The Houston Rockets begin the 2020-21 season on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and James Harden is still on the team despite requesting a trade behind closed doors. Houston was hopeful that Harden would change his mind about his trade request after acquiring John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Christian Wood. However, nothing has changed for the 2018 MVP, who wants the Rockets to trade him as soon as possible.
The Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are the two teams heavily pursuing a trade for Harden. The scoring guard has told the Rockets he prefers to be traded to a title contender. The Sixers and Nets, though, may not be the only teams actively trying to trade for James Harden.
James Harden is acting out on purpose with the Rockets
James Harden is doing everything he can to force the Rockets to trade him sooner rather than later. On top of showing up to training camp late on purpose, the three-time scoring champion recently attended a maskless Christmas stripper party. Harden violated the NBA’s COVID-19 rules by going to the strip club.
While Harden was engaged during the two preseason games he appeared in, it is clear he’s not happy in Houston anymore. The former Sixth Man of the Year had multiple verbal confrontations with teammates in practice, with one confrontation ending in Harden throwing a basketball at a teammate.
The Rockets’ worst nightmare has come true. Once they trade James Harden, the franchise will have lost two former MVPs in the blink of an eye. Russell Westbrook requested a trade from Houston and was traded to the Washington Wizards for John Wall.
James Harden will make another team better despite his polarizing reputation
The James Harden trade drama has made people forget just how elite The Beard is. He’s led the NBA in scoring the past three seasons and mastered the art of hitting step-back jumpers from beyond the arc.
Last season for the Rockets, Harden averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game while shooting 44.4% from the field, 35.5% from beyond the arc, and 86.5% from the free-throw line. The eight-time All-Star scored at least 50 points five times and racked up one 60-point game as well.
Even though Harden is a polarizing player due to his ball-dominant style of play and off the court actions, there is no debating his stellar basketball skills. Just about every team in the NBA would love to have Harden on their squad due to his effortless scoring prowess.
The Nets and Sixers have two of the best trade packages to offer the Rockets for Harden. Brooklyn can send Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, and draft picks to Houston for Harden. Meanwhile, Philadelphia would have to part ways with All-Star point-forward Ben Simmons and multiple future draft picks to acquire Harden.
Since Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey worked with Houston for years and has a close relationship with Harden, many around the NBA believe Philadelphia is the favorite to land Harden. However, both the Nets and Sixers may have to fight off three other contenders in the NBA who are also pursuing James Harden.
Raptors, Nuggets, and Celtics have had exploratory talks with Houston
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, and Boston Celtics have also had exploratory talks with Houston on a James Harden trade. Each of these teams fits Harden’s bill of wanting to play for a title contender.
The Raptors would likely have to trade Pascal Siakam to acquire Harden since the Rockets are looking for high-level talent in return for their All-NBA guard. The Celtics and Nuggets, meanwhile, would probably have to part ways with Jaylen Brown and Michael Porter Jr., respectively. Denver may also have to give Houston Jamal Murray since it’s hard to envision Harden and the former Kentucky star sharing the backcourt.
Now that the 2020-21 NBA season is underway, all eyes will be on the Rockets and James Harden. Everyone around the league is waiting to see when Harden will get traded and what team will trade for the future Hall of Famer.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.