The 2020-2021 NBA season could not have gotten off to much of a worse start than it has for James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Harden’s made it clear to the organization that he wants out, and he’s not being the easiest person to work with as Houston attempts to find a trade partner. Aside from the Harden turmoil, the Rockets have been without John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins for the first two games of the season due to the leagues COVID Protocols.
The Harden camp added two new teams to his list of preferred destinations this past week. According to BetOnline, The Boston Celtics (+900) and Portland Trail Blazers (+750) join Philadelphia (+125), Brooklyn (+300), and Milwaukee (+1800) on Harden’s wishlist.
It still feels like a James Harden for Ben Simmons swap could occur at any moment. In the meantime, we can assess some of the new situations on the board for Harden.
A Boston Smoke Screen
One thing we’ve learned over the years is when you see smoke blowing in the Boston wind, there’s rarely ever a fire. This situation feels no different. The Boston Celtics have been linked to every big star available in trade for the past half decade.
Danny Ainge never cashed in his assets to bring in flight risk big names like Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard. Ainge elected to continue to build around young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
There’s no route to acquire James Harden for the Boston Celtics that doesn’t include moving on from Jaylen Brown. From a financial standpoint the Boston Celtics would have to give up more salary on top of Brown to even match money to acquire Harden.
I can’t see Ainge moving a 23 year old budding All-Star for a 31 year old who’s going to take shots away from the face of the franchise; Jayson Tatum.
GMs across the league like to use the mystique of Danny Ainge to build some leverage with the team they’re actually in dealings with. They’re totally right to do that as well. If I’m Houston, I’m pulling Danny Ainge card right away with Daryl Morey. “Hey you don’t want to give us a first along with Ben Simmons, that’s ok we have Danny Ainge on the other line.
The Boston Celtics involvement in the James Harden sweepstakes is nothing but smoke in the winter air. Just another case of a team using the Celtics as leverage.
An Injury Reopening Doors in Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Nets were one of the first teams linked to James Harden. With two stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it made all the sense in the world for them to chase a third star, until it didn’t.
The Nets quickly realized that adding Durant and Irving to a young core that led them to the playoffs gave them the best depth in the league.
The ability to have a guy like Spencer Dinwiddie compliment Irving and Durant in the starting 5 was huge. A budding star in Caris LeVert and promising young big in Jarrett Allen created one of the best benches in the NBA.
The Nets didn’t have a need for Harden, until Sunday night. Guard Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL in Sunday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Spencer will miss the remainder of the season.
All of a sudden there’s a huge crack in the depth that the Brooklyn Nets possessed just two days ago. With Dinwiddie on the shelf, I’m curious to see whether the Nets might be willing to revisit talks with the Rockets.
A package built around Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen would be a tough one to top. If the Rockets are looking to get as much back for their trouble, it might be time to put some pressure on the Nets.
Whats Next For Houston?
The biggest question in Houston is; what now?
They don’t technically have to rush to trade James Harden. Sure he might act like a complete asshole in the meantime but he’s shown in the team’s first two games that once the balls rolled onto the floor, it’s all business.
The Rockets still have James Harden for an entire season after this one. There is no rush for them to make a deal. If I’m Houston, why not see what you have with this new group you’ve put around Harden?
John Wall looks more explosive than he did in the months leading to the injury that put him out for two years. Christian Wood has all of a sudden developed into an All-Star caliber stretch big. Harden and Wood showcased some amazing chemistry in the first two games of the year.
The Rockets best option is to field a competitive team around Harden while you try to get the most value for him. If he starts to cause too much a shit storm in the meantime sit his ass down until you trade him. Come to somewhat of an agreement like the AD and New Orleans years back.
I could very much see Harden stepping away from the team, or a defacto suspension (+100) occurring before the trade occurs (-140).
James Harden is one of the best basketball players in the world, still in his prime. With him still being under contract through next season, the Rockets have all right to take their time on this. Getting the best return is key. It’s on the front office to do whatever they can to achieve that. If you have to leverage teams or snitch on Daryl Morey for tampering so be it. Do what’s best for the future of the organization.
The deal that continues to make sense for both parties is the James Harden for Ben Simmons Swap. It feels like that deal still has some sense of being imminent, with just a few loose ends to tidy up. Whatever ends up occurring, we’re in for a fun dramatic path to a resolution in Houston.
All betting lines used in this article were brought to you from BetOnline. Visit their site for all betting action throughout the NBA season. Continue to follow along with us at Armchair Media as we break down all the NBA drama to come in the coming months.