The NBA offseason is never short on drama.
With the new age of player empowerment, there has been more movement of stars than ever before.
After 8 successful seasons in H-Town that never ended in a title, Harden wants to move on.
He feels he can no longer compete for a championship with the Rockets.
James’ situation is a little different from stars that left their teams before him.
Harden is still under contract for two more years and a player option for a third.
The Rockets have already said they’re willing “to get uncomfortable” and will not budge on their current asking price.
“We’re willing to get uncomfortable,” a high-ranking Rockets source says regarding going to camp and into the season with unhappy superstars. Rockets asking price for James Harden: a young star and massive package of picks. https://t.co/oRH3vNq3z6
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 18, 2020
As we look at the three best trade destinations for Harden, we will consider the fit as well as whether or not a team can meet the asking price.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
As it currently stands, the 76ers are considered the most likely team to land Harden before the season begins, per Marc Stein of The New York Times.
As the NBA preseason begins tonight Philadelphia ranks as the most likely destination when the Rockets eventually reach the point of trading James Harden, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 11, 2020
Daryl Morey has already insisted Philly will not part with Ben Simmons.
But if that changes, they can put together the best offer packaged around the 24-year-old point guard.
A trade package of Simmons, Terrance Ferguson, and two 1st-round-picks would satisfy Houston’s needs.
Simmons is the young cornerstone, Ferguson is a young role player, and they receive two future picks.
Harden has made it clear he wants out, and the Rockets could certainly do worse than Simmons.
While the fit between Simmons and Wall would be questionable in the short term, Simmons has a seemingly limitless ceiling.
If he can develop a jumper, he almost immediately enters the debate for best player in the league.
For the Sixers, a Harden and Joel Embiid pairing is a perfect fit.
Harden and Embiid are both half-court players who prefer to play at a slower pace.
A pick-and-roll between those two would be nearly unguardable.
Either you double Harden and let Embiid roll to the basket uncontested, or switch and let Harden cook an opposing big.
The biggest question for the Sixers is whether or not they want to give up their 24-year-old potential superstar for a 31-year-old superstar.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Rockets Seek Either Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving From Nets For James Harden https://t.co/EpgOm3ZA4y
— RealGM (@RealGM) December 10, 2020
This shouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker.
Brooklyn can still offer a substantial package of players and picks in return.
LeVert could be a future star who just hasn’t gotten the opportunity he needs.
He has increased his scoring averages in each of his 4 seasons, and just set a career mark in 3-point shooting at 36% last year.
With Durant missing last season and Irving out for most of the season, LeVert averaged nearly 19 PPG in just under 30 MPG.
He will be an awkward fit at best in Brooklyn with Durant and Irving returning but could blossom in a new role.
LeVert has shown the ability to facilitate an offense and score in isolation.
Dinwiddie and Prince are both still under the age of 30 who have proven themselves to be solid role players in the NBA.
Harden next to Irving and Durant would give the Nets a seemingly unguardable offense.
Durant and Irving have already proven they can play next to superstars at their past stops (Golden State and Cleveland, respectively).
They might take some time to get used to playing with each other, but talent usually trumps everything in the NBA.
Those three are three of the greatest offensive players in the league and would give Brooklyn three of the greatest closers to end games.
New coach Steve Nash would have to iron out the details, but the Nets should pull the trigger if Houston is willing to accept.
3. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are a newcomer to the Harden trade drama.
The Miami Heat have shown interest in James Harden if the Rockets decide to trade him, per @flasportsbuzz
"The source disputed any suggestion that Heat guard Tyler Herro would be untouchable." pic.twitter.com/5hvcX19hgs
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 12, 2020
A trade package including Herro, Andre Iguodala, Precious Achiuwa, and multiple future picks is interesting.
Herro exploded in the bubble and showed he is more than just a shooter.
He can attack off the dribble and score in isolation in big-time moments.
Zach Lowe believes Tyler Herro tops anything the Nets can offer in a trade for James Harden;
"I do think Tyler Herro as a single trade piece trumps anything the Nets can offer.” pic.twitter.com/2k7dfzomgG
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) December 12, 2020
Iguodala is more just salary filler but is still a veteran wing who can play solid perimeter defense.
Houston would be banking more on the upside in this package, as opposed to the guaranteed talent from the Nets and Sixers.
Harden in Miami makes the former Eastern Conference Final’s champs the preseason favorite to repeat.
A Harden and Jimmy Butler backcourt is a terrific blend of offense and defense.
Throw in athletic big-man Bam Adebayo and Miami has a scary big three.
The biggest question would be whether or not Harden would buy into the Heat culture.
If he does, it is a scary thought for opponents.
Miami will always play tough defense and adding an offensive talent like Harden gives them an added dimension.