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James Harden’s Houston Breakup

James Harden and the Houston Rockets suffered two debilitating losses in a row to the Lakers this past week.

After the second loss, the aforementioned disgruntled superstar let the world know his situation was beyond repair.

In response to Harden’s demands, the Rockets dealt their former franchise player to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster trade.

The full trade per Shams Charania is currently:

Rockets receive: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, Nets 1st rounders (2022, 2024, 2026,), Bucks 1st rounder in 2022 (from nets, unprotected) and 4 1st round swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)

Nets receive: James Harden

Pacers receive: Caris LeVert, 2nd round pick

Cavs: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince

Brooklyn Impact

This trade shuffles the power balance in the East as it gives the Nets three definite superstars —depending on when Kyrie Irving returns.

Brooklyn has always been Harden’s preferred destination, and in the day since the trade, we’ve seen reports of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — via Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks — willing to sacrifice more to win right away.

Based on Kyrie’s role sacrifice in Cleveland and Durant’s sacrifices in Golden State, we know they are willing and able to do what it takes to win rings.

To people making jokes about Harden dribbling too much, I’d like to remind you, Mike D’Antoni pushed Harden to expand his facilitating game in the later Houston years, and many of his assists were within the flow of the game. He’s a player that can run an offense as a passer and allow Kyrie and KD to do what they do best.

On defense, Deandre Jordan can anchor the paint. Jordan’s paint presence sets a foundation for the Nets to hover around an average defense rating for the rest of the year, but the loss of Jarret Allen will hurt their rotation on that side of the ball. (Currently 13th in defensive rating)

I see Brooklyn signing some vets using the disabled player exception they received after Spencer Dinwiddie went down to sure up the defensive side of the ball.

The primary issue at this moment is the uncertainty around Kyrie.

To sum the move up, if KD, Kyrie, and Harden share the floor this season, it is championship or bust.

They gave up developing young players in Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince along with a bevy of picks, so the pressure is now on Brooklyn to produce with the high level of talent.

Rockets Re-tool

The Rockets are in a tough spot as Harden left them with no other option than to deal him, and they suddenly shift on a major roster overhaul after contending for the last couple of years.

However, they’ve received plenty of picks for the future in their trades of Harden and Russell Westbrook, so the transition is less painful for the front office — in theory — with the future addition of young talent.

Oladipo is expected to be a rental and is rumored to leave when his contract is up this year.

P.J Tucker is also projected to be a trade target for contending teams.

Despite all of the locker room turnover, a Wall/Oladipo backcourt could be fun to watch while we have it, and Wall, Cousins, and Christian Wood will welcome the change as they can now focus on competing every night and building chemistry.

Pacers

The Pacers with this move proved something that was long in speculation.

They had no plans to retain Victor Oladipo.

Caris LeVert on Fitting in With Kyrie and KD, and New Coach Steve Nash -  The Ringer
Click to watch Caris LeVert at his best against the Boston Celtics (March 3, 2020)

In return, Indiana gets a real hooper in Caris LeVert. LeVert is a certified scorer and averaged around 18 points per game last season.

LeVert’s arrival is not too much of a game-changer for the Pacers, as we’ve also seen them shift to a Brogdon/Sabonis one-two punch, but LeVert’s abilities are a strong addition to this squad.

Cavs

Keeping this last section short and sweet.

The Cavs get some young and talented frontcourt players in Allen and Prince.

I’m interested to see what this means for Andre Drummond and the other frontcourt players in the Cavs organization as they look to build around their talented guard duo of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, aka, “Sexland.”

The impact of this trade will echo through the league, and as it develops, please stay tuned into District of Buckets on all social media platforms and watch the upcoming episode of Fantasy Basketball – This Week on YouTube.

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NBA Preseason Takeaways and Stories to Watch

The NBA regular-season is approaching fast, and here are some trends to note before the games start to count.

Here is a quick rundown of a few NBA stories to watch heading into the year.

The Lakers rotation looks deadly

After winning the NBA Finals in the bubble, many people expected the league to catch up to the Lakers.

However, in the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers retooled their lineup by adding 6th Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, 6th Man runner-up Dennis Schröder, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol.

LA re-signed key veterans Markieff Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and saw flashes of increased development from Talen Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma.



In the preseason, the Lakers beat the Clippers 131-106 while running an 8-man rotation without superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

I usually hate to put this much stake into preseason games, but the limited rotation showed that when everybody is locked-in and clicking, this team can go 10-12 deep in their rotation without missing much of a beat.

A scary sight for the rest of the league.

Russell Westbrook intangibly improves the Wizards

Russell Westbrook is a player who is no stranger to stuffing the stat sheet, but his impact to the Washington Wizards organization is the way his competitiveness will rub off on the younger players.

From his first practice, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said that Westbrook set an “intense” tone for the rest of the team.


His impact showed in the Wizards’ sole preseason win in Westbrook’s debut, and even though there are still plenty of question marks on this team, we know that Westbrook has the potential to change the culture in the District.

The Suns are the best they’ve been since 2010

The Phoenix Suns offseason addition of Chris Paul will maximize the potential of Devin Booker.

Booker was an All-Star in a season that saw him average 26.6 points a game for the second consecutive year on increased efficiency in 2019-2020. (+2.2 in field goal percentage and +2.8 in three-point percentage)


Booker also led the Suns to an 8-0 NBA Bubble record, a run that symbolized a changing of the culture in the valley. The change of culture mixing with the influx of new talent and the addition of a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul makes this the best Suns team in a decade.

Patrick Williams is a Hooper

I’m not here to absolve the Chicago Bulls for reaching to take Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick, however, I am here to let everyone know — Patrick Williams can hoop, and can make a big impact in year one.

In the preseason, Williams’ skillset showed his game is better suited to the spacing of the NBA game than the college game, which would explain his lackluster numbers in college. (even taking into account the limited usage he had at Florida State)


He’s not in the Windy City to lead the team in scoring, or honestly anything. He’s a do-it-all player who can give you solid minutes, play good defense, and fill some of the holes the Bulls have in their roster.

Steph Curry Has a Legit MVP Chance

The Warriors aren’t the powerhouse they used to be, but they still have Steph Curry.

Curry’s increased usage could bode well for his MVP chances assuming he stays healthy this season.


Side note: The extra attention on Curry on the perimeter allows for first-round big-man James Wiseman to have matchups inside he can take advantage of with his athleticism.

New Look Rockets Aren’t Enough For James Harden

The Rockets made drastic changes to their roster this offseason.

John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Christian Wood give Houston a different feel on the court, but it isn’t enough to entice superstar James Harden to stay.


Kevin Durant is Healthy

After a long recovery from an Achilles injury in 2018, Kevin Durant will be taking the floor tonight. Durant has looked good in preseason, and you can tell he’s worked his way back near the form that has his status cemented as a basketball legend.

His talent will always be there, but the main question mark will still be his post-injury explosiveness. There were moments in preseason games where you could see him move a bit slower.

Either way, it shouldn’t matter too much, as Durant’s ability will keep him in the upper echelon of NBA players this season.


The Pelicans are primed to compete

In case you haven’t seen the news, Zion Williamson is not on a minutes restriction this season.


A healthy Zion, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball are a young trio that will be one of the NBA’s toughest combinations to stop this season.

The impact Zion had on the floor in limited time last season was special.

Every player on the court has to account for every move he makes.

Zion will open up opportunities for Ingram to continue being the offensive threat we’ve seen him grow into.

Lonzo’s playmaking and defense allows New Orleans to compete with any team in the league.



Nets Set On Nash

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The Brooklyn Nets ended their search for a head coach with the hiring announcement of former Phoenix Suns Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash.

Steve Nash was reportedly 'struck by Durant's despondency' - SFGate

The hiring has seen mixed reviews among the NBA fan community, and today I wanted to take the time to analyze some of the potential pros and cons that could make this hire boom or bust.

Pros: Steve Nash

The Brooklyn Nets’ main benefit from this hire is the acquisition of one of the most accomplished and brilliant basketball minds to ever play the game.

Steve Nash showed a willingness to improve players around him during his playing days, and his mentality should carry over to coaching. Mixing his basketball knowledge and his good relationship with Kevin Durant — evidenced by his days as a Golden State Warriors consultant — is a recipe that could yield success in the big apple.

Nash can mesh the high octane talent on the Nets roster, and more specifically, can handle the task of meshing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to create a title-contending product.

Nash’s expertise will also help the rest of Brooklyn’s rotation, and I am looking forward to how he impacts the guards on the team.

Cons: NBA Head Coaching Experience

Steve Nash accepted this job with a lack of NBA coaching experience. The concerns here are real because lack of experience is what makes a move like this a risk. There are so many moving parts in an NBA organization, so it can be hard to trust an individual without experience on the coaching side of the game.

However, Nash recently held a consultant role with the Golden State Warriors and was able to be close to an organization and view the game from the lens from a non-player.

To sum up the move, I’d say it’s worth the risk because you don’t have doubts about Nash’s basketball mind when it comes to X’s and O’s, and hiring him appeases the superstars. One of the most overlooked parts of the head coach position in the NBA is the management of talent and egos, and I can’t think of a better way to manage all of the personalities on an NBA roster by adding a former MVP.