James Harden has 30 or more points in every one of his last 18 games, ten of which he scored over 40 and three of which he scored over 50. On the season, Harden is averaging close to 35 points per game.
This is one of the greatest individual seasons ever put on by an NBA player. Following the early years of Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson, we haven’t really seen a stretch of games as dominant as these past 18 by Harden. The only comparable player is Kobe Bryant who averaged over 35 points in the 2005-2006 season. While Steve Nash robbed the MVP award from him, Kobe still singlehandedly lead his depleted Lakers’ team to the playoffs.
Does ANY of that sound familiar? The 35 points? The robbed MVP (If Giannis wins MVP this season)? Leading a team to the playoffs with no help? James Harden is the second coming of Kobe Bryant and any basketball fan knows what happened the season following Bryant’s 35 point destruction of the league. He demanded a trade. While a trade never went through, Bryant had his heart set on playing for the Chicago Bulls.
While slapping the camera and yelling an expletive while walking out of the tunnel following a heartbreaking loss to the Brooklyn Nets, James Harden could be thinking to himself: “Chris Paul is almost 34 years old and been sidelined all year with an injury. Clint Capela is useless without me. The Rockets have all their cap space tied up. I need to get out of here.”
While it may be a stretch to assume Harden is going to demand a trade next season, let’s at least consider some options for the Rockets for the upcoming offseason.
DISCLAIMER: SOME OF THESE TRADES DO NOT WORK FINANCIALLY RIGHT NOW. THESE WOULD ALL TAKE PLACE IN THE OFFSEASON ONCE CONTRACTS ARE EXPIRED.
James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets
Rockets Recieve: D’Angelo Russell (Sign-and-trade), Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Sign-and-trade), 2019 First Round Pick
Nets Recieve: James Harden
This trade’s power stands entirely in the hands of the Nets in their confidence to attract free agents to Brooklyn this season. As most of them will, this trade completely changes the direction of both teams involved. With key contracts like Demarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe ending this offseason, the Nets have the cap space to offer one and maybe even two max contracts in addition to Harden. If they get really lucky, they could enter next season sporting a group of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and of course, James Harden.
For the Rockets, they acquire a young and exciting group of players to keep them competitive for the near future. With the Nets’ young core teaming up with Chris Paul and Clint Capela, the Rockets could still be in the playoff conversation come next season. With a couple hit draft picks, it wouldn’t take long for the Rockets to get back into the contenders’ conversation.
James Harden to the Boston Celtics
Rockets Recieve: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier (Sign-and-trade), Guerschon Yabusele, 2019 First Round Pick (Kings)
Celtics Recieve: James Harden
Perhaps the deal with the most monetary value returning to the Rockets, the Celtics are able to put together quite the package to lure Harden to Boston. It may not be a perfect fit, as the Celtics don’t have the cap space to rebuild their roster around Harden, but with as much talent as the Celtics already have, Harden could make the Eastern Conference playoff picture very interesting.
The Rockets receive two of the best young wings in the NBA who already have experience playing with each other. With Chris Paul facilitating and making them better every day as a strong veteran presence, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tatum and Brown in the all-star game in a couple of years.
James Harden to the Los Angeles Lakers
Rockets Recieve: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Isaac Bonga, 2019 First Round Pick, 2021 First Round Pick
Lakers Recieve: James Harden
Lebron’s second star could be sitting right in front of you. James Harden and Lebron James in the pick and roll would truly be unstoppable. With no discernable offensive weaknesses for either of them, the Lakers may find a way to dethrone the Warriors, especially considering the Lakers would still have the cap space to offer another max contract in free agency. Lebron, Harden, and Kawhi? I think YES.
Like the two prior trades, the Rockets would be bringing back an awesome young core with tons of experience playing together already. I’d imagine the Rockets would at least ask for three of Lakers’ young big four (Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, and Hart), and with Kuzma’s offensive abilities to play off of superstars, he would be the perfect fit to remain in Los Angeles.
James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers
Rockets Recieve: Montrezl Harrell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, Danilo Gallinari, Avery Bradley, 2021 First Round Pick, 2022 Second Round Pick
Clippers Recieve: James Harden
Once again, James Harden has another opportunity to join a team with loads of cap space and once again, James Harden has an opportunity to return home to Los Angeles. Of all the trades, the Clippers are my favorite and probably the most realistic. We’ve already heard rumors of Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Kevin Durant considering the Clippers in free agency, and James Harden makes it that much more of an attractive landing spot for free agents this Summer.
Last but not least, the Rockets are receiving the best package to remain competitive from the Clippers. Along with a first-round pick and the Clippers’ two first-round picks from last year’s draft, the Rockets retain Montrezl Harrell who has had a breakout season this year along with two other quality NBA veterans who could provide more trade value or solid role players to surround Chris Paul with. If the Rockets trot out a starting five of Chris Paul, Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, and Clint Capela, with a super promising bench backcourt, you can’t call this an all-out fail for Houston.