Rockets’ GM Doesn’t Regret Return In James Harden Trade

Victor Oladipo, the only big-name player the Rockets got in return for James Harden, barely stayed in Houston for two months, but general manager Rafael Stone doesn’t regret making the deal with the Nets, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Oladipo was traded to Miami last week for a modest return of Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, and a 2022 pick swap. As a result, the Rockets’ haul for Harden mostly consists of the collection of draft picks Stone received from the Nets (and Cavs) in the four-team blockbuster.

“I would for sure, 100 percent, do that deal again,” Stone said. “Again, you guys don’t have the advantages of knowing everything I know, but literally no part of me regrets doing that deal. I have not second-guessed it for a moment. A lot of what I said about being in a position maybe to not have to be bad (to rebuild), there’s some other things that we’ve done, too, but it’s primarily that deal that’s allowed us to say, ‘Hey, we want to compete on a slightly quicker time frame.’ We’re not going to go down this path of intentionally trying to lose games for years on end.”

The Rockets could have hung unto Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen in the Harden trade, but flipped LeVert to Indiana for Oladipo and sent Allen to Cleveland along with Taurean Prince for a future first-round pick.

After acquiring Oladipo, the Rockets determined he wasn’t a good fit alongside John Wall and a group of young players. Oladipo is headed for free agency this summer, and Houston wasn’t willing to make the financial commitment it would have taken to re-sign him. The team also wants to give more playing time to 20-year-old guard Kevin Porter Jr., who was acquired from the Cavaliers in January and played in the G League until early March.

The Harden trade could eventually pay huge dividends for the Rockets, who received draft capital from Brooklyn over the next seven years. Stone said critics need to be patient in examining what the team got in return for its superstar.

“One of your colleagues texted me the day after the trade and they said they would evaluate me in 2027,” Stone told McMahon. “And I told them that that was too early; they should do it in 2030. I think we felt at the time that we did the best deal for the franchise possible. Obviously, that’s my job, so I did it. Particularly given the types of things we got back, yeah, it feels like you can’t possibly know how you did for multiple years — like three, five, something like that. But I feel good about it. I do feel good about it.”

The Rockets have bottomed out since the Harden deal, losing 20 straight games at one point and falling into a tie for the league’s second-worst record. Stone said injuries played a part in the collapse, as well as the lack of a foundation after so many years of making short-term moves in pursuit of a title.

Stone has worked this year to build up a stockpile of draft picks, and he believes Houston can quickly rebuild around a “young core that we really like” made up of Porter, center Christian Wood and rookie forwards Jae’Sean Tate and KJ Martin.

“In terms of how we go from here, I feel pretty comfortable that we like where we are in the beginning stages,” Stone said. “We’re going to take constant bets. Everybody does that; it’s just the level you do it at. We’re going to do it — not all of them are going to work out. … I don’t think that we need to do like a wholesale tank strategy like some other teams have done in the past or maybe are doing now.”

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40 thoughts on “Rockets’ GM Doesn’t Regret Return In James Harden Trade

  1. Marty McRae

    Odds are Stone will not have a job in a years time, what a moronic trade that couldn’t have been more poorly handled. Getting a bunch of future late firsts for one of the elite players in the game is a massive, massive F.

    • CamFrost

      So you believe all of those picks will be late 1sts? When Harden/KD are in their late 30’s and Kyrie is in his mid 30’s? There’s no telling if they’ll all be in the league by then. Lastly, do you know what others offers they had for a player that openly didn’t want to be there? You generally don’t win a trade that you trade a superstar in, but I think Stone did pretty well with the picks/swaps he received.

      • Marty McRae

        You speak as if you would have agreed with any return made, mr. homer. And yes, elite players are elite deep into their 30s. Do you honestly think they will be bad players in a year or two? Out of the league by 36? No, what a joke. Harden and KD will be excellent til they are 40, easily. What a pointless response

        “I think my fave team > logic, so we won!” – you.

        • CamFrost

          I don’t see anywhere that i said I’d have agreed to and return made. That’s you contorting my words to try and belittle my comment. I also didn’t say ANYTHING about a year or two. Obviously, they will all still be superstars in that time. The picks in the LATER years could be beneficial with those players getting older. But I guess I should have expected to not have a cordial conversation with Marty McRae. Maybe you’ll be happier when the GSW read one of your posts and come to their senses and make Draymond Green their player-coach.

    • KnickerbockerAl

      He actually said 2027, then no more like 2030. Stone could be gone by 2023. I know I would of took Allen, Dinwiddie, LeVert first. Any trade would have started with those three players. All of three are worth a #1 pick or more. Knicks would of gave up a #1 pick plus players for Dinwiddie. This is new ownership. Fertitta is not going to spend to spend. He is more frugal.

  2. Sillivan

    Harden deal is clearly better than Paul deal

    Paul and 4 Firsts for John Wall

    Harden for Kelly Olynyk, Exum, Bradley and picks

    Rockets fans believe that those 3 Nets picks are nothing

  3. Black Ace57

    I think Stone is covering for Fertitta. I don’t think Fertitta wanted to pay LeVert his salary.

    • buttholesurfer69

      yeah – it seems like they may have wanted to cut salary until Wall was off the books. theyd also have to extend allen if they kept him which would have been pricey

      the part about oladipo not fitting with wall is laughable – i doubt they ever intended to keep oladipo, but they may have thought they could have flipped him for a first

    • DeathbyDeathwest

      This. The whole situation was created by Fertitta, and by the time Harden was maskless in Vegas, everyone knew ownership was going to have to pull the trigger on a bad trade.

      Having Harden’s trade on his resume was the price Stone knew he’d have to be to be a GM.

  4. Tom Emansk1

    To be fair you can’t expect him to say “yeah I’m a complete idiot.” But you can’t tell me he’s not looking at the bag of basketballs he got for Oladipo wishing he had Levert.

    • buttholesurfer69

      true

      but in some ways i dont blame them for flipping lavert and allen for more picks (and VO who they prob thought would garner more picks than he did)

      put lavert and allen in houston and they still stink and have clear no path to anything beyond maybe getting in the play-in game.

      so you might as well stack picks, let walls contract expire, and hope you land the next zion or luka in the next 4-5 years

      if im blaming them for anything its balking on simmons

    • x%sure

      Which one? He said first, he has no second doubts none, which if true makes him small-minded and avoiding, because a normal person is always comparing, always learning.

      Then he says his decisions made them better faster, but says wait until 2030 to grade. This is a game GMs play to keep them employed by keeping pressure off… They just go on about the future, nevermind the losses. CLE’s Altman is doing that.

  5. afsooner02

    Houston got fleeced but that’ll happen when you got a dude that quit on them.

  6. It was a bad trade only in so far as they didn’t take Allen and LeVert. What he knows (and the reporters don’t) may be that the decision there was not his. Thus, no regrets.

  7. Sillivan

    According to New York post
    Rockets asking price for Oladipo from Knicks is
    1 young good player
    At least 2 future first round picks

    Knicks have interests
    Knicks can easily replace more future Firsts to replace young good player

  8. greenyanks

    Money aside, the Rockets clearly blew it by not keeping Allen and LeVert coupled with what would still be three number ones and the swaps plus those two high quality players and having Wood and Porter long term – it makes sense. Getting effectively nothing for Oladipo and hoping that a draft choice will equal the talent level of Allen? no sale.

    • Buckman

      That is a head scratcher as levert is 26 and Allen is 22. If they don’t fit your “quick timeline” then he must looking to 19/20 year olds.

  9. Lil D MVC aka Uno

    “Well Mr. Stone it’s time for your annual, sorry, your decade review.” No disrespect to the Rockets organization but no, we’re not evaluating your work 10 years from now. What kind of bizarro land does this guy live in. Not. A. Good. Look.

  10. WallyWood

    It’s only fair if you add Kevin Porter Jr. as part of the Harden trade since KP3 was traded to Houston a week after Harden went to Brooklyn. That trade never would have taken place without the one before it. So basically the Rockets got Porter, Olynyk, Bradley, and Exum plus 3 first round picks and 3 possible swaps. They got a much better return than everyone is making it out to be, like they were ripped off.

    • Lil D MVC aka Uno

      Picks are a double edged sword. Because the return is unknown, people can paint whatever picture they want depending on bias. So HOU could very well make out great when all is said and done.

      That said, the Miami trade swap is a head scratcher. Especially when you are trading an asset to make them better.

    • buttholesurfer69

      I agree they weren’t ripped off. I mean when Harden demanded a trade they only had so much bargaining power, esp. considering his noted desire to go to Brooklyn.

      And I don’t think LeVert, Allen, Porter, Wood, and Wall are cracking the top 8 in the West, so I don’t blame them for taking the extra picks.

      I do think there’s an argument for Simmons, though. I’m not his biggest fan, but it’s possible they could have done a soft rebuild around Simmons and Wood.

    • KnickerbockerAl

      No need to defend this now. Trading a true star is never a win. Wait till after the picks, at least two yrs. You can flip Wall next yr like OKC flipped Paul this yr. Just draft well lol. I love the draft. Always a new beginning. Gotta be wise and smart. Dude I’m Rockets I go after Bagley. Get him cheap, I promise you he will be an all star one day.

    • x%sure

      Stone said above that he was going to take bets; no reason to lie about that; the bets have already been made.

      KPJ belongs with other “bets” like Tate, Wood, and Martin, not Harden. Good bets of course. The bets are out there if there’s no concern for morale & sync.

      The Rockets are spinning that the Oladipo trade was to get Porter more PT as planned. Robohouston supports that by attaching Porter to the Harden trade to make it look better and more planned. There was no such plan. Porter was acquired for the opportunity; Rox already had Wall, Dipo, and Gordon when they took a try at Porter, a reject for culture reasons.

      KPJ with CLE was a 2/3 usually; there was talk of him trying the 1 but he refused to report or something. To think of him as a Harden replacement is silly; he went to the GL first.

  11. phillyballers

    Allen and LaVert would have been better pieces to flip than Oladipo.

    That was known when the deal went down. Even with LaVert on the shelf. Allen would net more than Oladipo.

    • Lil D MVC aka Uno

      Idk if that’s true. The stance on Oladipo at the time was very different. Hindsight is 20 20.

    • buttholesurfer69

      To be fair Allen did net more. I believe they got a 1st for Allen.

      And they got Oladipo for LeVert. But maybe they could have kept LeVert and got a 1st for him down the line too.

    • KnickerbockerAl

      They had Wood and didn’t know about LeVert cancer tumor lol. They gambled on Oladipo and lost.

  12. Sillivan

    Rockets GM is the smartest
    Since Knicks are interested in Oladipo, It’s a great idea to demand Wolves First round pick from Warriors
    It would force Knicks to offer more

    Swap the 3 Nets picks with Knicks?

  13. Corporal Foxtrot

    Rox GM made the Harden trade with the ideology of a pro and the end result was something a rookie GM comes away with.

  14. Gruba

    The reality is, Westbrook demanded a trade, Coach left, Manager left. They all bailed on Him. He gave his all to this team. It was time to go. It was time for the rockets to start over.

    • KnickerbockerAl

      You got it backwards lol. Harden ran them off. Morey bent over when ever Harden wanted him to. Rockets ruined themselves by backing the wrong guy. Who in the end. Left too …… CP3 and Westbrook should of been the DUO. Morey sold his soul for Harden. Now he’s found religion in Philly. And Rockets are rebuilding

  15. Buckman

    Quote:”Hey, we want to compete on a slightly quicker time frame.”

    Quote:”One of your colleagues texted me the day after the trade and they said they would evaluate me in 2027,” Stone told McMahon. “And I told them that that was too early; they should do it in 2030.”

    Is this guy thinking in geologic time because he basically contradicted himself? He will be selling used cars in 2030.

  16. HIGHONE

    Sorry but I just want championship now,not 2030 anything can happen between

  17. Rockets are doing fine and I what See great things in Kevin porter Jr. along with Christian Wood. Let See what all those picks will turn into. Hopefully they will earn the first pick in this year draft and draft Cade Cunningham

  18. Sillivan

    Rockets GM think Oladipo is good fit

    He is excited about swapping pick with Heat

    LaVert and Allen are not good fits either
    He get rid of them too

    He corrected the reporters and said that Bradley is free agent this summer

  19. hiflew

    Gee boss, you may not like what I am producing today, but pay me for a decade and THEN you’ll see how good I am. Wouldn’t life be great if that was the way it really worked?

  20. lambeau gang

    Having an extra second-round pick is at least better than paying someone big bucks just to refuse his services and drag the entire franchise down. The Rockets would be worse off if they had kept a stubborn deadweight in town. Preserving the culture of the team is crucial.

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