When the Brooklyn Nets completed a blockbuster trade for 9-time NBA All-Star James Harden he was viewed as the final piece to a championship roster. Before suffering a hamstring injury in the second half of the season, Harden was viewed as one of the favorites to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award. He finished the season averaging 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 10.9 assists per game in 36 games for the Nets.
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NBA Executives Pick James Harden as Nets “Achilles Heel”
But despite helping lead the Nets to the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference, NBA executives are still naming Harden as the Nets “Achilles Heel” because he is the team’s leader.
“Some NBA executives think Brooklyn’s Achilles’ heel is that Harden is their leader. He doesn’t exactly have the best reputation, and unlike his two costars, he’s yet to win a championship,” Writes Kevin O’Connor of “The Ringer.”
“But even if they don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, young Nets players seem to appreciate what they have in Harden. During one practice in San Diego, [Dayron] Sharpe says he made a mistake on his defensive assignment on a flare screen set by the offense, which is usually set near the wing to spring free a shooter. Sharpe chased the shooter, but Harden told him right after the play that in those situations the big man is supposed to take the player setting the screen in case they slip to the rim, rather than hurry to the perimeter.”
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Marks Speaks Out on the Nets Roster Construction
Harden is a 4-time NBA scoring champion and a former league Most Valuable Player so bringing him in via trade was not going to come cheap. But it was clear that the Nets and Harden had a mutual interest in each other. And when you have an opportunity to bring in a player of his caliber you pull the trigger every single time. Giving up key pieces such as Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen was not an easy choice, but somehow general manager Sean Marks was still able to build a contending roster.
“We gave a lot in the Harden trade. We’ve had to give away some picks and lost some of our flexibility in terms of building in the future. But there are other ways to do it. Staying flexible with sustainability means making sure you actually sign the right contracts at the right time, and you don’t overcommit to people that maybe aren’t max players,” Marks said to “The Ringer.”
“It’s not rocket science. I’m not sitting here going, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got the secret sauce to how we do this, this, and this.’ There is none of that,” Marks continued. “You invest in people, you bring the right people in here, that are all empowered to drive your culture forward. That’s going to right the ship a lot when things start getting a little choppy.”
Harden is the lone member of the Nets All-Star trio that has yet to secure championship gold. This year may be his best opportunity to reach the mountain top. Although he does not have any championship experience the hunger to finally win it all could be the characteristic to make him a great leader.