In the NBA world, superstars changing teams is the new norm. After a meltdown following the Houston Rocket's 117-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday evening, Houston Rockets star James Harden is on his way to the Brooklyn Nets to join forces with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The trade has plenty of moving parts, but for a team watching events unfold like the Kings, this is good news, at least in the short term.
Sacramento has already played the Rockets twice, losing both of those games early in the season. While it appears that Houston will acquire Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers in the transaction, the damage is done.
The Rockets are now in asset accumulation mode, in the same way they were when they sent Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and picks.
Even if Houston keeps the core of Wall, Oladipo, Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins together, it’s difficult to see the team remaining in the postseason hunt, both this season and beyond.
The Rockets were only 3-6 this season before the trade, but if Harden bought in, they likely would have found their way back into playoff contention. The focus now shifts to the future with stacks of first round selections making their way to Houston.
At 5-6, the Kings are also on the outside looking in of the Western Conference playoff chase, but with a team like the Rockets -- who have made eight straight postseason appearances -- taking a step backwards, the West may have gotten weaker.
Just how much weaker will take time to figure out, but this is a big move. Harden is a former MVP, an eight-time All-Star and a three-time scoring champion. He’s also a player that historically gives the Kings fits. Moving him out of the Western conference is huge.
Oladipo is no slouch, but he isn’t the same type of impact player that Harden is. He’s a two-time All-Star, and a far superior defensive player to Harden, but he’s in the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
This trade is really centered around draft asset accumulation for the Rockets, which means they are primed to take steps backwards, and it’s possible more veterans could be on the move.
The picks Houston received aren’t exactly game changers either. Brooklyn should be a very good team for at least the next three seasons and the Rockets also received the Bucks’ 2022 first rounder, which should be a very late first-rounder.
If the Rockets plan is to start over, they are a few years behind the Kings in a rebuild and by trading with a top tier team, they didn’t exactly get the haul that they’ll need to start over quickly.
This is the first major shoe to drop in the NBA’s trade market, but it could trigger an early season flood of transactions. Brooklyn just put the Eastern Conference on notice. They mortgaged their future to bring in a third star, which may or may not work.
Will there be a response from teams like the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, who are now looking at another super team in the East?
Things could get interesting in the NBA. And for a team like the Kings, a door may have just opened up a little bit more with a perennial playoff team dropping out of the running early in the year.