NBA Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz on James Harden, P.J. Tucker, More

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IDecember 9, 2020

NBA Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz on James Harden, P.J. Tucker, More

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    The Houston Rockets are a team dealing with internal turmoil. At the center of it all is star guard James Harden, who still appears to be looking for a way out of H-Town.

    Harden became one of the best players in the NBA with the Rockets after Houston acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder ahead of the 2012-13 season. He is a former MVP and three-time scoring champion, and he is widely regarded as one of the deadliest offensive players in basketball.

    But the former Arizona State product has also experienced his share of playoff disappointments and general frustrations as the face of the franchise. Harden is holding steady in terms of his desire to be traded, expanding his list of preferred destinations.

    Here is the latest buzz regarding Harden's trade wishes, as well as a potential suitor for P.J. Tucker in the event the Rockets enter "sell" mode.

Harden Open to Sixers Move, Other Contenders

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    For weeks, basketball fans have heard about a possible "big three"in Brooklyn, with Harden looking to team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as a member of the Nets.

    However, Brooklyn might not be a realistic destination, and Harden is now suggesting he would be open to other landing spots.

    Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN reported Tuesday the 31-year-old said he would be "agreeable" to joining the Philadelphia 76ers in the event a trade presented itself. Harden also reportedly has said "other teams could fit his criteria for a preferred destination," per ESPN. 

    This might not come as much of a surprise for those who have followed the Harden saga in its entirety. Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported at the start of November the Sixers would pursue Harden after former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey joined Philadelphia as the new president of basketball operations.

    But a trade to Philly could be unlikely for a number of reasons. For starters, Morey said in mid-November he has no plans to break up Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, per John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia. Considering the Rockets could well demand one of those stars in a deal for Harden, the Sixers would be hard-pressed to make the value work, not to mention the money.

    There is also the notion Morey himself could be an obstacle. Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice reported Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta could be reluctant to "greenlight" a deal sending Harden to the Sixers, especially, because Morey joined the organization shortly after leaving the Rockets despite hinting he was stepping away from basketball for a time.

    It also remains to be seen exactly where Harden's head is at. The eight-time All-Star finally reported to Rockets camp on Tuesday, per ESPN, and first-year head coach Stephen Silas will attempt to establish a relationship with his star player less than two weeks before the start of the regular season.

Warriors Briefly Pursued "The Beard"

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The Golden State Warriors have shown in the past they are willing to look past potential luxury tax issues in pursuit of a star, and it seems that was a consideration again this offseason.

    Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area reported the Dubs "cast a hypothetical wide net" that included trading for Harden. Poole noted this was also before Klay Thompson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on draft night.

    However, the Warriors opted against such a decision. According to Poole, Golden State had a notion of Harden playing the "Kevin Durant role," but ultimately decided there was not enough long-term incentive to really explore a trade.

    Considering Poole reported these internal discussions began before Thompson's injury, it bears wondering what the Warriors would have been able to even offer the Rockets.

    The No. 2 pick, which eventually became James Wiseman, almost certainly would have been included. But it is unknown what kind of roster assets the Dubs would have kicked in to add to substantial draft compensation. Regardless, the Warriors are not willing to compromise their future for a brief championship window.

    Perhaps Harden could have alleviated some of the pressure on Stephen Curry with Thompson out for the season. That said, acquiring "The Beard" would have deprived Golden State of a slew of draft picks, and the Dubs might not have even been able to re-sign Harden when his current deal expires.

Timberwolves Could Have Interest in P.J. Tucker

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    Brandon Dill/Associated Press

    Harden is far from the only disgruntled Rockets player on the roster.

    Veteran forward Tucker is in the final year of his current contract, and the undersized four-man had little to say on the subject during Monday's media availability. 

    When asked whether he had spoken to the team about an extension, Tucker brushed it aside with a "Next question," per Ben DuBose of USA Today

    Tucker's contract has long been a point of contention. Kelly Iko, Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic reported last month the 35-year-old was "irate" with his contract situation throughout the 2019-20 season, adding Tucker feels he is in for a pay raise.

    In the event the Rockets decide to move Harden, Tucker could be the next one out the door. Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported on one of the Talk North podcasts the Minnesota Timberwolves would have Tucker at the top of their wish list, if he were made available.

    Tucker would make for a good fit in Minnesota. He provides toughness, rebounding and defense, and he would be the prefect kind of floor-spacer for Karl-Anthony Towns. Tucker excels shooting out of the corner, which would allow Towns and D'Angelo Russell to attack individual matchups and make the right plays accordingly.

    There have been no indications the Rockets are looking to trade anyone, as of yet. Houston probably wants to give Silas every opportunity to work with this roster after the team signed Christian Wood and acquired John Wall.

    But there seems to be a lot of general discomfort from two of the team's longest-tenured players, which could eventually result in Harden and Tucker changing uniforms.

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