Milwaukee Bucks: How they directly influenced the James Harden trade

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 26: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 26: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

While the Milwaukee Bucks strayed away from the James Harden sweepstakes, they played a part in why the one-time MVP landed with the Brooklyn Nets.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks saw one of their direct competitors in the Eastern Conference make an all-in move.

With the Brooklyn Nets acquiring one-time MVP James Harden from the Houston Rockets, the Bucks have seen a new Big 3 form in front of their eyes, especially going into their marquee clash on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Now as the Bucks have seen the favorites to come out of the East form before their eyes, even amid plenty of chemistry concerns, the Nets will be the curiosity of every NBA fan’s attention. The Bucks will know this knowing they set the wheels in motion for Harden’s sweepstakes more than 1,100 miles away that spilled over into the start of the season.

Milwaukee bowed out of the race for Harden very early and every publicly as they cited through The Athletic’s Sam Amick the cultural concerns that would come with adding a singular presence such as Harden, especially alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But given the final return that Houston got from the Nets, which was three future unprotected first round picks (2022, 2024, 2026) and pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025, 2027, the Bucks were very short in making in any decisive offer anyway. That comes as a result of offloading significant draft capital for Jrue Holiday.

For the price the Bucks paid in acquiring Holiday, which went for three first round picks and two pick swaps, it set the benchmark that led to the Nets surrendering control of any first round picks for the next six drafts. It will certainly be interesting to see how the Rockets will fare moving forward, especially when they could have had a blue-chip star like Ben Simmons in a deal with the Daryl Morey-led Philadelphia 76ers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s decision to sign his supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks also played into James Harden being dealt to Brooklyn.

Along with the Bucks’ acquisition of Holiday that had set the standard in which the Rockets replenished some of their draft assets by dealing away Harden, Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo also had a hand in all of this going down.

Harden’s unhappiness in Houston had already been festering long before Antetokounmpo inked his supermax extension last month, which reportedly included Harden turning down a two-year extension that would have paid him $50 million a year.

With Antetokounmpo declaring that his future and loyalty remains rooted in Milwaukee for the prime of his career, that certainly greased the wheels for potential Antetokounmpo suitors to pivot into exploring Harden’s market. And as Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver mentioned when meeting with media Thursday afternoon, the trade market will be open now that both MVPs have secured their futures in their respective cities.

The ripple effects of Antetokounmpo’s decision is only being felt around the league and now that the Harden saga has come to an end, that will only add to how teams will position themselves for when the next domino falls.

There’s also the fact that one of the additional picks the Rockets picked up in the four-team trade was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers, which came via the Bucks as part of the George Hill deal a little more than two years ago. With Antetokounmpo under contract for the next five seasons, at minimum, that surely lessened the value of that draft choice, which incentivized the Cavs to get in on the deal to acquire both Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from the Nets.

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The Bucks are certainly happy with their own MVP having made his decision to stay in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. Now they’ll just have to get used to seeing two MVPs in Brooklyn with Durant and Harden, along with Kyrie Irving, as the Bucks look to vie for an NBA title now and in the seasons to come.