Building Trade Packages for James Harden

On Monday NBA Insider Shams Charania reported that Rockets star James Harden wants out of Houston, with Brooklyn and Philadelphia being his preferred destinations.

ESPN first reported as well that Harden turned down a two-year extension offer from the Rockets that would have kept him in Houston until 2025 — and would have paid Harden an incredible $103 million total in 2023 and 2024, on top of the $170 million deal he has with Houston from now until ’23. If Harden had agreed to the most recent extension offer, he would have grossed a cool $331 million total from the Rockets from 2017 through 2025.

There are obvious ties to both Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Harden loved the years he spent with Durant and the Thunder early on in his career, constantly being called the glue that held the team together.

The presence of D’Antoni on the Nets’ staff as Steve Nash’s top assistant, along with the abilities of Kyrie Irving to take some of the ballhandling and scoring load off of Harden, would be an added bonus.

Philadelphia’s interest in Harden has grown in recent weeks with the addition of former Rockets GM Daryl Morey as the top decision-maker of basketball operations. Morey and Harden have been together since 2013 and the relationship is as tight it can be between player and front office. Even rapper Meek Mill has got in on the recruiting process, trying to lure the leading scorer to Philadelphia.

But with Morey and new head coach Doc Rivers just getting up to speed on the franchise, the 76ers are still contemplating the pros and cons of keeping their superstar duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together. One or the other, along with multiple other pieces, would have to be dealt to Houston in any potential deal for Harden.

The Rockets don’t want to trade Harden. He’s been the best thing to happen to the franchise in a long, long time. But that’s no longer the same as being adamant about not trading him at all.

The team is well aware of how much Harden now wants to leave. It will take a substantial package and an impact player. The expected return for Harden makes building trade packages incredibly difficult. But when trading a top 5 player in the league, you never get equal return. It’s essentially impossible.

Getting anything approaching fair value for Harden will not be easy. But let’s give it a shot.

Brooklyn Nets

The rumors out there for a potential Harden to the Nets trade are as such.

Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen. But that is just the beginning of this package. Brooklyn will have to throw in 3 future 1st round draft picks, and a bunch of additional of pick swaps. And even then that might not be enough considering Jrue Holiday got the Pelicans 3 first round picks and 2 pick swaps.

The Nets would be losing their two best guards, outside of Kyrie Irving, their starting center, and any future post KD-Irving-Harden. And they would do it in a heart beat.

The Rockets, who will lose every proposed trade, at least get a boat load of future draft picks, potentially received when the Nets are a bad team. Think of it the way the Celtics cashed in on the Nets failures post Garnett and Pierce. They also get a nice young player in LeVert who’s ceiling is likely low tier all-star. Dinwiddie is a good place holder combo guard that will help win some games so you’re franchise doesn’t become irrelevant losers like the Knicks and Hornets. Jarrett Allen also gives the Rockets a needed rim protector who will only get better going forward.

Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons has already been rumored to be untouchable in a trade for Harden, but I’m not buying it. The idea of teaming Harden up with Joel Embiid and Doc Rivers in the Eastern Conference sounds too good for the always eager Daryl Morey to pass up.

So the 76ers could send Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Mike Scott, 2 first round picks and 2 additional pick swaps in exchange for Harden.

For the 76ers they get a top 5 player in the league to pair with a top 3 center in the league, with a hall of fame head coach. We seen the Simmons-Embiid experiment for the past few seasons, it doesn’t work if championships is the aspiration. Switching things up by bringing in Harden gives this franchise new hope that they can reach said championship. Embiid and Harden would be in the running for best duo in the league.

The Rockets get a potential super star in Ben Simmons. They could build their team around him immediately, while running a similar style offense they’ve been running. Give Simmons the ball, space the floor with shooters, and let Simmons create for himself and others. Thybulle is a young, but excellent defender to add to the roster.

Like I mentioned for the Nets trade package, the future picks from Philly could be good if far enough down the line. Harden’s prime has about 3-4 years remaining. And there is no guarantee he re-signs after his two years are up. Those picks could be valuable additions to a core of Simmons, Thybulle and whatever package they get for Westbrook.

I like this package more than the Nets package.

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have been to the Eastern Conference Finals in 3 of the last 4 years. But they can’t get over the hump.

Danny Ainge has been flirting with the idea of landing a superstar since 2016, but has never pulled the trigger. He watched Durant end up in Golden State, Paul George in OKC, and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. If not now, when?

We know Jayson Tatum is untouchable. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker should all be available if the opportunity to land Harden.

Jaylen Brown plus one of the other 3 members of the core and a first round few picks should get this deal done.

Houston gets one of the best young two way wings in the league with Brown, plus another very good to all star level player in Smart or Walker. They then flip Westbrook for anything and the Rockets remain relevant despite losing Harden.

For Harden he pairs up with Tatum and Brad Stevens with the potential to own the Eastern Conference for the next 5 years.

Denver Nuggets

This would be a league changing move if the Denver Nuggets went all in and snagged Harden out of nowhere. But this is extremely unlikely since Denver has not expressed interest. But let’s imagine.

Denver would send a package of Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Will Barton, and two first round draft picks in exchange for Harden.

For Denver they lose their depth, but instantly become title favorites with the best trio in the league. A Harden-Murray-Jokic Big 3 would have opposing defenses lost for 48 minutes a night. 3 elite playmakers and scorers is something the rest of the league can not match.

For Harden this creates a direct path to the NBA Finals. Without Harden, the Nuggets are already title contenders. Add him and you’re looking at a long run of the Nuggets atop the league. Harden can go from a great scorer to a great player and multi time NBA Champion by the end of his career. Isn’t legacy the thing all great players are chasing? This could cement his.

Miami Heat

It is no secret that the Miami Heat and Pat Riley are seeking that superstar to pair with James Harden and Bam Adebayo. The rumors of Giannis Antetokounmpo to South Beach in 2021 are legit. But with the Bucks going all out to prove Milwaukee is the place for him long term, maybe Miami pivots.

Coming off an improbable NBA Finals run, the Heat go all in now on that third star and land Harden.

They ship out Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk, KZ Opala, and a 1st round pick.

For the Rockets they a building block in Tyler Herro who just raised his value from mid round pick to potential all star with his play inside the NBA Bubble. Duncan Robinson is arguably the most sought out role player in the league with his marksmanship. Iguodala and Olynyk could be flipped for more picks at the trade deadline.

For Harden, he lands in South Beach, on the reigning Conference Champions, with two of the best two way players alongside him. The “Big 3” 2.0 in Miami could make serious noise.

In case you missed it

The Bucks got fleeced but it’s worth it as they try to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo happy in Milwaukee


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