The Houston Rockets are falling apart. Russell Westbrook requested a trade late last week, and now James Harden is reportedly in the same boat. Only days after Shams Charania reported Harden might want to go to Brooklyn if he was indeed traded, the Houston Chronicle now reports Harden has officially requested a trade from the Rockets.
Harden is coming off yet another outstanding statistical season as he averaged 34.3 points and 7.5 assists per game during the 2019-20 campaign. The season ended as it has often for Harden: with yet another early playoff exit and an overall disappointing performance from the superstar. He is, however, a singular talent in the league, and Houston would likely require a windfall of picks and young players in exchange for his services. The 31-year-old also still has three years left on his four-year, $171 million deal. With all that in mind, here are some possible destinations for Harden.
The Nets are Harden's preferred destination, or so the rumor mill suggests. TBL's Ryan Phillips summed up the possibility nicely over the weekend, describing it as a "beautiful disaster" waiting to happen. The Nets could make the numbers work by sending out Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and DeAndre Jordan. Add in a handful of picks and it's a fairly attractive offer. The Nets would be banking on star power over all, a risky strategy that can come with a big payout. The entertainment value would be sky-high, at the very least.
New York Knicks
I believe Russell Westbrook is made for the Knicks, but any star on the market will be connected to this franchise for one reason or another. In this case, the Knicks have young players (the quality of those players is up for debate), all of their draft picks, and a whole lot of cap space. Thus, they belong on the destinations list.
Past iterations of the Knicks' front office would trade their own mothers for Harden, and the power structure currently in place led by Leon Rose doesn't seem inclined to pursue star power with the same reckless abandon. But we can't count them out. Harden alone wouldn't make the Knicks a championship contender, but his mere presence would result in the best Knicks team since Carmelo Anthony's peak, and maybe even better than that. If the Knicks want to be relevant again, this is the quickest (and priciest) shortcut.
Oklahoma City Thunder
This would be a delightful twist. The Thunder are absolutely loaded with first round picks for the next few years and could probably put together an attractive package in that regard. They could sign-and-trade Danilo Gallinari while pairing him with Steven Adams to get close to the required salary to match Harden's $41 million. They have even more assets now that Chris Paul is in Phoenix.
If the Rockets would agree to any deal without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder could continue to be a competitive team while letting him further discover his star potential. He did learn how to play off the ball this year next to CP3. Is this realistic? Not particularly. Sam Presti traded Harden back in 2012 and there still might be bad blood there. The Thunder are pretty good but not a championship contender given what they would have to send out in order to acquire Harden. But nobody has a better asset cupboard to offer than OKC.
Daryl Morey is now in charge in Philly. Would he want his old pal Harden to join him? The Sixers could definitely make the numbers work with all the bloated contracts they have on the books. The problem would be finding anything else Houston would be interested in.
I personally am not of the opinion that Morey is in any hurry to trade Ben Simmons. Would Houston settle for a package consisting of Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, Zhaire Smith, Shake Milton, and three or four first-round picks? Would Philly really trade Simmons and roll with a Harden/Joel Embiid pairing? Harden would fit in well regardless of who was next to him and elevate Philadelphia to championship contenders immediately. Nothing is out of the question with Morey involved.