Who Should Trade for James Harden?

It’s not often a former MVP is available on the trade market during the prime of their career. In fact, there have only been ten former MVPs to be traded in the history of the NBA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Derrick Rose, Dave Cowens, Kevin Garnett,  Allen Iverson, Moses Malone, Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O’Neal, and Oscar Robertson.

So why does there seem to be so much hesitation from teams (and their fans) to trade for Harden? Many of his critics will be quick to point to Harden’s defensive abilities. Others will say he’s too selfish on offense and will ruin the ball movement of whichever team he joins. There’s also the fact that Harden is now 31 years old and has three years and roughly $133 million remaining on his deal (with the last year being a player option).

However, others (read: Rockets fans) will argue that Harden is a top 3 player in the league based on the facts that he has been an All-Star every year since joining the Rockets, helping them make the playoffs every season (the longest current playoff streak). During that time, he has been on the All-NBA First Team six times, All-NBA Third Team once, the scoring champion three consecutive seasons, won the MVP award in 2018, and finished in the top 3 MVP voting four other times.

They’ll tell you that although his defense is nothing to write home about, he has certainly improved on that end of the floor. He’s a solid post defender with quick hands that leads to fast break points. Does he have the ball a lot on offense? Absolutely. But is he “the dribbler” that Charles Barkley and Giannis Antetokounmpo think he is? Considering Harden led the league in assists in 2017 and has averaged at least 7.5 assists per game each of the last five seasons, I’d argue that he does more than dribble. Former Rockets General Manager and current Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Daryl Morey even argued that Harden is the greatest offensive player of all time. To top it all off, he’s been an iron man. Harden has only missed double digit games in a season once in his career.

So after considering all of that, it makes one wonder why there doesn’t seem to be more interest in Harden. Yes, the Rockets apparently are asking for a lot: young players (with all-star potential) and draft picks. But only one team can win a NBA Championship each season so if a contending team wants to up their chances, sometimes you have to take a risk. So, who should trade for James Harden?

The Contenders that should’ve made a serious offer by now (and there’s a realistic path)

Boston Celtics

Over the past few years, the Celtics have been loaded in assets to make a trade for a star. However, Danny Ainge was never able to pull the trigger. With Kemba Walker out indefinitely due to a knee injury, the Celtics could use another playmaker and scorer like Harden. What do the Celtics have that could interest the Rockets? Any deal for Harden would have to start with Jaylen Brown. The 24-year-old forward is off to a hot start this year averaging over 27 points a game. In addition, the Celtics have all of their future 1st round picks. It would be tough to give up Brown, who certainly looks like a future All-Star, but the Celtics found out last year that even when the best team in the conference (Milwaukee) loses, there’s not an easy path to the NBA Finals. With Harden, Tatum, and a (healthy) Kemba Walker, the Celtics would likely have the best offense in the NBA.

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets were one of the nice surprises of the bubble. After going down 3-1 (twice!) in the playoffs, they made it to the Western Conference Finals before eventually losing to the eventual NBA champions. The Nuggets were led by guard Jamal Murray, who had two 40+ point games and two 50 point games. It seems due to his playoff performance, plus his age (23) and contract (5 years, $158 million remaining), that the Nuggets seem hesitant to move Murray. Personally, I would move Murray for Harden in a heartbeat. They just got peak Jamal Murray and still went to 7 games their first two series and, then, fell in 5 games to the Lakers. Murray’s highest PPG in a season (18.5) is nearly seven points less than Harden’s lowest PPG (25.4) since joining the Rockets. Murray’s highest APG in a season (4.8) is one assists less than Harden’s lowest APG (5.8) with the Rockets. I just have a hard time seeing Murray ever come close to Harden’s level. In fact, I have a hard time seeing Murray even become an All-Star in a Western Conference loaded with All-Star guards. If the Nuggets can gain a MVP level player without giving up their best player, it’s something they should seriously consider.

However, if the Nuggets really don’t want to include Murray, there’s still a path to a deal. Michael Porter Jr. was the other surprise for the Nuggets in the bubble. After struggling to find consistent playing time, Porter played well enough to make the All-Seeding Games 2nd Team. He’s only 22-years-old and could be a future star if he’s able to stay healthy. Nikola Jokic seems like a tremendous fit with Harden (offensively). Jokic doesn’t need the ball all the time, but can be a great secondary playmaker next to Harden. Additionally, they would be incredibly tough to stop in pick n’ roll situations with Jokic’ ability to spread the floor and create plays. The Nuggets owe a lottery protected 1st round pick to OKC in 2023, a 2021 2nd round pick OKC, and a 2022 2nd round pick to either Miami or Minnesota.

Miami Heat

The Heat are likely in a situation where they don’t want to make too big of a change after a somewhat shocking run to the NBA Finals last season. However, if we know anything about Pat Riley, it’s that we shouldn’t count him out when there’s a star available. In terms of trade assets, the Heat are somewhat hamstrung by the fact that they are only able to trade their 2022 1st round pick and 2027 1st round pick at the moment. They’ve also traded their 2nd round picks from 2021-2026.

Where a deal becomes possible the young, up and coming players on the Heat: Precious Achiuwa, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson. Achiuwa has already done enough to break into Spoelstra’s rotation. Herro showed in the playoffs that he has the potential to be a go to scorer. Nunn was one of the best rookies in the NBA last before his playing time fell off in the bubble. There’s an argument to be made that Duncan Robinson is the best shooter in the world (not named Stephen Curry).

The only reason I have a tough time seeing a deal happen is it seems like the Rockets are searching for a young player that’s shown he can be a star and I’m not quite convinced that Herro has done enough to shown that. From the Heat’s perspective, they may not want to give up their young depth for someone who they’re not convinced will seamlessly fit into “the Heat culture”.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers still seem like the most likely landing spot for Harden. The odd fit between their two stars, Daryl Morey becoming the new President of Operations, and the constant rumors all make me think that it’s just a matter of time before we get the eventual Woj Bomb making it official. A Harden-Embiid combo seems like a great fit. Embiid doesn’t need the ball in his hands at all times and can play in the pick n’roll or pick n’pop with Harden. When Harden is off the court, Embiid can be the focus of the offense and allows Harden to not have to carry the offense completely.

Meanwhile, Ben Simmons is a 24-year-old All-Star that could be the future of the Rockets franchise. Right now, it appears that the 76ers want to wait and see if Doc Rivers can get the best out of their two stars (or if the price for Harden goes down) before deciding to make a major change. The 76ers also have young players like Tyrese Maxey, Shake Milton, and Matisse Thybulle they could include to sweeten an offer. They owe a 1st round pick to OKC in 2025, their 2021 2nd round pick to Rockets, and their 2022 2nd round pick to Miami or Minnesota.

Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been one of the best backcourts in the NBA over the past five years. Lillard is constantly in discussions for a spot on one of the All-NBA teams. McCollum is consistently a 20+ PPG scorer. However, it seems like the Blazers have reached their ceiling with this backcourt. Lillard is 30 and McCollum is 29. They made one Western Conference Finals, but have also suffered three 1st round exits. As hard as it would be to breakup Lillard and McCollum, who genuinely seem to be great friends, it’s something that Blazers GM Neil Olshey should seriously consider. As great of a scorer as McCollum is, Harden is at a whole other level. Additionally, McCollum is not much of a playmaker, especially compared to Harden. There’s also the fact that Olshey and Harden have a relationship dating back to Harden’s time in high school.

A Lillard-Harden backcourt may be the most talented backcourt of all time. The Rockets may be hesitant to do a deal with the Blazers if the centerpiece is McCollum. As mentioned, McCollum is a great scorer but he’s also 29, never been an All-Star, and seems to have neared his full potential. Portland would likely have to add some young guys like Zach Collins, Nassir Little, Anfernee Simons, or Gary Trent Jr. They also owe a lottery protected 1st round pick to the Rockets in 2021 so they could remove the protections in a potential deal. Besides that, the Blazers own all of their future 1st round picks.

Toronto Raptors

The chances of the Raptors trading for Harden went down the moment O.G. Anunoby signed an extension making him ineligible to be traded until after this season. Additionally, his contract includes a poison pill making it much more difficult to complete a deal. However, it’s still possible that a deal happens without Anunoby as Pascal Siakam fits the young star criteria the Rockets are looking for in a trade. Siakam took another big step forward last season. He made his first All-Star appearance and was named to All-NBA 2nd team. However, Siakam seemed to fall off during the second half of the season and disappear during the playoffs. The Rockets may be hesitant to trade their franchise player for a guy who may not be able to carry the offense and is will be in his late 20s by the end of the season.

Even if the Rockets did want to trade Harden for Siakam, I’m not convinced the Raptors would want to do the deal. Yes, the Kawhi trade worked out for them. But this isn’t that same Raptors team. Gone are Marc Gasol, Danny Green, and Serge Ibaka. Kyle Lowry is getting up there in age. The Raptors may not be good enough right now to win a championship, but they may not be convinced that Harden, Lowry, and Van Vleet would be enough to get it done either. If a trade does occur, the Raptors currently own all of their future 1st round picks to help sweeten the offer.

The Contenders that could/should make an offer but likely don’t have enough (or no realistic path)

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets were the first team to be mentioned in the Harden sweepstakes. It made sense on paper. They’re a championship contender that have Kevin Durant, Harden’s former teammate and close friend, Mike D’Antoni, Harden’s former head coach that helped reach a new level offensively, and are located in a major market. But once you take a closer look, the Nets don’t have much to offer the Rockets. Kyrie Irving isn’t going anywhere. After that, the Nets best offer would be centered around Caris Levert. Levert has shown he’s capable of being a go to scorer at times, but he’s already 26 and has a history of injuries. Beyond Levert, the Nets could offer Jarrett Allen, Nic Claxton, and Spencer Dinwiddie. Allen is a restricted free agent after the season and has shown enough in his career to likely receive a large offer sheet. Claxton has shown some potential but has only played 15 games in his career. Dinwiddie has a partially torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. After the season, Dinwiddie can become an unrestricted free agent if he turns down his $12.3 million player option. The only thing keeping a potential deal alive between the Rockets and Nets is that the Nets own all of their future 1st round picks. Would they be willing to give up all of their 1st round picks for the next few years again?

Golden State Warriors

How in are the Warriors really willing to go for Stephen Curry? A trade for Harden would be the ultimate all-in move. However, without a healthy Klay Thompson to use as a centerpiece, it seems unlikely. Plus, the Rockets may hesitate to move Harden to the franchise that caused them so much pain over the past five seasons. Could a deal still get done? If the Warriors are willing to part with James Wiseman and their 2021 1st round pick from Minnesota (top 3 protected), then absolutely. This seems unlikely.

LA Clippers

A deal for Harden during the season won’t happen. After the season? If the Clippers don’t win a championship (or at least come close) and Kawhi decides to leave, then I wouldn’t rule anything out. James Harden may not have a championship ring, but he has shown that he can carry a team to a playoff spot without a ton of supporting cast. It would have to be a perfect storm, but if the Clippers don’t compete for a championship again, even if Kawhi stays, and Harden still hasn’t been moved, I would guess that the Clippers try to flip Paul George for Harden. If the Clippers can’t make the western conference finals, it’s a sign that the George-Leonard duo will likely be coming to an end one way or another. Whether it’s Leonard leaving or George being traded, I would bet there will be a major change.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have been the best regular season team in the NBA the past two seasons. Regular season wins don’t get you championship rings. Luckily, it was enough to help keep Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, what’s to stop Giannis from putting Milwaukee in the same situation Harden is putting the Rockets in right now? Winning in the regular season may be enough to get Giannis to sign an extension, but a championship may be the only thing that’s able to keep Giannis from eventually pushing his way out. The Bucks have already shown they’re willing to make big moves. They made a big trade for Jrue Holiday and had a deal lined up for Bogdan Bogdanović.

So why wouldn’t they go all in for Harden, too? Well, for starters, there does seem to be some beef between Giannis and Harden. Harden made public comments about how he thought he should’ve won the 2019 MVP over Giannis. There’s the previously mentioned Giannis-Barkley conversation where Harden is referred to as “the dribbler”. Beyond that, the Bucks just don’t have a ton to offer. A deal would have to be centered around Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo. That’s likely not enough to convince the Rockets to part with Harden and the Bucks may not like the fit of Harden with Giannis. There’s also the fact that most of their 1st round picks for the near future were already traded away in the Holiday deal.

Utah Jazz

In my opinion, the Utah Jazz are in a similar situation to the Denver Nuggets. They have a nice solid core duo in Mitchell and Gobert, but I’m not convinced it’s a good enough duo to win a championship. The reason a deal is so tough to make between the Jazz and the Rockets is 1. Donovan Mitchell has a poison pill contract (which is only significant if the Jazz would even entertain moving Mitchell for Harden). 2. The Rockets likely wouldn’t be too interested in moving Harden for Rudy Gobert, a great center but he’s 28 and just signed a max extension. Outside of those two, there aren’t any players on the Jazz that are likely to interest the Rockets. If they really wanted to make a move for Harden, it’d likely have to involve Gobert going to a 3rd team.

Wildcards

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks had a big off-season. They signed Bogdan Bogdanović, Kris Dunn, Danilo Gallinari, and Rajon Rondo. They have a healthy Clint Capela and John Collins. In the draft, they got what most experts believe was a steal in Onyeka Okongwu. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish should take steps forward in their sophomore seasons. And, to top it all off, they have a young superstar in Trae Young. The front office has shown they want to win. At the time of this writing, the Hawks are 4-1.

What if we get close to the trade deadline and the Hawks are still in that 1-5 seed range and Harden is still with the Rockets? I wouldn’t rule out the Hawks continuing to make big moves. Young and Harden would be an incredibly dynamic backcourt. Both can shoot or act as playmakers. We know Harden is great in the pick n’ roll with Capela. The Hawks have interesting young pieces to make a deal in Collins, Kevin Huerter, Hunter, Okongwu, and Reddish. Additionally, they own all of their future 1st round picks and also own a 1st round pick from OKC in 2022 (lottery protected).

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls haven’t necessarily made any moves that make one think that they’re going all in, but I don’t think Billy Donovan would’ve gone there unless he was convinced that the front office was willing to make moves that could help them win. The Bulls are a storied franchise and have a strong fan base. Ownership is desperate to win. They also have some interesting pieces. Zach LaVine just missed out on finishing in the top 10 in PPG last season (he finished 11th with 25.5 PPG). The Bulls also have young players that have shown some potential in Wendell Carter, Lauri Markkanen, and Coby White. If Harden remains on the trade market, could Jerry Reinsdorf push Arturas Karnisovas to make a move? When it comes to draft picks, the Bulls have all of their future 1st round picks.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have been great at overachieving in the regular season over the past few seasons while underachieving in the postseason. They obviously have a very solid roster. Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis  are all All-Star level players. Myles Turner and T.J. Warren are both high level role players. However, the pieces just don’t seem to fit well enough to go far in the postseason. Perhaps the Pacers want to see if the results can change under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren. If they decide to change it up, then maybe they get themselves into the Harden sweepstakes. As previously mentioned, they have some All-Star level players on their team. Brogdon would likely be the guy the Rockets demand in any trade. The Pacers also have all of their future 1st round picks.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves seemed to have finally gotten “their guy” when they were able to trade for D’Angelo Russell last season. Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves had recruited him hard during free agency, but Russell couldn’t pass up the chance to sign a max contract with the Warriors. Now it’s a matter of getting Russell and Towns to fit together (along with Anthony Edwards).

If the Timberwolves get out to a slow start, they could begin to worry about being able to keep their franchise player happy (Towns is under contract through 2024, but that hasn’t stopped past superstars from pushing their way out). Timberwolves’ President of Operations Gersson Rosas was with the Rockets and has an existing relationship with Harden. A deal for Harden would likely revolve around Russell, but Minnesota also has 2020 #1 pick Anthony Edwards, 2019 lottery pick Jarrett Culver, and other interesting young pieces in Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie, and Naz Reid. They don’t have any of their 2021 draft picks, but do have all of their 1st round picks after that.

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans may have the most fascinating young core in the NBA. If Zion Williamson can remain healthy, he certainly seems like he’ll become a perennial All-Star. Brandon Ingram made a huge step forward and became All-Star while Lonzo Ball continued to make strides forward. Jaxson Hayes didn’t get much playing time last year due to his inexperience, but is oozing with potential to become a Clint Capela-esque center. Nickeil Alexander-Walker struggled, too, but he’s still just 22-years-old. In addition to their young pieces, the Pelicans have a treasure trunk of future 1st round picks from the Lakers (Anthony Davis trade) and the Bucks (Jrue Holiday trade). They also have all of their own 1st round picks.

Once Brandon Ingram becomes trade eligible in late February, the Pelicans could put together as competitive an offer as any team in the NBA. The question becomes are the Pelicans patient enough to let their young core grow together or do they bring Harden in now and try to push for a championship immediately with Harden and Williamson?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

LA Lakers

Besides the fact that they don’t have much to offer outside of their two star players, the Lakers are coming off a championship season. It wouldn’t make much sense to blow everything up when they already know what their current team is capable of doing.

They just traded for a former Rockets point guard

Phoenix Suns

For starters, the Suns just traded for Chris Paul to share the backcourt with their franchise player, Devin Booker. Next, the Suns seem to really like their young core in Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson. It’s hard to see them breaking that core up to pair Harden and Paul back together.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards so far have rebuffed all offers for Bradley Beal. Let’s say the Wizards continue to live in a world of mediocrity and sit in the 8-11 spot in the Eastern Conference. Would that be enough to convince the Wizards that it’s time to move on and start rebuilding entirely? Would it be enough for Beal to finally demand a trade? If Beal becomes available, could the Wizards get a better player in return than James Harden? Probably not. However, I’d be shocked if the Wizards wanted to put Harden and Westbrook in a backcourt together again.

Trying to win but don’t have much to offer

Charlotte Hornets

Earlier in the offseason, before Russell Westbrook was traded to the Wizards, there were rumors that Hornets owner Michael Jordan was interested in bringing in Westbrook. Obviously, that never happened but the Hornets did still shock people by giving a large contract to Gordon Hayward. So it does appear that the Hornets are trying to win, although their focus should be on building around their young backcourt of Lamelo Ball and Devonte Graham. They also have an intriguing piece in P.J. Washington and some still believe in Miles Bridges. Could the Hornets put an interesting trade offer together for Harden? Sure, but it’d likely cost them Ball, Graham, Washington, and multiple future 1st (they own all of their future 1st). However, it seems unlikely that the Hornets would make such a drastic move but I guess we shouldn’t ever discount Michael Jordan‘s competitive nature.

Orlando Magic

Over the past couple of seasons, the Magic have been good enough to make the playoffs but not quite good enough to do anything beyond that. They kind of feel like the off brand Pacers. There’s some interesting pieces on the team in Cole Anthony, Evan Fournier, Markelle Fultz, Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Nikola Vucevic. They own all of their future 1st round picks. A trade for Harden seems out of reach though. Plus, after everything they would have to give up in a Harden deal, would there even be enough help for Harden to carry them to a postseason spot?

Sacramento Kings

The Kings likely don’t want to move De’Aaron Fox, who would be tough to trade anyways due to his poison pill contract. Marvin Bagley is intriguing but hasn’t been healthy. Buddy Hield is a great shooter, but is already 28. They own all of their future 1st round picks and new General Manager, Monte McNair, comes from the Rockets front office, but it’s tough to see any type of trade occurring.

San Antonio Spurs

First off, Rockets fans may riot if James Harden ended up in a Spurs uniform. Next, it would be very un-Spurs like to make a blockbuster trade. The Spurs like to build their team from within. They draft and develop their core, then make minor tweaks. Hypothetically, they could make an intriguing offer using some of Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl, Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker, and Derrick White (plus they own all of their future 1st round picks). However, this seems like maybe the least likely landing spot for Harden.

Don’t mess with the young core quite yet

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies shocked most in the NBA by remaining in the playoff race throughout the season last year before falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the play-in tournament. Ja Morant won Rookie of the Year, Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks, and Jaren Jackson Jr. continued to improve, Brandon Clarke showed he was a steal, and they got a great value out of young guards De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones. They haven’t even gotten to see what Justise Winslow can add, yet. It would seem unwise to push the timeline forward so drastically instead of giving this young core some time to continue to grow together. Perhaps in another year or two, you can trade some of the solid pieces to add a third star to Morant and Jackson. For now, though, the Grizzlies should continue to let them build off last years success together.

Rebuild in progress

Cleveland Cavaliers

Despite their 4-2 start, the Cavaliers are still at the beginning of their rebuild. The good news is the Darius GarlandCollin Sexton (better known as Sexland) is starting to blend well together. Additionally, Kevin Porter Jr. looked like he should’ve been a lottery pick, Isaac Okoro looks more prepared offensively than anticipated, and Dylan Windler hasn’t been able to play much, yet, but could still give them a knockdown shooter. They have some solid veterans that could net them some future draft picks or young pieces (Andre Drummond, Dante Exum, Kevin Love, Javale McGee, Larry Nance, Cedi Osman). Besides likely not having enough to trade for Harden (although they have all of their future 1st plus a 2021 1st from the Bucks), it seems like they’re content trying to rebuild.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons had one of the strangest off-seasons. They let Christian Wood walk, but also drafted/signed three centers (none better than Wood). They seemed to have overpaid for Jerami Grant (although he seems to be living up to the contract thus far). Despite making some signings that seem to indicate they want to win now, the Pistons likely route back to winning is via rebuild. They should be trying to build around lottery pick Killian Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya, as well as Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. If Blake Griffin can stay healthy, perhaps he can do enough to rebuild his trade value and help the Pistons bring in some future draft picks.

New York Knicks

Based on the offseason, it seems like Leon Rose and the Knicks are willing to remain patient. They held onto their draft picks (even making savvy moves to turn the 27th and 38th picks into the 25th and 33rd pick), didn’t trade any of their young pieces for veterans, and didn’t handout any large contracts to mediocre veterans that would tie up their future cap space. The Knicks will continue to rebuild around R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Obi Toppin. They should be able to flip Julius Randle for some draft capital. Never count out the Knicks when there’s a star player available, but this time it seem like the Knicks really are trying to remain calm.

OKC Thunder

As funny as it would be for OKC to blow everything up and net 1,000 future 1st round picks (a possible exaggeration) to only flip those picks to the Rockets to have Harden return to his original NBA team, I’m willing to wager quite a lot of money that OKC has no interest in flipping those draft picks (at least not yet). They seem to be playing the long game.

They already have James Harden (sort of)

Dallas Mavericks

If there’s one player in the NBA that you can compare to James Harden, it’s Luka Doncic. The euro step layups, the step back jumpers, and the dazzling passes (plus the sometimes lackadaisical defense) make Doncic and Harden easy to compare. Obviously, having two of that level of offensive player on the court at the same time would make for an incredibly dangerous offense. However, the Mavericks already have one of the, if not the, best offenses in the NBA. Their achilles is their defense. So while the Mavericks could theoretically put together an interesting offer with Kristaps Porzingis, it seems unlikely they’d go down that road. Plus, similar to the Spurs, the Rockets could see their fans riot if Harden ended up in a Mavericks uniform.

They already have James Harden

Houston Rockets 

Although it seems unlikely, could James Harden end up remaining with the Rockets? As mentioned, he has two years left on his deal (before a player option). It wouldn’t be shocking if Harden remains on the Rockets throughout this season. They seem to be in no rush and are holding strong on their trade demands. Maybe they see more teams becoming interested in the offseason (especially with many of the top 2021 free agents already coming off the market).

The Rockets, despite the trade demands this offseason from both Harden and Westbrook, showed no signs of rebuilding. Instead, they retooled. Gone was small ball and in came the most skilled center during the Harden era in the form of Christian Wood. So far, Wood has been as good as advertised. He’s averaging nearly 24 PPG and 11 RPG in 4 games. He can shoot at all three levels, be a lob threat in the pick n’ roll, and can handle the ball. Harden has never had this type of center. John Wall, coming off a two year absence, has looked like his old self (very small sample size). Although Demarcus Cousins hasn’t looked like an All-NBA level player, he certainly looks capable of being a contributing role player. If the Rockets stay healthy and Wood continues to play at an All-Star level, could it be enough to convince Harden to stay? Only he knows the answer to that, but perhaps that’s what the Rockets are banking on.

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