Five Eastern Conference teams have reached out to the Houston Rockets regarding James Harden.
While the seriousness of the conversations varied based on team, the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Miami Heat have all at least broached the subject of a potential deal, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst confirmed this week.
Miami has become something of a hot name in Harden talks, with trade scenarios centering around both Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro being discussed. It got to the point where Jimmy Butler had to come out and issue a blunt comment on the matter.
Similarly, the Sixers are very real players in a potential deal. Ben Simmons would obviously be the outgoing Philly piece in that situation, and given the internal cold war brewing between him and Joel Embiid, it wouldn’t be all that shocking if something ultimately went down.
The Nets were a trendy early favorite to land Harden because that is where he wanted to go, but unless the team is prepared to part with a superstar like Kyrie Irving, it is increasingly look like they don’t have enough assets to pull this off.
The Celtics are always a part of trade conversations, but players currently on the roster are pretty vocally anti-Harden at this juncture.
He got ditched by his girlfriend after going undrafted. Then he got the last laugh. https://t.co/1gBPyA45Ko
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 30, 2020
Toronto, although it always does its due diligence by reaching out when superstars are available, also probably lacks the pieces necessary to make something happen here.
Harden is an excellent player. Last year the former league MVP averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per outing while shooting 44 percent from the field, 35.5 percent from three and 86.5 percent from the free throw line. He would add immediate offensive firepower to any group he joined.
That said – he comes with a lot of baggage. One team has literally hired a private investigator to monitor Harden because he has become such a loose cannon. Having to constantly baby sit a guy who is owed as much cash as he is due can be a tall order.
Fans took a close look at this OJ Simpson photo and lost their minds. https://t.co/8BUpha9b8g
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 29, 2020
Harden is set to be paid $41.3 million this season, $44.3 million next season, with a player option of $47.4 million for 2022-23. That is a big price to pay for someone who has the propensity to be a selfish diva when he doesn’t get his way.
Ultimately, a deal for Harden will likely be worked out – if for no other reason than the fact that the relationship between him and the Rockets appears untenable at this point.
But will whoever gets him really get enough productivity to justify the headache that accompanies it? That’s the $130 million question.