James Harden trade: 76ers or Nets will land superstar guard

A James Harden trade is coming, and there are reportedly only two teams seriously vying for the superstar guard: the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Houston Rockets trade of Harden “could culminate quickly,” according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. While the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors have reportedly expressed interest, Charania reports that Brooklyn and Philadelphia have emerged as the only suitors who continue to pursue acquiring Harden in earnest.

Harden has struggled at the start of the new season, but he’s still putting up numbers that place him among the league’s elite. Even after four straight games of scoring 20 points or fewer, the longest such streak of his career, Harden is still averaging 24.8 points and 10.4 assists per game on outstanding 61.3 percent true shooting.

Harden doesn’t look particularly fit right now, and he’s essentially given up on trying to make things work with his Rockets teammates. Houston has decided to keep Harden away from the team until a deal is complete, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

A deal is coming, and it’s coming soon. So, which offer should Houston choose?

What the Nets can offer for James Harden

The Brooklyn Nets already have Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster. While there is some concern how Irving and Harden would fit together, there’s no doubt that Brooklyn would have the best ‘big three’ in the NBA if they could pull off a Harden deal.

What does Brooklyn have to offer? A package for Harden should start with Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and a ton of future draft picks.

According to Charania, the Nets have offered Houston “all of their four future first-round picks and three future pick swaps” in a deal for Harden. It’s easy to remember when Brooklyn dealt all of their future draft picks in a trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce back in 2013. While such a deal would significantly limit Brooklyn’s ability to add young talent moving forward, it’s worth noting Harden is still in his prime and should have more good years left than what Garnett and Pierce were once able to offer.

We know Durant and Harden get along well from their time together in Oklahoma City. How would Harden and Irving mesh? Given that Harden is a superior player and Irving has recently had a leave of absence from the team, it’s possible that Irving could be dealt in the future to recover some the assets Brooklyn would surrender in this trade.

What the 76ers can offer for James Harden

The Rockets are after Ben Simmons in a potential Sixers trade. Less than a month ago, new Philly president Daryl Morey said his team would not trade Simmons. Of course, Morey voiced a similar commitment to keeping Chris Paul before trading him to Oklahoma City in 2019.

Simmons is the best player Houston could realistically acquire in a deal for Harden. Simmons is also only 24 years old despite an underwhelming start to this season. A package with the Sixers would also potentially include promising rookie Tyrese Maxey, an attacking 6’2 guard who somehow slipped to No. 21 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that Philly could also acquire veteran forward P.J. Tucker in the deal.

Would Houston really want to trade Harden back to Morey, the long-time Houston executive who left the franchise only a few months ago? Philadelphia has the best assets to offer, but it will be interesting to see if Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta would really give Harden to the executive he just saw bolt from his team.

Which package should the Rockets choose?

If Simmons and Maxey are in the Philadelphia deal, it should be a no-brainer for Houston to go with the Sixers’ offer. Morey should do all he can to keep Maxey in the deal, even if it means surrendering last season’s promising rookie, Matisse Thybulle, instead. Harden joining Joel Embiid would likely make the Sixers the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.

If Philly won’t give up Simmons, getting a barrel full of draft picks from Brooklyn is a decent return. Harden joining Durant and Irving would certainly make Brooklyn the most fascinating team in the league.

Harden is about to get traded. Soon we’ll know if he’s going to Philly or Brooklyn.

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