The NBA season is about to start, and James Harden has not been traded yet. At first, it seemed as though it was inevitable. The Rockets fired head coach Mike D'Antoni and general manager Daryl Moray. They then hired general manager Rafael Stone and head coach Stephan Silas. Then free agency came, and the team signed talented big men DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood. This all effectively ended the "small-ball" experiment in Houston. To boot with all of this movement, Houston moved All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for former All-Star John Wall and a draft pick. Then news broke on James Harden requesting a trade from the Rockets. After another year without a title and his beloved general manager and coach being replaced, this was not a shock to anyone.
(Photo By: SLAM)
If you are reading this, first of all, thank you, second of all, you probably can't escape the Harden news. It has dominated mainstream sports media for the past few weeks. Each day a new development is made. First, James requests a trade, then reports come out that "Harden to the Nets is a done deal." Houston then comes out to say they are in no rush to trade the superstar and want him to play under Silas with the newly constructed roster. If that was not dramatic enough, Harden then is seen in Las Vegas and Atlanta partying at the start of training camp (Reports have come out that he claims to have been in those cities with his trainers, getting ready for the season). Last night, James Harden played in the Rockets' third preseason game.
The internet poked fun at the unflattering picture of Harden circulating social media last night. However, contrary to popular belief, this was just a bad picture. He has always been a bigger build and looked no different once play started. Harden did not play well, but most stars participating in these games are ironing out kinks and readjusting to the NBA games. He still looked dominant when he was in focus, so this drama will not deter his superstar status.
What the organization will decide to do is up for them to decide. But it is possible to look at the current situation and see what the best next move is for both the Rockets and Harden. Honestly, unless he gets traded to the 76ers, the Nets, or the unlikely Bucks, I do not see a suitor that puts him in a better position to succeed than the Rockets. The 76ers would be perfect even if the team gave Ben Simmons to get him. Daryl Moray is the new general manager for them, so Harden would get what he wants. Also, Harden's most likely teammate Joel Embiid is a perfect contrast to his play-style and should result in a top seed in the east or close to it. The Nets seem less likely due to the unwillingness to give up Durant or Irving. But, Harden among them two would catapult them to championship favorites. The Bucks would need to give up Middleton, DiVincenzo, and more picks than they can afford to pull off this trade without involving Giannis. If Giannis seemed reluctant to re-sign the extension, it would be possible, but unlikely, for the teams to swap the superstars. They appear as suitors for him, but it is just impossible.
(Photo By: Mike Ehrmann Getty Images)
Other than these two teams, no combination seems to work out for the 31-year-old superstar. The Rockets reloaded this off-season and got two great veterans, Cousins and Wall. Sadly, they are coming off career-altering injuries but have looked great in the preseason. To go with that, the signing of Christian Wood is perfect for this team and should capitalize on Harden's skillset. They each provide enough shooting to space out for Harden while being solid defensive players and guys that can create their shot. I love the roster as a whole, but the best thing to happen for them was the signing of new head coach Stephan Silas. Last year, he was the assistant coach in Dallas for one of the most prolific offenses the league has ever seen. An offense centered around phenom Luka Doncic. Luka plays similar to Harden in that he can both pass and score one-on-one with ease. They even have the same build and defensive tendencies. I would argue Luka is the much better passer, but Harden is the much better scorer, so it balances out. This puts Harden in a great position to succeed, as the system fits him so well.
Seeing Harden on the Nets with Kyrie and KD, the 76ers with Embiid or the Bucks with Giannis would be the best use of his talent. But seeing him traded anywhere else would be a waste. I would much rather see him stick out a year on the Rockets to see what they can do than be traded to a team he does not fit well with, like the Heat. The Heat culture is the most anti-Harden of any in the Association. All defense, grit, and grind. Team basketball and hard-work are Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra's mantra. Harden makes no sense for them either. Under Silas in Houston, he would thrive and add parody to the Western Conference. They will not win a championship but could shake things up in the west and cause some upsets in the playoffs if healthy. We will see where he ends up, but any movement in the NBA is exciting, so a star of his caliber possibly being on the move is sure to excite fans from everywhere. Well, except Houston.
Author: Daniel O'Donovan