When the news came that Kevin Durant was looking for a trade of the… Brooklyn nets and the NBA landscape shifted titanically, again, in the process there was probably already one team celebrating.
Obviously, it wasn’t the Nets who went out of their way to take over Durant and then keep him happy. It wasn’t the Phoenix Suns, which Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported as a favorite destination for Durant. It wasn’t any number of Eastern Conference participants who just witnessed the collapse of a future superteam.
No, we’re talking about the Houston Rockets, who could be on the cusp of a very enjoyable decade if the Nets went through some rough times.
Why are the Rockets taking advantage of Kevin Durant’s loss to the Nets?
Let’s rewind all the way to January 13, 2021.
After weeks of drama, the Houston Rockets relented and James Harden granted his trade request. The former MVP is sent to Brooklyn, where he will play alongside his old teammate Durant (and request another trade just over a year later).
For Harden, the Nets are giving up promising young players Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, as well as a ton of draft picks. Here’s the full collection:
2021 first round pick swap with Nets
2022 Unprotected Nets First Round Pick (since Tari Eason, No. 17 overall)
2022 Bucks conditional roster in the first round (since MarJon Beauchamp, No. 24 overall)
2023 First Round Pick Swap With Nets
2024 unprotected nets first round choice
2025 first round pick swap with Nets
2026 unprotected nets first round choice
2027 first round pick swap with Nets
Basically, the Rockets will have any Nets first-round pick, all unprotected, until 2027, or the right to trade first-round players if the Nets have the better pick. Which is fine if you’re the Nets, because you’re about to have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden in the near future. As long as you have that trio, you’ll probably make the playoffs and pick at least the next half-decade in the 1920s.
But if, say, the Nets’ relationship with all three players deteriorated and the team was forced to trade them all out at a loss, leaving them with slightly lesser players and draft picks, those picks suddenly look very bad. valuable.
The Rockets were already looking good for the future thanks to a few top 3 picks in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., plus a collection of other solid young players. But the chance to build on that young talent while enjoying a string of draft picks from another, ailing team? That only happens once every ten years.
Like what happened to the Nets over the past decade.
How did this happen to the Nets again?
The Nets betting big on veteran stars, trading every draw in sight and falling flat on their faces should be pretty well known, especially if you’re a fan of Boston Celtics.
Nine years ago, almost to this day, the Nets traded three unprotected first-round draft picks, a pick swap in 2017, and a plethora of players to take over Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce of the Celtics. Like when they signed Durant and Irving, the Nets hoped to jump into the NBA’s contender class and make the draft picks they sent away negligible in value.
Most basketball fans know what happened next. Garnett and Pierce played like they were past their prime and neither lasted two seasons in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, those Nets picks turned into the No. 17 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft (James Young), the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NBA draft (Jaylen Brown), and the No. 8 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. (Collin Sexton, traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers). That 2017 pick swap also turned into the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, which was converted to the No. 3 pick (Jayson Tatum) and the No. 14 pick in the 2019 draft (Romeo Langford).
The Celtics reached the NBA Finals this year with Tatum and Brown leading the show as the Nets languished for years until they were rebuilt to the point where Durant and Irving wanted to join them.
The Rockets hope history will repeat itself for the Nets in the next six months.