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Report: Celtics, Raptors Favored for James Harden Trade; Brown, Siakam Linked

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2020

Houston Rockets' James Harden controls the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in Houston, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo via AP)
Carmen Mandato/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics might be entering the James Harden sweepstakes. 

According to John Granato of ESPN 97.5 Houston, the Raptors and Celtics "are the favorites" to land Harden in a trade, with the Raptors package centering on "Pascal Siakam and more" and the Celtics package built around "Jaylen Brown and more."

The "more" in both trade packages is obviously very important. But there are question marks surrounding both Siakam and Brown as trade chips also worth discussing. 

In Toronto, for instance, wouldn't it be far more ideal to try to pair Harden with Siakam rather than exchange the players? Generally, teams acquiring stars hope to pair them with their own star, not swap them. The exchange would also leave Toronto with an incredibly crowded backcourt of Harden, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Unless Toronto planned to play extremely small, either Lowry or VanVleet might have to come off the bench. 

Granted, both players have flexible enough skill sets to mesh well with Harden. And Harden would obviously be an upgrade over Siakam. But you have to think Toronto would try to hit Houston with non-Siakam packages first. 

Brown makes a bit more sense from Boston's perspective. He's not the team's best player—that distinction belongs to Jayson Tatum—and such a trade wouldn't create the same sort of roster imbalance as Toronto might be facing with a Harden-Lowry-VanVleet backcourt.

Granted, Harden and Kemba Walker in the backcourt is a questionable fit itself. Both players like to operate as primary ball-handlers on offense, and neither is particularly effective on defense. If we assume a player like Marcus Smart might also be heading back to Houston in such a deal, Boston's defense would become a major weakness. 

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Obviously, both Toronto and Boston should at least inquire about Harden, a former MVP who is arguably the NBA's best pure scorer. A number of other teams will as well. But surrounding Harden with complementary talent is hugely important, too, and both the Raptors and Celtics would risk doing the opposite by parting with Siakam and Brown, respectively. 

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