dipped in Brooklyn compared to his time in Atlanta (12.1 PPG, 37.6% FG vs. 13.5 PPG, 44.1% FG). While advertised as a good three point shooter, Prince only converted 33.9% of his three pointers last season. He may turn it around next season, but his 2019-20 season was disappointing. 

Finally, the Nets would be losing two unprotected 1st round picks, which affects their future going forward. Remember, the Nets have had their future torn apart before by trading for Gerald Wallace, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. If the Nets fall short of a championship in the next three seasons and the stars leave, the team would be back to the bottom of the league. 

James Harden’s fit in Brooklyn

Thinking short term, Harden would be an interesting fit in Brooklyn, but not necessarily in a good way. Harden led the league last season in field goals attempted (1742). In 2017, Kyrie Irving finished second in field goals attempted with 1790. In 2016, Kevin Durant finished fifth in field goals attempted with 1788. These are three superstars who are used to touching the ball frequently, and they could face challenges with spreading out the shots. Some have criticized James Harden for his lackluster performance on defense, however, if Durant and Irving are taking some of his touches on offense, he may have more energy for playing defense.

Overall, James Harden is a big name who will bring a lot of noise and commotion if he does become a Net this off-season, but keeping Caris Levert, who I believe will have a great season next year, as well as Dinwiddie, Prince, and Allen would be better for the Nets 2021 championship run.

Having a deep team with players who have a culture of working hard and giving effort on every play is key, and Harden does not fit with that team identity. If Harden does not become a Net, he will most likely join the Philadelphia 76ers. While Harden would not be my preferred move, it would still be feasible for the Nets to win a championship with him. We will see what happens in the coming days as trades open on November 16. 

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