Why Toronto, Boston could make a run at trading for James Harden
According to John Granato, a veteran radio host in Houston, the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are "the favorites right now" to take on angry Rockets superstar James Harden. Granato has covered the Houston sports scene for decades and certainly has its share of connections.
"It would be a package for Pascal Siakam and more or Jaylen Brown and more," tweeted Granato, who works with ESPN's Houston radio partner. He cited a "good source" for this information.
Granato didn't say if a trade could happen before the fast approaching 2020-21 regular season or if the Rockets would postpone it until later in the year - perhaps in hopes of changing the All-Star's mind about his competitiveness in an NBA Title in Houston.
That said, if the missiles do trade in Harden at some point, Granato's report could have legs. In the last major update from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Woj said Houston had expanded trade talks beyond Harden's preferred destinations (Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Miami and Milwaukee).
Granato's report would agree with this assessment. With Harden still under contract for at least two years, a title contender could take the chance to make a deep playoff run in 2021 and / or 2022 and use that success to sell Harden over time for a longer-term partnership.
But even if Harden eventually left as a free agent, it would certainly be worth it if he brought this team a championship - as was the case in Toronto with Kawhi Leonard in the 2018-19 season. The Raptors could easily use this template again with "The Beard".
From Houston's perspective, Toronto and Boston could each make sense as trading partners. If all else is the same, Rocket's general manager Rafael Stone would likely prefer to send Harden to the Eastern Conference as opposed to a direct competitor in the west. Among the much speculated Harden suitors in the east, only Philadelphia has a potentially superior commodity over Siakam or Brown in All-Star security guard Ben Simmons - and former Rockets GM Daryl Morey (now president of basketball operations with the 76ers) continue to insist that the 24 year old will not be traded.
That could change over time. It could also be an attitude. However, if Simmons isn't available, a package headed by Siakam or Brown could potentially have the upper hand. This is how Tim MacMahon from ESPN characterizes the price the Rockets for Harden are asking:
Houston has dug itself in on Harden and at this point is refusing to consider an offer unless it includes a young franchise cornerstone and a bundle of first-round tips and / or promising rookie players Deals.
Siakam, 26, was an All-Star last season. As a 6-foot-9 striker, he averaged 22.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 35.2 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, Brown, 24, had a breakout campaign averaging 20.3 points (48.1% FG) and 6.4 rebounds in 33.9 minutes per game. The 6-foot-6 guard was number 3 on the 2016 NBA draft.
Perhaps most importantly, Siakam and Brown are each signed for the next four NBA seasons. This would give the Rockets significant control over their assets, which is likely important if they are to give up on a player as valuable as Harden, a perennial top scorer and MVP finalist.
In order for a business to reach the finish line, Houston wants other assets besides Siakam or Brown - such as future compensation drafts and / or young prospects. Both the Raptors and the Celtics, each above the NBA's salary cap, would have to send an extra salary to pick up Harden's $ 41.3 million figure for this season.
Simmons is certainly on the same field and he is signed for five more seasons. But among the other three teams on Harden's preferred list, the likely centerpieces of these offerings (Miami's Tyler Herro, Milwaukee's Khris Middleton, and Brooklyn's Caris Levert) don't seem on the same level as Siakam or Brown when it comes to being a “young franchise cornerstone . “Middleton is 29 years old. Herro isn't nearly as proven, and Levert hasn't been under that long.
When the missiles do trade Harden eventually, the 76s still seem like the safest bet as they could give Houston satisfactory assets and Harden a team from his desired list to provide. The Rockets could also investigate three-team trading scenarios involving the other three teams on Harden's list, when another NBA team is willing to ditch a young cornerstone for one of those packages from the Nets, Heat, or Bucks.
But if these four teams are unable or willing to meet the Houston Prize, the Raptors and Celtics certainly seem to have an opening. While 31-year-old Harden is certainly older than Siakam or Brown and could potentially join the free hand earlier, that risk could be worth it if a deal brings either squad to championship level. Just ask the Raptors about their recent experiences with Leonard.
Ben Simmons reportedly offered, but Rockets looked beyond Harden's trading list
James Harden, Rockets say they won't be distracted by trade speculation
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