From Tim Daniels of B/R:
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday on Get Up the Rockets have started to explore three-team deals as part their effort to “maximize value:”
The Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers lead the group of contenders Harden would prefer to join, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Harden doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract—they’ve become exceedingly rare in the NBA—which prevents him from handpicking his next team. So Houston has the ability to create some competition within the trade market if it’s going to move the 2017-18 MVP.
The 31-year-old Arizona State product also has two years left on his deal, giving him a little more trade value than a player heading into the final season.
Harden averaged 34.3 points in 2019-20 to win his third straight scoring title to go along with 7.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds, 4.4 threes and 1.8 steals per game across 68 appearances. He ranked third in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus and is undoubtedly one of the NBA’s best on-court performers.
Yet stories that have emerged amid the trade rumors may scare away some interested teams.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported Wednesday the Rockets’ approach in recent years could be best described as, “Whatever James wants.” The article detailed the superstar guard taking days off to party in other cities like Las Vegas and giving him a major say in the team’s travel schedule and roster moves.
For his part, Harden wouldn’t confirm whether he’d requested a trade during a meeting with the media Wednesday.
“Right now, I’m focused on being here,” Harden told reporters. “Today was good, yesterday felt really good being out there for the first time since the bubble. I hadn’t really had an opportunity to do a lot of five-on-five work, but for my first time being out there, I think I felt pretty good.”
It’s unclear whether the Rockets are far enough along in trade talks to finalize their second blockbuster trade of the month—they previously dealt Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for a package that included John Wall—before the regular season tips off Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That said, while Harden may open the campaign in Houston, the trend of recent rumors suggest it will be a surprise if he’s still in Rockets’ red at season’s end.