Aleksandar Vezenkov

Rockets Trade James Harden To Nets

JANUARY 16: The Pacers/Rockets part of the trade is now official and has been folded back into the initial deal, formally making it a four-team trade once again. Details can be found right here.

JANUARY 14: The trade is now official, the Nets announced in a press release.

“Adding an All-NBA player such as James to our roster better positions our team to compete against the league’s best,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said. “James is one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in our game, and we are thrilled to bring his special talents to Brooklyn.

“While we are excited to welcome James and his family to the Nets, we also want to thank the players who are departing. Caris, Jarrett, Rodions and Taurean were instrumental to the team’s success and have made an enormous impact on our organization. It has been a pleasure watching them grow both as players and as people and they will always be part of our Nets family. We wish each of them and their families all the best in the future.”

In their press release announcing the deal, the Cavs noted that they also acquired the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Aleksandar Vezenkov from the Nets. Vezenkov has remained overseas since being drafted.

Interestingly, the Nets, Cavs, and Rockets opted to complete this trade as a three-team deal, meaning the trade sending LeVert and a second-round pick to Indiana for Oladipo will be a separate move.

Separating the two trades will allow the Rockets to generate a larger trade exception in this initial deal — that exception will be worth $15,451,216.

JANUARY 13: The Nets will acquire star guard James Harden in a trade with the Rockets, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter) that Harden will head to Brooklyn.

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne (via Twitter) and Charania (Twitter link), it will be a multi-team trade that also involves the Cavaliers and Pacers, with the Rockets receiving Indiana guard Victor Oladipo in the deal.

The Rockets will acquire Oladipo from the Pacers; Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks, and four pick swaps from the Nets; and Dante Exum and the Bucks’ unprotected 2022 first-round selection from the Cavs, per ESPN and The Athletic.

Cleveland will receive Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn, while the Pacers acquire Caris LeVert.

Charania reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers will also receive a second-round pick in the trade. That second-rounder is a 2023 selection from the Rockets, tweets Wojnarowski.

In addition to Harden, the Nets will receive a 2024 second-round pick from Cleveland, says Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The Cavaliers have traded away the more favorable of their own second-rounder and the Jazz’s second-rounder, so Brooklyn will presumably get the less favorable of those two picks.

This is a massive trade with a ton of moving parts to break down. Let’s start with the Nets’ side of the deal.

Nets’ perspective:

The draft picks the Nets are sending to Houston are their unprotected first-rounders in 2022, 2024, and 2026, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the Rockets will have the ability to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 (without protections, tweets Zach Lowe of ESPN).

That means the Nets won’t control any of their own first-round picks through 2027, making this a massive bet on the star trio of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. Irving is currently away from the team on personal leave and is something of a question mark for the time being, but with Durant and Harden leading the offense, the Nets should have more than enough offensive firepower to get by until he returns.

The move, which makes Brooklyn an immediate championship contender, reunites Harden with his former Thunder teammate and fellow former MVP Durant. Harden will also team up once again with ex-Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who is now a Nets assistant.

As a result of trading four players for one, the Nets will have three open roster spots to fill, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Minimum-salary signings seem likely, since Brooklyn’s projected luxury tax bill will further increase as a result of taking on Harden’s $41MM+ salary.

However, the team also still has its $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception available and will likely be granted a disabled player exception worth about the same amount following Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL tear. As such, Brooklyn has the flexibility to sign players to deals worth more than the minimum.

Harden had a 15% trade kicker in his contract, but it will be voided since he’s already making the maximum salary.

While this blockbuster trade is probably a safe bet to work out better than the last time the Nets mortgaged their future by surrendering a series of first-round selections and pick swaps (for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), it’s worth noting that Harden is 31 years old and Durant is 32 — the Nets’ picks for the next couple years figure to fall near the end of the first round, but there’s no guarantee that will still be the case by 2025, 2026, or 2027.

Rockets’ perspective:

The Rockets are clearly betting that some of those draft assets will become valuable, opting for a package heavy on picks rather than pushing to complete a trade with the Sixers for Ben Simmons, as was rumored earlier today. Although Simmons was said to be on the table in talks with Philadelphia, it’s not clear what the rest of that deal might have looked like.

By choosing to trade with the Nets and Pacers, the Rockets landed a two-time All-Star (Oladipo) in addition to four draft picks and four draft swaps. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be a long-term Rocket. Houston will hold his Bird rights and could re-sign him in the offseason, but acquiring him this early in the season also gives the club the option of extracting further value by flipping him at the March 25 trade deadline.

Today’s trade agreement marks the end of a saga that began in November, when word first broke that Harden had turned down a two-year, $103MM extension offer and had requested a trade out of Houston. The Rockets didn’t move him in the offseason, prompting the superstar guard to express his displeasure by reporting late to training camp.

On Tuesday night, he accelerated his departure by telling reporters after a blowout loss that the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he didn’t believe the situation could be fixed. Houston decided to keep Harden away from the team until a trade agreement could be reached, and ultimately took less than 24 hours to finalize a deal.

[RELATED: Rockets’ Players, Silas Discuss Harden Situation]

Barring any additional imminent changes, the Rockets will have a fascinating roster in the short term, headlined by a trio of former stars who are coming back from major injuries. Oladipo, who missed a year from 2019-20 with a quad issue, joins John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, who have looked good this season after long-term injury absences of their own.

With Christian Wood and P.J. Tucker in the frontcourt, Houston should be a competitive team this season, albeit probably not a legit contender. Today’s trade is more about the future. Having previously traded away a handful of their own future first-round picks and given up a pair of pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, the Rockets have replenished their stash of draft picks in recent months, first by trading Robert Covington and Russell Westbrook and now by moving Harden.

Houston, which had one open roster spot entering the day, will have to waive a player to complete the trade. The club will also generate an eight-figure trade exception in the deal.

All three of the players acquired in today’s trade by the Rockets – Oladipo, Kurucs, and Exum – can become free agents at season’s end (Kurucs has a team option for 2021/22).

It also shouldn’t be overlooked that moving Harden for three less expensive players will take the Rockets $3.65MM below the luxury tax line and $9.95MM below their hard cap, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Entering the day, Houston was over the tax and only about $1MM from the hard cap — the club should now have added financial and cap flexibility for the rest of the season.

Pacers’ perspective:

Oladipo has been the subject of trade rumors for the last year, since he has at times seemed lukewarm about the idea of remaining in Indiana after his current contract expires in 2021. While the Pacers had insisted they were comfortable hanging onto him and addressing his contract situation when free agency arrived, moving him for LeVert makes sense for the franchise.

While Oladipo is a stronger defender, LeVert is a talented scorer who is two years younger than Oladipo and is on a more favorable contract. LeVert is earning $16.2MM this season and is under contract for two additional years beyond 2020/21, at an affordable rate of $18.1MM per year.

As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report observes (via Twitter), re-signing Oladipo at the price he was seeking would’ve been a challenge for the Pacers, who are already on the hook for lucrative multiyear contracts for Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. Locking in LeVert through 2022/23 should be much more financially manageable for Indiana.

In the short term, the Pacers will also slip under the luxury tax line as a result of swapping Oladipo ($21MM) for LeVert, tweets Marks.

Cavaliers’ perspective:

The Cavs are acquiring Prince and will send out Exum and a future second-round pick, but this trade is mostly about sending out the Bucks’ 2022 first-rounder in exchange for Allen, a promising young center who will be a restricted free agent during the coming offseason.

Cleveland already has a number of veteran options at the four and five, including Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and JaVale McGee, so acquiring Allen will create more of a logjam in the short term.

In the long term though, you could make the case that none of the Cavs’ incumbent big men have more upside than Allen, who is averaging a double-double (11.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG) in a part-time role (26.7 MPG) so far this season.

If Allen starts at least five games for the Cavs during the rest of the 2020/21 season, he’ll meet the starter criteria and his qualifying offer in restricted free agency will be worth $7.7MM. He’d have the option of accepting that one-year offer, negotiating a longer-term deal with Cleveland, or signing an offer sheet with another team, which the Cavs could match.

In a pair of corresponding roster moves, the Cavs will waive Thon Maker and will end Yogi Ferrell‘s 10-day contract early, per Chris Fedor of

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: LeVert, Valanciunas, Nets Prospects, Redick

Caris LeVert‘s impressive early-season performances could make the Nets a more attractive free agent destination, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer points out. The Nets guard, who is averaging 24.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 4.0 APG, is a versatile talent who can mesh with anyone because of his passing, cutting and spot-up shooting, O’Connor continues. Brooklyn’s front office looks smart for taking LeVert off the table in trade discussions with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There hasn’t been any grumbling from Raptors players who have seen their minutes reduced, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports. Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam, among others, will see their playing time fluctuate depending on the opponent. “We are sharing the minutes. We don’t know what matchups are going to come to us,” Valanciunas told Wolstat. “We have versatility. Just have different things for different matchups. We have different lineups, different people going at some different players.”
  • Nets draft-and-stash prospects Aleksandar Vezenkov and Isaia Cordinier are off to good start overseas, according to a post. Vezenkov, a 6’9” forward has played three Euroleague games for Olympiacos and is averaging 9.7 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 17.0 MPG. Cordinier, a 6’5” shooting guard who plays in the French League, returned to action on Friday after missing last season with knee tendinitis. It’s uncertain whether they’ll pursue NBA careers next season. Another draft-and-stash player, Juan Pablo Vaulet, was sent home by his Argentine team for undisclosed reasons.
  • Sixers guard J.J. Redick believes the Magic made a smart move by trading him to the Bucks five years ago, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. Redick was heading into unrestricted free agency at the time but would have liked to finish out that season with Orlando. He would have considered a long-term deal with the Magic that summer. Orlando acquired forward Tobias Harris and two other players in the deal. “The trade for Tobias was definitely in Orlando’s favor,” Redick told Robbins. “You get a guy who’s going to get you 18 [points] and 8 [rebounds] at 22, or whatever age Tobias was at the time. … Things obviously didn’t turn out great for them subsequently, but I think they made the right call.”

Nets Notes: Lin, Faried, Napier, Vezenkov

The Nets weren’t convinced that point guard Jeremy Lin will be physically ready for training camp, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lin, who was traded to the Hawks on Thursday, is coming off a ruptured patellar tendon that he suffered in last season’s opener.

The 29-year-old point guard hasn’t been medically cleared for three-on-three contact games and may take a while to get ready for five-on-five. He played just 37 games over two years after signing with Brooklyn in 2016 and carried a $12.5MM salary that the team needed to unload before completing a deal with Denver.

“I love Jeremy Lin because he represents the underdog in all of us — truly first class on and off the court,” tweeted co-owner Joe Tsai after the deal was completed. “Jeremy is not only exciting to watch, he sets an example for perseverance and leadership. We are great friends, and I will follow his progress no matter where he is.”

There’s more today out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets had been trying for months to acquire Kenneth Faried from the Nuggets, Lewis adds in the same story. Brooklyn officials hoped to make a deal before last month’s draft, but Denver was unwilling to give up this year’s first-rounder, which it used to get Michael Porter Jr. Nets GM Sean Marks improved his bargaining position by unloading Timofey Mozgov to the Hornets and Lin to the Hawks, giving him enough cap room to take on Faried and Darrell Arthur while getting a future first-rounder and second-rounder.
  • Today’s agreement with Shabazz Napier will use up the last of the Nets’ remaining cap room, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Brooklyn has 14 players under contract, 13 with guaranteed money, and can now exceed the cap by finalizing deals with Joe Harris under the Early Bird exception and Ed Davis under the room mid-level exception.
  • Aleksandar Vezenkov, a second-round pick from 2016, will get a better chance to develop his skills after signing with Olympiacos in Greece this week, according to A stretch four, Vezenkov spent last season with F.C. Barcelona, which allotted more minutes to players who weren’t likely to eventually leave for the NBA. That shouldn’t be a concern with Olympiacos, where Vezenkov will play for former Cavaliers coach David Blatt.

Draft Notes: Bouteille, Vezenkov, Carter

French small forward Axel Bouteille intends to enter the 2016 NBA Draft, agent Sead Galijasevic of Wasserman relays (via Twitter). The 21-year-old is the No. 7-ranked international prospect in his class according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. In 31 games for the French club Chalon this season, Bouteille averaged 5.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 14.4 minutes of action per outing. The swingman needs to improve his outside shooting and ability to create his own shot if he hopes to be successful in the NBA, Givony notes in his profile of Bouteille. The deadline for players to declare their intention to enter this year’s draft was Sunday, and Bouteille got in under the wire.

Here’s more regarding the 2016 NBA Draft:

  • Luc Loubaki, another Frenchman, also intends to enter this year’s NBA Draft, Thomas Jay of Octagon Basketball Europe relays (Twitter link). The 19-year-old shooting guard is the No. 37 overall player in his class according to Givony. The 6’3″ guard appeared in 30 contests this season for Orleans Loiret and averaged just 3.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 10.3 minutes per night.
  • Bulgarian combo forward Aleksandar Vezenkov will enter 2016 NBA draft, his representatives at Lotsos & Associates announced (via Twitter). The 20-year-old is the No. 69 overall prospect in this year’s draft according to Givony, who projected Vezenkov as an early second-rounder in the 2017 NBA Draft.
  • Former Maryland big man Robert Carter, who is the N0. 55 ranked prospect per Givony and comes in at No. 47 overall according to Chad Ford of, has signed with Life Sports Management to represent him, Jon Rothstein of tweets.
  • Former Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell has hired Keith Kreiter of Edge Sports International as his agent, Jeff Goodman of relays (on Twitter). Ferrell is the No. 60-ranked player per Givony, while Ford slots him 99th.

Draft Notes: Okafor, Upshaw, Vezenkov

Duke center Jahlil Okafor is more concerned about finding the right fit than what draft spot he is selected at, Ian Begley of relays. “I don’t know that I should go No. 1,” Okafor said to SI Now’s Maggie Gray. “I don’t care. I just want to go to the right environment for me and the right team. I think the hype about No. 1 is more for the fans.” With the recent report that Okafor prefers to go to the Lakers rather than the Wolves, Okafor’s statement could potentially be construed as the player angling to be bypassed by Minnesota in June’s draft in favor of Los Angeles, who holds the No. 2 overall pick, though that is merely my speculation.

Here’s the latest regarding the 2015 NBA Draft:

  • Big man Robert Upshaw has a wealth of potential, but him having been dismissed from two college teams due to substance abuse issues has put a damper on his draft stock, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes in his profile of the player. Upshaw is currently ranked as the No. 29 overall prospect by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Chad Ford of (Insider subscription required) places him 38th.
  • Early second-round prospect Aleksandar Vezenkov, who is expected to withdraw from this year’s draft, is garnering interest from a number of European teams, Vezenkov’s agent Nick Lotsos told (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). “So far some teams showed interest in Vezenkov but there are no concrete proposals yet. We are not in a hurry to decide the future. We’ll consider carefully what is the best for him to develop as a player. Barcelona? It is one of the teams interested and Aleksandar is interested as well, but as I’ve said it is too early,” Lotsos relayed.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of looked at a number of players, including Jerian Grant, Kristaps Porzingis, and Willie Cauley-Stein, who have improved their draft stock over the past year.
  • Draft prospect George Lucas, who is also known as George de Paula, said the hardest part of the draft combine was the interviews since he is still learning English, Kennedy writes in his profile of the player. “The language is the most hard,” Lucas said. “I’m trying to learn English the best that I can, so it’s a long process for me and I’m trying to communicate with other people. I’ve always had an English class since high school, but I haven’t had a lot of conversations with other people.”

Aleksandar Vezenkov Expected To Leave Draft

Early second-round prospect Aleksandar Vezenkov is expected to withdraw from this year’s draft, sources tell Aris Barkas of The 19-year-old small forward is the 32nd-best prospect this year, according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, while Chad Ford of ranks him 42nd. Vezenkov, who was born in Cyrpus but plays for Bulgarian national teams, is one of 48 players from overseas who submitted their names as early entrants for this year’s draft, with the NBA having released its official list Tuesday.

Vezenkov is without an agent since letting go of Nick Lotsos, as Barkas details. He’s had talks with Arn Tellem about hiring the Wasserman Media Group, but they haven’t reached a deal, and Vezenkov’s father, an official with the Bulgarian club Lukoil, is serving as his representative in the interim, Barkas adds.

The 6’8″ Vezenkov has time to ponder a formal decision about the draft, since the deadline for him to withdraw isn’t until June 15th. He’s expected to leave the Greek team Aris BC for a lucrative deal elsewhere in Europe, with Greece’s Panathinaikos, Spain’s Barcelona and Turkey’s Anadolu Efes interested in him, according to Barkas. So, it appears that even if Vezenkov stays in the draft, there’s a decent chance he’ll wind up as a draft-and-stash prospect and remain overseas. Vezenkov wouldn’t be automatically eligible for the draft until 2017.

Aleksandar Vezenkov To Enter Draft

Bulgarian forward Aleksandar Vezenkov, also known as Sasha Vezenkov,  intends to enter the 2015 NBA draft, Alexander Sotirov of tweets (hat tip to Enea Trapani of Sportando). Vezenkov spent the last four seasons with the Greek team Aris BC. The 19-year-old is a projected second-rounder in June’s draft. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress ranks him as the No. 32 overall prospect, while Chad Ford of (Insider Subscription required) slots him at No. 44 overall.

Vezenkov is a likely draft-and-stash pick, and his game needs refining before he is ready to be productive in the NBA. While he is a solid outside shooter with good court vision, Vezenkov needs quite a bit of work to become a passable NBA defender. With further seasoning Vezenkov could be a competent role-player off the bench in the NBA, but he’ll need to add strength if he hopes to survive the rigors of an 82 game season in the league.

In 21 appearances for Aris BC this past season, Vezenkov averaged 19.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 32.7 minutes per contest. His shooting numbers were .525/.439/.779.