Opinion: Rockets had no choice but to trade James Harden. Victor Oladipo, draft picks give them options
The Houston Rockets had no choice.
By expressing his lack of confidence in the team after Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, James Harden forced the Rockets’ hand.
The only option was a trade and soon.
So Harden ends up in Brooklyn — alongside former teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — in a four-team trade that sends Victor Oladipo to the Rockets, Caris LeVert to the Pacers and Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Rockets also received four unprotected first-round picks — three from Brooklyn and one from Cleveland via Milwaukee.
Mortgaging the future for the present is something the franchise has done before (remember Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Brooklyn), and it’s obvious ownership and general manager Sean Marks want to win now. Brooklyn has their version of a Big 3 – if Irving, who is out due to personal reasons, rejoins the team and is engaged.
The Cavs are plotting their future, and the Pacers unload Oladipo, who is in the final year of his contract, for a solid player in LeVert.
What does this do for the Rockets, who are one season removed from believing they could contend for a title but started the season a mess?
Jettisoning Harden is a move in the right direction. This gives first-time NBA head coach Stephen Silas space to direct the team in his vision without distraction. It also relieves pressure on first-year general manager Rafael Stone, who finally deflated the growing debacle.
Sabotage may be too strong of a word, but at the very least, Harden’s actions impeded Silas and the players who were working together.
A team rarely will receive equal value in return for a player like Harden. So the Rockets were working from a difficult position.
But, they managed to get Oladipo, a former All-Star who is averaging 20 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. Oladipo can try to help turn things around for the 3-6 Rockets who aren’t devoid of talent with DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker and Christian Wood.
But if it doesn’t work with Oladipo, there’s no huge problem. He can become a free agent after this season. But if Oladipo fits, the Rockets are in position to offer him a lucrative deal.
The big haul though comes in the form of four future first-round picks. Those assets are valuable, giving the Rockets options. If they go into a full rebuild mode, they know they can compile young talent through the draft. However, if they decide to reload on the fly, they have draft picks that can yield established talent via trade.
Silas acknowledged this hasn’t been easy. But he’s also an NBA lifer, the son of longtime coach Paul Silas. He knows what this league is about. He knows these situations happen. It’s unfortunate for him, but he managed it as well as possible, especially in his first season.
The Rockets finally did what they had to do, and with Harden out of the way, Silas and the Rockets can now work in the same direction.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.