The Houston Rockets are expanding their search for a trade suitor for All-Star guard James Harden beyond the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, ESPN reported late Thursday. Shams Charania of The Athletic is also reporting that the Sixers have made All-Star Ben Simmons available in some trade packages involving Harden. Shams says trade talks aren’t fluid at this time. Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that several playoff suitors from the Western and Eastern Conference have emerged for Harden, who was unhappy with the change in Houston over the offseason.
UPDATE: Shams is now reporting that Sixers president Daryl Morey will not trade Simmons in a deal for Harden — or any deal it sounds.
Several teams are saying they feel better about committing high-profile assets in a deal to acquire Harden, per ESPN. Before, teams were reluctant to deal for Harden knowing he can become a free agent after the next two seasons. Teams have said that they’d be more willing to deal for Harden if he commits to re-signing on a long-term extension before 2022-23, when he has the player option on his current deal.
Circling back to the Sixers and Simmons, Philly has been open to include the All-Star guard/forward in trade talks, though those talks haven’t really gone in the right direction. The logistics of such a trade are very complicated with Harden’s salary being $40 million this season and $43.8 million next season. A team would need to give Houston enough assets to make the Rockets happy while also clearing up cap space to take on Harden’s contract.
A team that has emerged in the last week as a dark horse candidate is the Miami Heat. The Heat don’t have many big-time contracts outside of Jimmy Butler. Miami also has a few veteran players on short-term deals who have team options for next season (Goran Dragic, Andre Iguodala). Those can be used as salary dumps and give the Rockets expiring contracts to clear up cap space for next offseason.
The Heat only need to extend All-Star center Bam Adebayo. If the Heat can add Harden to a core of Butler and Adebayo, plus 1-2 of Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, look out Eastern Conference. Chances are the Rockets would want Nunn and/or Robinson back in a Harden deal. I’d imagine the Heat are reluctant to deal Herro.
Here’s what Harden had to say the other day to reporters on his future with the Rockets and where he stands:
“I can only focus on right now, and for me, the best James Harden is making sure I’m in shape,” Harden told reporters on Wednesday. “Like I said, I hadn’t even had an opportunity to play 5-on-5. Individual workouts, when you do individual basketball training, is great, but as every NBA player can agree, there’s nothing like 5-on-5 training, the physicality, making reads and things like that. Yesterday for my first time being out there, I felt good, and that’s exciting.”