Bleacher Report recently wrote about two potential 3-team trades for the Houston Rockets in the event that James Harden decides to opt out of his player option with the Philadelphia 76ers. These trades were pitched as motivating factors for Harden to choose Houston as the team as currently constructed is not in contention to compete in the NBA Playoffs, something Harden claims he wants. It is worth noting these scenarios are uniquely idealistic for the Rockets and the likelihood does not have the best odds. Now let us take a look at the trades suggested for the Rockets.
First up, Bleacher Report has Harden signing with the Rockets on a max deal in July. Following the signing of Harden, Houston would then trade for Draymond Green in a sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors, and follow that up with trading for OG Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors.
The Rockets getting Harden, Draymond, and Anunoby is utopian and as I said all positive for Houston. Obviously, the Rockets would have to trade many young assets including, and not limited to, the number 4 pick in this upcoming draft, Alperen Senguin, Tari Eason, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Kevin Porter Jr., etc. The list goes on and on and this would be a drastic U-turn for a franchise that is in full rebuild mode.
The second trade pitched for Houston targets Karl Anthony-Towns from the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the three-team deal, the Rockets get KAT, the Timberwolves get Jabari Smith Jr. and Dejounte Murray from the Atlanta Hawks, and the Hawks get Houston’s number 4 pick in this upcoming draft and a variety of additional players/picks. Again, Houston gets Harden and KAT and is attempting to skip years of the rebuilding process. The return for the Timberwolves and Hawks is clearer in this scenario than the Warriors in the first trade, but still, Houston is the clear winner in both scenarios.
If Harden leaves the Philadelphia 76ers, what are their options?
The benefit to Houston in the above scenarios is they would not have to give up anything to sign Harden. He has the option to be a free agent and the Rockets have enough cap space to give him the max contract he wants and absorb other star player’s contracts in trades. Harden says he wants to be on a team that can win a Championship and Houston is far from that. If Harden means that, and Houston does indeed want him, they will need to try to pull off trades to improve this young roster.
Harden leaving the Philadelphia 76ers would create a vacancy at the point guard position. Tyrese Maxey could step into this role and be a shooting point guard, although this does not seem to be the best scenario. With the free agent market options slim, Harden is likely the best option for the Sixers at point guard. If he does move on, names in the ether are Kyrie Irving, Fred VanVleet, and potentially Chris Paul.
It seems James Harden’s free agency decision is an inflection point for a few teams this offseason, and we are patiently awaiting his decision. Once it happens, the direction will be clearer for both the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers.