The James Harden-Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving trio was once a fantasy that basketball fans entertained throughout the offseason after rumors spread that The Beard wanted out of the Houston Rockets.
The rumors subsided for a bit, especially after the Rockets made some key moves with hopes of making Harden stay. But after their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Harden brought back his trade request, lambasting his team in the process.
With that said, the Rockets pulled the trigger, which has turned the Harden-Durant-Irving trio into reality. It has all the elements found in a championship team—at least in face value. But as we’ve seen throughout the past years, not all ‘Big 3s’ work. Just hours after news broke about the trade, analysts were quick to slam the Nets’ lack of a defensive presence. More importantly, questions arise: can the HDI trio really work?
Even at the rumor stage of the deal, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert were expected to be shipped out. Analysts expect LeVert to bloom into an All-Star in Indiana. As for Allen, who’s now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 22-year-old could’ve been the interior defender that the Nets need.
Yes, there’s still DeAndre Jordan, who’s been selected into the NBA All-Defensive Teams twice in his career., but the man seems to be on the tail end of his career. Nets fans have only been seeing glimpses of the young Jordan who once upon a time caught lobs with ease and swatted every shot thrown at him. Steve Nash’s preference to field Allen was quite revealing. The 22-year-old Allen has more upside than the 32-year-old Jordan.
While a hole in the defense will power them through some teams simply because their offense is so good, how will they match up with the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers? Durant can move up to defend Anthony Davis or Marc Gasol, but who will defend LeBron James?
Who gets the ball With James Harden in the fold?
Any NBA fan knows that Durant, Harden, and Irving are three of the most prolific scorers in history. Putting the ball in the hoop is what they do. Yes, Harden stacked up his assists during his stint in Houston. The Beard definitely has vision and passing skills in his arsenal, but this is only possible—even in his days with the Oklahoma City Thunder—if he has the ball in his hands.
Nets fans might argue that Durant and Irving have both experienced playing with other stars. Durant won two titles with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green by his side. But note that Curry and Thompson are the most deadly shooters in history. KD had the luxury of having the ball in his hands, while Curry and Thompson remained threats simply by moving all over the floor.
As for Irving, he had LeBron James and Kevin Love by his side. It was a trio that came back from a 3-1 deficit against a 73-win team and won the title. Love willingly took a back seat to accommodate the two. While LBJ needs the ball in his hands for maximum damage, do recall that he is also the most unselfish players out there. LeBron even famously told Tyrone Lue to give the ball to Irving’s hands in the final few minutes of their 2016 title win.
But with Harden in the fold, Durant and Irving won’t likely have this luxury anymore. The only way to make this work is for Harden to sacrifice. This might mean a drop in his touches—which, as mentioned, is not a good thing. Will Harden be willing to sacrifice? And if so, will it be enough to give him his first title?
How long will this trio last?
Assuming that Kyrie gets back to his senses soon, then Nets fans will be treated to having all their three superstars on the floor. But the question is, for how long will this trio last? After all, Harden is earning $41.25 million this season and is under contract through at least the 2021-22 campaign.
Come the 2022 offseason, Harden has a whopping $47.4 million player option or become a restricted free agent. This places the Nets in a predicament. Will they allow Harden to walk away? Or will they stretch their financial books to make an aging Harden stay?
This gives the Nets just two cracks at that elusive NBA title. Winning it all makes the Harden-Durant-Irving one of the best trios in history. Not winning anything, meanwhile, means that the trade has failed. And as in the case of basketball history, this will be a huge dent in the legacy of the three.