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#pounditSunday, May 16, 2021

Rockets GM defends team’s return in James Harden trade

James Harden

Amid increasing criticism of the Houston Rockets’ return in the James Harden trade, general manager Rafael Stone offered a firm defense of the deal on Monday.

The Rockets’ decision to trade Victor Oladipo, a key piece of the trade, to Miami in exchange for two veterans and a pick swap increased criticism that the team had not done enough to get a quality return for Harden. The Rockets ultimately landed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026, as well as a 2022 first-round pick from Cleveland via Milwaukee. The Rockets also have the right to swap picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027. That said, the team failed to acquire any young players in the deal, preferring instead to focus on draft capital.

Stone stood by the trade on Monday, saying the deal could not be fairly evaluated for another decade or so but adding that he had no doubts that he’d done what was best.

“I would for sure, 100%, 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.”

Stone is right that it’s too soon to judge the trade. That said, the Rockets appear to have made a mess of their handling of Oladipo, and were left with virtually no valuable player assets from the series of trades. They’re going to have to nail the draft picks for this to look worthwhile in retrospect, which is no sure thing.

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