Word is that the Houston Rockets are exploring other James Harden trade partners than the Nets or 76ers. Where else could he go?
Reports are that James Harden is seeking a trade to either the Nets or 76ers but both of those options are looking increasingly unlikely. There were reports yesterday that the 76ers were finally open to putting Ben Simmons on the table but that seems like an absurdly obvious leak by the Rockets to put pressure on Philadelphia. Especially when Daryl Morey said later in the evening that they were committed to Simmons.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that the Rockets were starting to look further afield for teams willing to trade for Harden. If Philadelphia and Brooklyn are off the table, what else is out there?
Where else could the Houston Rockets trade James Harden?
Coaxing the Jazz into this one would take some serious doing since Harden basically duplicates the offensive creation of Donovan Mitchell, without adding much that’s complementary. They’d also be giving up three starters, including the secondary creation and shooting of Bogdanovic that’s been increasingly crucial over the past few years. But Harden is an offensive engine a tier above Mitchell and Tucker and McLemore can fill the open spots in the starting lineup. It makes Utah into a very different kind of team and arguably one with a lower floor. But it’s possibly a higher ceiling. In addition, if Gobert refuses to take an extension below a supermax Utah will have to explore trading him or risk losing him for nothing.
For the Rockets, the fit here isn’t particularly clean. They invested big money in Christian Wood, who should be spending most of his minutes at the 5, and DeMarcus Cousins has been playing well. However, they get three starting quality players and, maybe most importantly, a chance to be ultra petty with Harden. If his partying has been a source of friction and frustration, why not send him to the city with the most restrictive party scene in the country.
Bucks’ 2021 first-round pick
This one has been floating around for a bit. Kevin Love has the contract that largely matches Harden’s and he’d have some value for Houston as a floor-spacer as they try to stay in the Western Conference hunt. Collin Sexton and a low first-round pick might not be the long-term value the Rockets are hoping for but it’s not nothing.
For Cleveland, Harden might be a risky acquisition for a young roster that doesn’t look totally ready to compete. But he’d help Darius Garland work more off-ball and leverage his shooting and let the rest of this young roster slot into clearer supporting roles.
Bulls’ 2022 first-round pick
Bulls’ 2024 first-round pick
This would be a huge swing for the Bulls. They have a young team they’re still building out and trading for Harden would rapidly accelerate their timeline. Here they’re giving up a pair of picks, salary flexibility in Porter’s expiring contract and one of their key young talents. But Harden does everything LaVine can do at a much higher level. They’d be a playoff team with upside and have a foundational piece to scaffold their young players.
For the Rockets, they get some draft capital and a younger, cheaper (albeit less-effective) version of Harden. In addition, Porter’s big fat expiring contract has to be appealing to the cash-strapped Tillman Fertitta.
Some package of picks
It’s unlikely the Thunder would be interested in a spin with Harden. He’s a win-now veteran just as they are leaning, HARD, into a rebuilding skid. But their war chest of draft picks is deep enough that they could probably get the Rockets interested and still maintain a ton of flexibility for the future. And imagine how fun it would be to have Harden back on the Thunder, leading the team back towards contention. He was the first of their core Ibaka-Durant-Westbrook core to leave but doing the whole prodigal sun thing would be a fascinating twist.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Some package of picks
Danuel House Jr.
There were rumors the Warriors had sniffed around a Harden deal and they’re going to keep circling in rumors until a deal is done, if only because they are one of the few teams that can offer the Rockets the picks and contracts to make a trade work. It’s unclear if Golden State would actually be willing to give up Minnesota’s first-round pick for 2021, their most valuable asset, but it makes for a chaos-filled backcourt. Harden hasn’t really worked cleanly with any backcourt partner but Curry is unlike anyone he’s ever played with. As an off-ball threat and secondary creator Curry is another class than either Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook and this pairing would be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.