A blockbuster trade has happened involving James Harden being sent to the Nets.
It is no secret that James Harden wants to leave the Rockets, with reports first surfacing from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski last month.
The report came out after Harden declined a massive extension, and would reportedly seek a trade to the Brooklyn Nets to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
However, with the Rockets playing hard-ball and unlikely to trade Harden to the Nets unless a trade includes Durant or Irving (according to Shams Charania of The Athletic) the former MVP has expanded his list of trade destinations.
Harden has now added the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to his list of preferred destinations.
While each team will certainly be in the upper ranks of the Eastern Conference, not all the selections Harden have suggested would suit his play style. In fact, some teams may even be hindered by the addition of a player that requires the ball on the majority of possessions.
With that in question, I shall attempt to rank the teams based on their fit for the bearded superstar and the probability of the star ending up in their colours.
The Nets are the first team that Harden wanted to play for if traded, which makes sense due to his past relationship with Durant on the Thunder.
However, out of all the teams selected by Harden, the Nets pose as the most difficult to see working.
With Houston reportedly only interested in a trade that involves Irving or Durant, a trade for Harden potentially leaves the Nets in the same position as before the trade.
If the Nets do manage to work out a trade that allows them to keep both Irving and Durant along with Harden, the stardom will certainly be there.
The question will be, what will it cost?
Any trade would likely involve a combination of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie or Joe Harris and draft picks. The Nets would seriously be gutting their depth if they went through with the move, to create a trio which may not even work.
Irving and Harden are also likely to clash more than any teammates on any of the other teams on Harden’s list, as both require the ball to be at their most effective.
While the trade could work for the Nets and this scenario may still be very much on the cards, it is difficult to see the potential Harden/Nets relationship working.
The Heat are just coming off an NBA Finals appearance, where they fell to the eventual champions in six games. The Heat outperformed expectations and players such as Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro really stood out, while Jimmy Butler reasserted himself as a top talent in the league.
The news that Harden has added the Heat to his list of preferred trade destinations is unsurprising considering how they performed. Miami also have a few assets to play with in any trade for Harden, with Tyler Herro likely being the most lucrative trade piece the Heat would offer.
While Harden would certainly be the star of the team and the main ball handler, it would not be an analysis without questioning his fit with the team. A major component of the Heat making it as far into the postseason as they did was due to the unselfish nature of the team.
Sure, Butler was the main focal point and absolutely dominated as the star player, but the expectation breaking performance was mainly due to the unselfishness of the team.
Harden has become infamously known for his tendency to play ‘hero ball.’ The main question would be whether Harden could adapt his game to fit within the Heat’s system.
It is indeed possible, but it is a question the Heat need to consider before deciding on whether to give away some of their depth.
Just imagine Giannis and Harden on the same team. That would be the biggest sell for the Bucks in making the move, as having the two players that have combined for the past three MVP awards.
Teams would struggle to defend the pair on a pick-and-roll, as they would be virtually unstoppable.
Both players have a tendency to have the ball in their hands, however due to their differing play styles (Giannis can play mainly on the inside, while Harden is a sharpshooter) the pair could definitely work on the floor.
The question would be who the Bucks would have to trade to acquire Harden. Khris Middleton comes to mind as the target the Rockets would be after, however players such as Holiday and DiVincenzo come to mind as likely targets as well along with some draft picks.
While probably the most unlikely option on the list, the thought process of Harden and Giannis on the same team is absolutely terrifying and could actually be a force that would work and dominate the NBA world.
The most likely option and the one that poses the best win-win scenario for both teams is Harden heading to the 76ers. The 76ers have been touted by New York Times reporter Marc Stein as the most likely team to acquire Harden’s services, with the deal likely coming at the cost of Ben Simmons.
While the Rockets are in no rush to trade Harden and Daryl Morey has stated that he does not wish to trade Joel Embiid or Simmons, a move for Harden may be too enticing to give up on. Plus, Harden is a definite immediate upgrade over Simmons for a team that has struggled to accomplish much besides early playoff exits during the time Simmons and Embiid have ruled the team together.
Morey has done an excellent job at shaping the team this offseason. He managed to offload Al Horford’s contract, while acquiring some good pieces such as Seth Curry, Danny Green and Dwight Howard.
The Sixers team looks set to make a splash in the NBA under new coach Doc Rivers and Harden could be the final piece to make their championship aspirations a reality.
The 76ers could certainly try and keep both Simmons and Embiid by trying to gain Harden’s services through a combination of Tobias Harris and some other quality role players and picks.
However, the more likely scenario is that the swap will involve Simmons. Despite John Wall playing for the Rockets, Simmons would be a decent fit providing a young talent for the Rockets to build around while Harden pushes the 76ers even closer to an NBA championship.
Frankly, trading with the Sixers is the most probable win-win scenario for the Rockets. Harden will get his wish to play for a team with championship aspirations, while Houston would acquire the services of an All-Star talent in Simmons.