A number of surprising trades occurred in the recent NBA offseason. Perhaps the most high-profile move of all was the Houston Rockets‘ decision to trade Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall. Now the Rockets must decide what to do with remaining star James Harden, who has voiced his public desire to leave the franchise.
At this point, a Harden trade doesn’t seem imminent. Yet that hasn’t stopped analysts from speculating about potential destinations, including the Brooklyn Nets. Nets star Kyrie Irving recently addressed those rumors. Let’s break down the Harden trade talks and then investigate Irving’s comments and how the Nets could look with a Big Three.
Potential trade destinations for James Harden
Most of the trade rumors regarding Harden have focused on three destination teams: the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Brooklyn Nets. According to a recent report from ESPN, the Heat have officially ended their pursuit of Harden — at least for now. Remember, however, that Miami said the same thing about Jimmy Butler before acquiring him the next offseason.
The 76ers and the Nets remain the most viable options for a Harden trade. Most of the hypothetical 76ers deals involve a one-for-one swap of Harden for point-forward Ben Simmons. A Net’s deal, meanwhile, would likely include a package of first-round picks and quality role players like Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.
According to The Athletic, an informal poll of NBA executives found that most considered a Harden trade to the Nets unlikely at this point. The feeling is that the Rockets’ asking price for Harden remains too high to entice would-be trade partners. Of course, all of that may change depending on how both the Rockets’ and the Nets’ seasons unfold.
Is Harden worth the risk for the Nets?
Another potential stumbling block for the Nets involves questions about how well Harden would pair with their existing superstars. In his years with the Rockets, Harden failed to develop lasting partnerships with a number of potential co-stars, including Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook. The Nets might be wary about committing all their assets to such a player.
Of course, if Harden was able to mesh well with Irving and Kevin Durant, the Nets would instantly be vaulted into title contention. The Nets would still lose most of their depth, but with a Big Three that talented, many analysts feel like Brooklyn would be a lock to reach the Eastern Conference Finals — and potentially end up winning it all.
Kyrie Irving’s thoughts on the Harden situation
Irving, like Harden, is a player with a history of marching to the beat of his own drum. Whereas Harden recently made headlines by skipping the first two days of Rockets workouts, Irving aroused controversy by failing to make his scheduled appearance during media week, details ESPN. After being fined $25,000 by the NBA, Irving finally deigned to speak to reporters following a recent pre-season game.
That interview session covered a lot of ground, according to CBS Sports. At one point, the conversation came around to the subject of Harden. A reporter asked Irving what he thought about the rumors — and specifically, about rumors that the Nets might have to include either Durant or Irving himself in order to make a deal for Harden.
Irving offered a diplomatic and somewhat evasive response to the question, saying, “That part of our business is going to be what it is … James is a great player and we wish him well.”
From the most recent reports, it sounds like Harden could use all the good vibes he can get. According to DraftKings Nation, Harden has already gotten testy with his Rockets teammates several times this year. Among other things, he is reported to have thrown a ball during practice at rookie Jae’Sean Tate. The longer he sticks around Houston, the worse such behaviors may become.