The James Harden saga is set to end.
Harden will reportedly swap the Rockets for the Nets in a mega trade, reuniting with Kevin Durant and teaming up with Kyrie Irving.
The 76ers were reportedly front-runners to prise the former NBA MVP to the City of Brotherly Love, but Daryl Morey refused to part with franchise pillar Ben Simmons and others.
Instead, the Nets reportedly sent Caris LeVert — later traded to the Pacers as Victor Oladipo was dealt to the Rockets — and four first-round draft picks, plus four pick swaps, to Houston, in a deal also involving the Cavaliers.
The Nets also gave up Taurean Prince and talented center Jarrett Allen, who were sent to the Cavaliers, and Rockets-bound forward Rodions Kurucs.
It puts an end to a messy divorce between Harden and the Rockets, after the disgruntled eight-time All-Star made no secret of his desire to depart as his frustrations boiled over post-game on Tuesday, sparking criticism from teammates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
Attention now turns to Brooklyn’s new super team and how Harden fits alongside Durant and Irving — if and when he returns from his personal absence — in first-year head coach Steve Nash’s quest to deliver a championship to the Nets.
Harden, who is eyeing a maiden NBA title, had called Houston home since 2012, guiding the Rockets to two Western Conference Finals and three semifinal appearances after his acquisition from the Thunder.
The 31-year-old sharpshooter, teammates with Durant on the Thunder between 2009 and 2012, brings a high volume of 3-point and free-throw attempts to Brooklyn, not to mention a dominant scorer, which the Nets have rarely had.
Harden attempted the most 3-pointers in 2019-20 with 843, and he also topped the free-throw attempts category at 800. Prince topped Brooklyn’s 3PA list with 431, while Spencer Dinwiddie stepped to the line on 446 occasions.
In terms of individual seasons averaging 30.0-plus points, Harden boasts three seasons, while Durant has two. The Nets? 0. John Williamson’s high of 29.5 points per game in 1977-78 (in just 33 games) is the closest.
In each of the past three seasons heading into the 2020-21 campaign, Harden had earned the NBA scoring title. Durant has claimed four honors, compared to the Nets’ all-time haul of 0 after Keith Van Horn finished fifth in 1998-99. Harden and Durant have won seven of the past 11 scoring crowns.
Harden brings a resume with a lot of wins and postseason experience, as did Irving and Durant as former NBA champions with the Cavaliers and Warriors, respectively. The Nets have lost in the first round in back-to-back seasons, while not since 2003 have they featured in the Finals.
Harden boasts a team win percentage of 64.9 in regular-season games in which he has played, while he has amassed 128 playoff appearances.
The issue of Harden signing for the Nets is centered on possession and distribution, given he, Durant and Irving are ball carriers.
Looking at the highest usage percentage – an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor – since 2014-15 to get an idea of how the Nets could make it work with the trio, and Harden (second, 35.3 per cent), Durant (eighth, 29.6 per cent) and Irving (ninth, 29.4 per cent) rank in the top 10. The NBA average is 20.0 per cent.
In 2019-20, points scored by Harden and points scored off his assists averaged 52.4 per game. It followed 53.9 in 2018-19, 51.3 in 2017-18 and 56 the season previous.
That marked four successive seasons with 50-plus points per game created, tying Oscar Robertson (1963-64 to 1966-67) for the longest streak in NBA history.
Harden averaged 34.3 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds per regular-season game for the Rockets, who lost in the Western Conference semi-finals at Walt Disney World Resort, in 2019-20.