Does the James Harden trade help the Nets catch the Lakers?

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5 min read
fairly easy
Brooklyn's trade for Harden shows that teams know the Lakers are ahead of the field.
Editor's note: This is the Wednesday, Jan. 13 edition of the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter from reporter Kyle Goon. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

A 117-100 drubbing by the Lakers was the final straw in a frayed relationship for Houston and James Harden, who said Tuesday night, "I don't think it can be fixed." So the Rockets finally made the blockbuster trade that Harden was reportedly asking for, sending him to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team trade for a package that includes a ton of draft capital and former Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo as the central star back in return.

The part that Lakers fans need to know: The Nets now have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. And the question on everyone's mind: Is that good enough?

The Lakers (9-3 as of this writing) seem to be lapping the field so far. They're undefeated on the road as of Wednesday morning, and the urgency they've played with can be best characterized as "half-speed." LeBron James was probably being kind to himself when, after 10 games, he said the Lakers had been playing "B, B-plus basketball."

And yet they're still dominating: They're tied for first in defensive rating (104.7 points per 100 possessions), sixth in offensive rating (113.5) and second in net rating (plus-8.8) only to the Milwaukee Bucks. Several of their weaknesses last season are now strengths: They're shooting 38.6 percent from 3-point range, and they have the sixth-highest scoring bench (40.1 ppg). They have the best record in the NBA, and it's happening with James playing a career-low in minutes and Anthony Davis missing two of those wins.

So what exactly stirs the drink in the NBA when the Lakers are this dominant?

The Bucks have to prove they can win their own conference. Ditto…
Kyle Goon
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