Charles Oakley Blames James Harden for Messing up Nets’ Chemistry

The James Harden era with the Brooklyn Nets ended before it even really began. The blockbuster trade that sent Harden to Brooklyn from the Houston Rockets last season resulted in just a single trip to the conference semifinals before his displeasure with the team led to him going to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal for Ben Simmons earlier this year.

The Nets essentially built a super team by acquiring Harden. The move placed him alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And despite already parting ways with the legendary scorer, they could very well have one next year once Simmons is healthy.

However, former NBA All-Star Charles Oakley believes Brooklyn should have never traded for The Beard in the first place.

He said the 2017-18 MVP “messed” up the Nets’ chemistry.

Charles Oakley believes the Nets should have never traded for James Harden

Former NBA player Charles Oakley and former Brooklyn Nets star James Harden.
(L-R) Charles Oakley and James Harden | Mike Stobe/BIG3/Getty Images; Michelle Farsi/Getty Images

The Nets are on the verge of getting swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs. They don’t have James Harden after trading him to the Sixers, and Ben Simmons has yet to play for them this year due to a back injury.

So, despite Harden being a former league MVP and Simmons being a three-time All-Star, Charles Oakley doesn’t think the Nets should have ever made the initial trade last season.

“Brooklyn messed up last year; they didn’t need James Harden,” Oakley recently said to TMZ. “They didn’t need him. They could have kept their role players. They had good chemistry last year.”

Oakley makes a good point. Brooklyn traded some solid players to get Harden.

But he didn’t stop there.

“They didn’t need James Harden,” he said. “I think he messed that whole chemistry up over there because once they got him last year, they had to defer to him. And he wasn’t healthy. He wasn’t in shape.”

Who would be on the Nets had they never traded for James Harden?

Trading for James Harden came back to bite the Nets. He averaged just 24.6 points for them last season before suffering a hamstring injury in the playoffs. This year, the 10-time All-Star recorded 22.5 points on 41.4% shooting in Brooklyn before getting traded to Philly.

The team potentially has a bright future with Ben Simmons, but he is proving to be just as unreliable as Harden. It looked like he would play in this year’s playoffs, but that scenario is now looking more unlikely by the day.

So, who would they have on their team had they never acquired the former Rockets star?

Brooklyn would have Jarrett Allen, who earned an All-Star selection for the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. He has developed into a premier defender in the paint and averaged 16.1 points to go with 10.8 rebounds for Cleveland. Caris LeVert would also be on the team. He recorded more than 20.0 points per game last season before averaging 17.0 for the Indiana Pacers and Cavs this year.

There were some other assets also included in the deal for Harden, but those were the biggest losses. Allen and LeVert would have complemented Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving nicely on the offensive end the past two seasons, and Allen would have helped bolster Brooklyn’s mediocre defense.

You can’t really blame the Nets for wanting Harden last year, though. He was coming off three straight seasons in which he led the NBA in scoring, averaging over 30.0 each year. They didn’t know his skills would rapidly decline.

Do the Nets regret trading for James Harden? Possibly. They would have an All-Star center in Jarrett Allen, and a solid wing in Caris LeVert. But they now must move forward.

However, that regretful feeling might get even stronger if their 2021-22 season ends in a sweep to the Celtics.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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