NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on James Harden Trade, Bucks, Blazers, More

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IJanuary 1, 2021

NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on James Harden Trade, Bucks, Blazers, More

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The first week-plus of the 2020-21 NBA season has come and gone. James Harden is still a member of the Houston Rockets.

    In spite of preseason trade demands and skepticism regarding internal chemistry, the Rockets have been unable to find a reasonable offer for "The Beard." 

    For his part, Harden has put on a show to start the year. He scored 44 points and had 17 assists in the team's opener, a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Harden then poured in 34 points on 10-of-16 shooting against the Denver Nuggets earlier this week, though it came in another losing effort. Houston finally got its first win Thursday, as Harden chipped in with 33 points against the Sacramento Kings.

    The Rockets might not be finding ways to win, but Harden's individual brilliance has been on full display. A blockbuster deal might be on the horizon if teams are willing to pay Houston's steep price.

    Here is the latest on Harden, in addition to the Milwaukee Bucks' internal dealings regarding a possible Harden move and where the Blazers and Denver Nuggets fit in the picture. 

Rockets Keeping High Price Tag on Harden

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Even if the Rockets are suffering from internal turmoil, they are not going to just deal Harden for the sake of dealing him.

    Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported Houston has "set and maintained a high asking price" to acquire Harden, which is only fitting based on the former league MVP's track record and early-season performance.

    Whether Houston's idea of a significant return is players or draft compensation remains to be seen, though it could very well be a combination of both.

    Windhorst had said on the latest episode of the Hoop Collective podcast the Miami Heat could get involved by offering both Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. But Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald subsequently reported the Rockets were asking for "significantly" more than just Herro and Robinson from Miami.

    Again, the Rockets have every reason to be doing their due diligence. Harden has won three consecutive scoring titles. He is one of the eminent offensive players of this generation. Plus, he still has two years remaining on his current deal, per Spotrac

    The other element to this is Houston has never suggested it will enter a rebuild. That was not the case when Stephen Silas was hired as head coach, and it still does not appear to be the case. The Rockets would not have switched things up and acquired John Wall or signed Christian Wood if they did not intend to be competitive.

    Thus, it is only right the Rockets seek major assets in a hypothetical Harden deal in order to build around those guys, both for the present and the future.

Bucks Consulted Giannis on Potential Harden Move

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the teams intent on adding star power this offseason in an effort to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign the supermax extension.

    Milwaukee went out and gave up significant draft capital to acquire Jrue Holiday. While the Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade ultimately proved a failure, the Bucks pivoted to sign key role players like Bryn Forbes, Bobby Portis and D.J. Augustin, among others.

    Bucks general manager Jon Horst filled out the roster with Antetokounmpo in mind, and it seems the organization is still seeking his opinion in terms of roster building.

    Brian Windhorst reported Milwaukee had internal discussions about looking to acquire Harden and also consulted Giannis before opting not to pursue a trade.

    It is probably for the best the Bucks left it alone. The Rockets would have almost certainly wanted to build a possible deal around Khris Middleton, who continues to stake his claim as one of the best two-way wings in basketball. Plus, Harden and Antetokounmpo do not seem like a good pairing.

    The "Greek Freak" led the NBA in usage percentage last year, and Harden finished third. Just one year prior, it was Harden who led the league with a whopping 40.5 usage percentage.

    Milwaukee is hoping guys like Middleton and Jrue Holiday can take the ball out of Giannis' hands from time to time, but he is still at his best when he sees a lot of the ball and can create. To suggest the Bucks would be better with Harden—another guy who demands plenty of the rock—seems like a stretch, at best.

Blazers, Nuggets 'Monitoring' Harden's Situation

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    Might Harden head to a Western Conference rival?

    Brian Windhorst reported the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets are 'monitoring' Harden's situation.

    The framework for either the Blazers or Nuggets acquiring Harden does not appear too hard to discern.

    Portland would likely have to give up C.J. McCollum and then some. In fact, McCollum himself alluded to the likelihood he would be included in a deal for Harden, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. 

    Quick reported Blazers general manager Neil Olshey and Harden have pretty elaborate ties dating back to when Harden was still in high school. However, Quick also noted Olshey has been reluctant to even ponder splitting up the backcourt of McCollum and Damian Lillard.

    As for Denver, a deal might well revolve around Michael Porter Jr. The 22-year-old showed flashes during the NBA restart, and is averaging 19.5 points and 6.8 rebounds through the first four games of the season.

    Porter's shooting ability, size and athleticism suggest he has the makings of a star, especially since he is already capable of creating for himself and making plays in transition. Mike Singer of the Denver Post reported the Rockets are indeed targeting "MPJ," but the Nuggets have been reluctant to suggest he is even available. 

    Perhaps the Blazers and Nuggets will join the list of teams waiting to see how their rosters develop in the next few weeks before deciding whether to pull the trigger on a Harden blockbuster.

    For now, Harden can only keep his nose to the grindstone as he waits for something to develop.    

          

    All stats obtained via Basketball Reference, unless otherwise noted.

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