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8 James Harden trade ideas both teams should consider

We came up with eight trade packages for James Harden.

The Houston Rockets are going to trade James Harden eventually. Harden has already requested a trade and given the Rockets an expanded list of teams he’d like to go to. He’s also turned down a contract extension from Houston that would have made him the first player in league history to earn $50 million annually.

Players of Harden’s caliber simply don’t become available all that often. The most recent example of a top-five player being traded was Anthony Davis, and it led to a championship for the Lakers in his first season. While Davis only had one year remaining on his contract when the Lakers acquired him, Harden currently has two seasons + a player option. He just turned 31 years old, but The Beard should continue to be one of the very few true superstars in the league going forward.

Houston has tried to smear Harden’s reputation in recent days — seems like a weird thing to do when you’re attempting to get the most value possible back for your franchise star! — but there’s no doubt he’s been worth the “trouble” every step of his career. Get James Harden and your team vastly improves its chances of winning a championship.

With Harden’s trade request hanging over the start of the season, we came up with eight possible deals and asked the corresponding SB Nation NBA communities how they felt about the proposed trade. These were the parameters for the deals:

  1. Every trade had to work on ESPN’s trade machine
  2. Every trade includes draft compensation of some kind. Since that’s where most of the negotiation on these deals will take place, we chose to keep it vague rather than come up with specific pick protections.

Here are some Harden deals both sides should consider.

Boston Celtics

Framework of the deal: Jaylen Brown, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis (or Grant Williams) + a couple first round picks to Houston for Harden.

Why Boston would do it: It’s difficult to say where the Celtics project in the East this year given Kemba Walker’s persistent injury troubles. Upgrade from Jaylen Brown to James Harden and they’re suddenly the strong favorite in the East. Brown is a solid young player who gets better every year, but he can never dream of being the on-ball creator Harden is. This deal also keeps Marcus Smart in green. Who is beating a Harden-Jayson Tatum-Smart trio? This trade also works with Grant Williams in place of Daniel Theis. You can pencil in a couple first round picks going to Houston in the deal, as well.

What CelticsBlog says: “I respect the effort and I especially appreciate the attempt to keep Marcus Smart out of the trade package. With that being said, we the Boston Celtics (that’s fun to say) don’t have enough interest in James Harden to make a competitive offer. We recognize his immense talent and the immediate impact he would have on any team. However, we’re worried about his timeline not meeting up with Tatum’s and we’re not interested in mortgaging the future with picks and young talent.”Jeff Clark

Portland Trail Blazers

Framework of the deal: C.J. McCollum and Zach Collins + a couple first round picks to Houston for Harden.

Why Portland would do it: Damian Lillard has made a tremendous commitment to the Blazers, yet Portland has decided to sit on its hands while a number of superstars (Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, AD) have hit the trade market in recent years. While Portland upgraded the team again this offseason, it likely isn’t enough to beat the Lakers. A move for Harden amounts to an all-in push to win a championship. The Blazers would maintain most of their depth and suddenly have the best guard combo in the league. I think this trade puts them significantly closer to a title while Lillard (now 30 years old) is still in his prime.

What BlazersEdge says: This offer is going to be a very big no from me. While James Harden is an incredibly talented player, arguably one of the best in the league, he’s just not a fit in Portland. Giving up CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, and picks is a big ask from Portland’s perspective. As things stand, I wouldn’t give up a single player from the roster in exchange for Harden, let alone two key players and two first round picks. Harden’s style of play and how he conducts himself wouldn’t be a fit for Portland—a team that prides itself on chemistry and team culture. Adding another “superstar” to the Trail Blazers roster might be a good idea, but Harden just isn’t it.Dia Miller

Toronto Raptors

Framework of the deal: Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell + a couple first round picks to Houston for Harden.

Why Toronto would do it: You might remember that the Raptors have made a bold trade for a superstar before. It resulted in a championship. Now that Giannis Antetokounmpo is locked up in Milwaukee, the Raps would have to explore the trade market if they want another A-lister. While it would hurt to trade Siakam, the Raptors would have at least two years with Harden and could theoretically move some other pieces to get front court help. This deal also keeps OG Anunoby in Toronto.

What Raptors HQ says: As we’ve learned in Toronto, when a superstar player is available, you have to at least inquire. The Raptors have a strong core with Pascal Siakam, but the team’s missing piece is an apex player like Harden, who can operate as the team’s fulcrum all the way to the title. The price is steep, and it would be fair to wonder if the Raptors could win a championship with only one multi-dimensional forward (OG Anunoby), but adding Harden to Toronto’s already loaded backcourt quickly vaults them back into that title conversation — even if only for a short while. — Daniel Reynolds

New Orleans Pelicans

Framework of the deal: Steven Adams, Lonzo Ball, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker + 3-4 first round picks to Houston for Harden.

Why New Orleans would do it: Zion Williamson looks ready to win right now. His hyper-efficient inside scoring would be a great match with Harden’s on-ball creation. New Orleans wouldn’t be losing much from its present day roster with this deal, and they have plenty of picks to throw in after shipping Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. The Pelicans might not want to sell out for a superstar so early in Williamson’s career, but there is danger in being too patient, too. Could a Zion-Harden combo vault New Orleans into the top half of the West in its first season?

What The Bird Writes says: After undergoing a forced win-now build in Cleveland around LeBron James that brought more pressure and stress than satisfaction, I {David Griffin} believe it’s in the best interests of the Pelicans organization to remain dedicated to the organic growth in New Orleans. Acquiring James Harden via a trade that siphons all future draft assets and has Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson taking a backseat to a 31-year-old superstar, who has displayed an unflattering me-first attitude all too often, would completely derail that plan. Thanks, but no thanks. — Oleh Kosel

Golden State Warriors

Framework of the deal: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, Minnesota’s top-five protected 2021 pick, another pick or two + a pick swap or three to Houston for Harden.

Why Golden State would do it: The Warriors dream of getting back to championship contention, but after Klay Thompson’s injury it’s possible they will be fighting just to make the playoffs. With Harden joining Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, suddenly Golden State is right back to the top of the league. This trade may mostly come down to how both teams feel about Wiseman. Even if the Rockets aren’t super high on him, a top-five protected pick from the Wolves next year is a nice chip for the future.

What Golden State of Mind says: Acting as Bob Myers, with the hand of Joe Lacob digging firmly into my shoulder, I make this trade, barring any serious objection from Steph Curry. The Warriors worked the sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell so that they would have a max contract on the books so that they could absorb the contract of another bonafide superstar when one became available; one is available, and it’s time to try and be light years ahead of the league by getting him. — Brady Klopfer

Brooklyn Nets

Framework of the deal: Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs and two first round picks + two pick swaps to Houston for Harden.

Why Brooklyn would do it: Would the Nets prefer depth or a third star this season? While there are some legitimate questions of how Harden would work with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the raw talent would be off the charts. Brooklyn would have the best top three in the league by a mile and still have a little bit of depth to go around. The bigger concern for Brooklyn would be the amount of future picks it would likely surrender to get this deal done. That didn’t work out so well for them last time they did it, but it feels like it’s still worth it for Harden.

Miami Heat

Framework of the deal: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala + a 2025 first round pick plus swaps to Houston for Harden.

Why Miami would do it: Was the Heat’s Cinderella run to the Finals in the bubble a fluke? I don’t think so, but it’s also going to be tough to recreate going forward. For as good as Herro looks and for as amazing as Robinson is in Miami’s system, the talent upgrade here is undeniable. Now for the Heat to figure out how to get as much shooting on the floor as possible around Harden, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo.

What Hot Hot Hoops says: Acting as a representative for the Heat, there would be no way I would accept this trade deal for Harden — especially after hearing about his diva-like behavior, tardiness, and blowing off practices. That would never, ever, be tolerated in this organization and certainly not for a package that includes two starters from last season and a rising star in Herro. With five important rotation players gone and an incoming player who wouldn’t slide in right away and be a good fit in the Heat culture (like Jimmy Butler did), I wouldn’t be expecting a return to the Finals so what would be the point? Surya Fernandez

Philadelphia 76ers

Framework of the deal: Ben Simmons, Mike Scott and multiple first round picks to Houston for Harden.

Why Philadelphia would do it: The Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid pairing has never been a perfect fit in Philadelphia. There’s renewed hope this season with Daryl Morey in charge and a couple more shooters in place, but Philly still has a lot of work to do to get to championship contention. Harden puts them much closer if he’s at his best, perhaps even making them instant favorites in the East. Morey knows how rare it is for superstars to come available and he knows how close Harden got him to glory before. This is also the best possible package for Houston to me. Simmons + shooters is an easy (and cheap) contender for Tilman Fertitta’s Rockets going forward.

What Liberty Ballers says: The Sixers are definitely interested in this proposal, as we believe a James Harden-Joel Embiid combo is a massive upgrade over Simmons-Embiid in terms of fit. However, our read is that the Rockets are losing leverage by the day and we like that teams are getting scared off media reports, so we’ll practice patience and wait this out a bit longer until you’re willing to take draft compensation off the table (we’ll need those picks having 3 max players on the roster).Kevin Love

Read Liberty Ballers on a potential Harden deal:

Which deal would Houston like?

We asked Darren Yuvan from our Rockets community The Dream Shake to sort through the potential deals and pick his favorites. This is what he gave us:

  1. Toronto - Siakam/Powell 1st Round Picks 2021, 2023 or 2025- This deal fits most of Houston’s parameters. They get a budding All-Star in Siakam, who averaged 22 points per game last season and would slide right in to power forward making a formidable front court alongside newly acquired Christian Wood. And they get another nice piece with last year’s breakout guy Norman Powell, who would move right into Harden’s vacated backcourt slot next to John Wall. Two first-round picks seals the deal as my favorite trade in the group. Though with Siakam 26 years old and Powell 27, it’s missing the type of young assets that would make this a perfect deal for the Rockets.
  2. Philly - Simmons/Scott, 1st Round Pick 2022 + 1 Pick Swap — Simmons is probably the highest ceiling player in any of these deals, so that’s why I like this deal for Houston. It too is missing the type of young, developing assets the Rockets are said to be after, and veteran Mike Scott is essentially a salary match throw away as far as Houston is concerned, but Simmons’ youth and top-end potential along with the pick and swap make this my second favorite deal of the bunch.
  3. Miami - Herro, Robinson, Olynyk, Nunn, Iguodala - 1st Round Pick 2025 + Swap - Let me start off by saying that I don’t love this deal. Herro and Robinson are fine, young players, but lack the All-Star power the Rockets are looking for. Might Herro get there? That’s a maybe from me. But it keeps Harden out of the West (so no Portland in my book) and I’ve never been very thrilled with the Nets package. I’d love to see some additional draft compensation involved in this deal if it were to go down, but as it stands, it’s my third favorite of the bunch.

What’s your favorite potential James Harden trade?

Put your proposals in the comments below.