Harden Fast: Where Will the NBA MVP Finally End up after Trade Talks?
When a player of James Harden’s almost unrivaled talent becomes available, it pays to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of a possible trade.
The 2018 NBA MVP is an eight-time All-Star and a three-time scoring champion. While his numbers were slightly down on the astronomical stats he produced in 2018-19 last term, this is a 31-year-old at the peak of his powers and performing to a consistently elite level.
Yet it appears as if his time at the Houston Rockets is up, with Rafael Stone open to trade options beyond the destinations that Harden himself reportedly favors.
It is very rare that a player of this magnitude becomes freely available, and behind the scenes, you suspect there is a manic scramble to secure his signature ahead of the new season. But where is Harden likely to find himself playing in 2020-21?
It has been suggested that Harden wants to head east with his next contract. The Nets have been strongly linked, but the question of whether they have the resources and tradable assets to seal the deal with the Rockets remains.
The Brooklyn franchise is highly unlikely to offload Kevin Durant and/or Kyrie Irving.
If that duo – plus Harden – were able to click together in a new team, then suddenly you have a title contender on your hands. You would expect the Nets' Eastern Conference NBA betting on bet365 odds to plummet in line with their NBA Championship price of +550 as a result.
But what do the Nets have that the Rockets want? Taurean Prince? Caris LeVert? Jarrett Allen? First-round picks? A combination of all of the above?
Any such deal would seriously weaken the depth of the Nets’ roster, but boy would it be fun to see Harden, Durant, and Irving linking up on the court.
Initially, the lure of All-Star guard Ben Simmons was reportedly on the table from the Sixers to the Rockets, however, those rumors have now been squashed by Daryl Morey.
So it’s difficult to see how the Philly outfit could make a deal happen unless a player like Mike Scott is used as a bargaining chip alongside numerous first-round pick trades.
The Sixers were abysmal in the postseason in 2020-21, and the star power of Harden alongside Joel Embiid would be a partnership to savor. However, do they have the resources to make a deal happen?
The Celtics know that the finest of margins separated them from glory in the Eastern Conference last season, and capturing Harden would surely be the final piece of that particular jigsaw.
That said, to finance a deal they would probably have to trade out at least one of their excellent team members. Possibly Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart, which could be a barrier for a franchise that has reiterated their desire to put together a youthful and hungry roster.
If the Bucks were able to somehow pair Harden with Giannis Antetokounmpo then the rest of the Eastern Conference may as well just stay at home.
But coming up with a trade package looks to be a major obstacle given that Milwaukee had to move some pieces around in order to sign Jrue Holiday in November.
They could ship out Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, perhaps, plus a suite of draft picks, but any such deal would unsettle a Bucks roster packed with Conference winning potential already.
Either way, whoever manages to sign Harden in these next few weeks is going to have a megastar on their hands.
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