As the James Harden saga continues to unfold, new reporting from NBA insider Howard Beck suggests a better idea of the landscape around interested teams. Though it initially appeared Harden would garner league-wide interest, that’s no longer the case. It’s due in large part to Harden diminishing his own value due to “messy endings” with his former teams. His age and recent postseason struggles are also notable factors. Beck didn’t confirm the teams outright—aside from the LA Clippers, who were Harden’s preferred destination. Rather, he indicated that each of these four teams could use Harden as a “win-now” piece.
“I don’t know who the teams are. I’m told there’s 3-4 teams—counting the Clippers—that would have some interest [in Harden]. I wonder if Brooklyn would go down that path again…Miami if they miss out on Dame Lillard…the Bulls are going to be missing Lonzo Ball for yet another season, and that’s a team that doesn’t seem to care about the future at all. They’re all just about trying to tread water and be decent right now…Who knows? Would they throw Harden into the mix with the rest of that group?”
Additionally, insider Marc Stein previously noted that the Sixers have two key objectives in any Harden trade:
“The Sixers’ primary team-building objectives, as I understand them, are A) trying to find another star to fortify their Joel Embiid/Tyrese Maxey core and B) preserving next summer’s pathway to significant salary cap space with whatever they do.”
At 34 years old and still a solid star, Harden going to any of these teams could make some sense. However, will they be willing to give up what Daryl Morey wants and fulfill the 76ers’ goals of a satisfactory return?
NBA Trade Rumors: Insider Says 3-4 Teams Interested in James Harden
Los Angeles Clippers
The 76ers might as well try it again with the Clippers. Previous negotiations with the Clips had stalled, leading to the continued mess we’re in today. The Clippers and Sixers could come back to the drawing board soon, possibly aiming for a deal around Terance Mann, multiple future first-rounders and expiring salary fillers (e.g. Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington). But given their lack of appealing assets, the Sixers may be right to look elsewhere in this situation.
What are the odds that the Brooklyn Nets reunite with Harden? It seems unlikely, but the Nets may have some assets to bring him back if they want to.
The Nets won’t have to look far to find players whose contracts match with Harden’s $35.6 million salary. They’d have two veteran contracts to offer: Spencer Dinwiddie ($20.3 million) and Dorian Finney-Smith ($13.9 million). The other two players earning a significant payday are Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale (both making around $9 million), though it’s unlikely the Nets would want to trade them.
Brooklyn also has a flurry of picks they could use in a deal, whether it’s the first-rounders they received from the Phoenix Suns or their own future firsts in 2028, ‘29 or ‘30. They also have a few second-rounders they could throw into the mix as well.
If the Nets somehow decide to run it back with Harden, they have a relatively easy path to go through. A Brooklyn squad with Harden, Mikal Bridges and Ben Simmons would be an intriguing twist to the Nets’ future, but they would at least build on their recent playoff run without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
The Miami Heat could reportedly reopen trade talks with the Portland Trail Blazers on Damian Lillard soon. However, if those eventually fall through, they could pivot towards Harden to pair him with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
The Heat’s latest offer to Lillard includes Tyler Herro, expiring veteran contracts, a young player with potential and draft picks—with Herro initially going to a third team. The proposal could easily be altered towards Harden. However, the Heat may not have to include both Herro and, say, Kyle Lowry, who is making $29 million next season, in any trade. At the same time, however, trading for a 33-year-old Lillard—who is coming off of a 32-point-per-game season—is still more appealing than trading for a 34-year-old Harden—who left his previous teams in a rougher state. If the Heat had to part with Herro and/or Lowry, they’d probably prefer it to be for the former.
Above all, Miami must have some sort of a contingency plan if talks with Portland falter. Trading for Harden and filling the starting point guard slot would make more sense than their rumored pursuit of his teammate, Joel Embiid.
Finally, with the Chicago Bulls continuing to have point guard problems, they could attempt to put themselves on the right track by trading for Harden. However, it’s worth noting they’d also have the toughest path to get him, unlike the other three teams.
Stating the obvious, there’s no way that GM Marc Eversley would include Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan in any deal for Harden—or any deal, period. They also just inked Nikola Vucevic to a three-year extension. And, for obvious reasons, the Sixers wouldn’t be interested in Lonzo Ball, nor would the Bulls want to trade him. The 25-year-old confirmed he will miss the entirety of next season recovering from knee surgery. Additionally, by all accounts, he prefers to remain in Chicago.
That would leave the Bulls grasping for straws if they wanted to put together a decent package for Harden. They’d have to gut their entire guard depth to even get close to Harden’s salary. Coby White is making $11 million, while Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu and Jevon Carter have salaries hovering around the $6-9 million range. The only way the Bulls make this easier on themselves is by including the injury-riddled Ball and his $20 million contract in any trade for the Sixers star.
In terms of picks, though, the Bulls are in better shape. Chicago owns first-rounders in five of the next seven drafts, as well as a lottery-protected 2024 first via Portland. Still, combining those with a mediocre package of players easily put the Bulls out of the running to pursue Harden.
The Last Word
As the Sixers-Harden feud continues to evolve, there’s some new light on a potential market for him beyond the Clippers. Whether Morey and the Sixers brass agree to re-engage on trade talks is anyone’s guess. However, if they do, some teams will have it easier than others if they want to acquire the ten-time All-Star.