Despite the Rockets moving slowly and methodically to trade their unhappy superstar, it does seem likely that James Harden will suit up for another team in the future. While Harden could still play for the Rockets, most people would guess that he wouldn't be very happy doing it. James Harden wants to compete at a high level for a championship, and perhaps he feels that the Houston Rockets aren't good enough for him to achieve his goals.
Even with the arrival of new co-star John Wall, Harden was not swayed. A different All-Star mate isn't going to cut it in Harden's mind, and the request for a trade is still very active. With those factors in mind, there will be contenders who look to win it all at the next level with a trade for James Harden. Any team would risk it for a former MVP, so let's see some of the best possible trade packages from various teams for James Harden.
6. Denver Nuggets
Denver Nuggets Receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets Receive: Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, Will Barton, a future first-round pick
The Denver Nuggets have cemented themselves as a real contender after dispatching the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games, all after the Clippers took a commanding 3-1 lead. This offseason, they could continue their upwards trajectory, and try to swing for the fences in terms of competing for the NBA title. If the Rockets could land James Harden, then they have a big three of Nikola Jokic, James Harden, and Jamal Murray. That is a devastating lineup to play against if you're a defender: all three of those guys have a killer scoring instinct when necessary.
The Houston Rockets reportedly wanted a young star out of any trade, and Michael Porter Jr. fits the bill as the Rockets look towards the future. Porter Jr. is a long athletic forward who has shown flashes on the offensive end: on some days he can look like Kevin Durant, other times he looks like he's still a young player learning the ropes.
Porter Jr. could a building block for a franchise, and that franchise could be the Houston Rockets. While the Nuggets don't offer a huge amount of picks in this trade scenario, they offer other enticing assets. Gary Harris is a good two-way guard who had a down year and Will Barton is a good spark plug scorer and shooter. This trade package offers some valuable assets while letting the Nuggets keep their most valuable stars.
5. New York Knicks
New York Knicks Receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets Receive: RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., a future first-round pick
The New York Knicks have been rumored to be trying to make some moves to acquire stars this offseason. It seems that their front office strategy will be to acquire a star first and build around them later. Due to James Harden's current dispute with the Houston Rockets, he could be available for the right trade package. While Harden certainly wouldn't be thrilled about going to the New York Knicks if they're not competing, perhaps they could surround him with the right pieces to let him have a chance at a championship by making other moves.
The Houston Rockets would get RJ Barrett as their young prospect. RJ Barrett was a top recruit coming out of college, but he's been overshadowed in the media by his college teammate Zion Williamson. Combine that with the fact that the Knicks didn't even make the playoffs, and you can see how Barrett has flown under the radar. He is a two-way wing with great athleticism, who averaged 14.3 PPG last season.
While Barrett was inefficient during the season, plenty of rookies who start that way develop into stars. The Houston Rockets would be a good spot where he can be in a better-structured franchise. Other inclusions in the trade package include Julius Randle, who could be a great sixth man scorer, and Dennis Smith Jr. another forgotten prospect who made the 2017-18 All-Rookie team. Frank Ntilikina is a good defender. This package gives the Houston Rockets a healthy return for their superstar.
4. Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls Receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets Receive: Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, two future first-round picks
James Harden in Chicago has the possibility to be legendary. After seeing Michael Jordan himself, the Chicago Bulls fans are hungry for success. Jordan delivered six championships, and the city has had none since then. James Harden could be the new shooting guard that the Chicago Bulls build around. After a change in the front office, there are some moves to be had for the franchise. While they did not trade their first-round pick this year and drafted Patrick Williams, it remains to be seen whether Williams would be made available in the circumstance of a James Harden trade. If the new front office trades for James Harden, then it could be smooth sailing for the Bulls in the near future.
The centerpiece of this trade is Zach LaVine. LaVine is a young shooting guard that could be the future of the Rockets franchise. LaVine is an athletic shot creator who could still become even better. While he hasn't exactly been the player to lift the Bulls into contention, he could easily be a well-fitting piece next to John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in Houston. LaVine's offensive value makes up for his defensive deficiencies. Patrick Williams is an athletic wing who could be a great floor spacer, while the two picks provide good assets for the future.
3. Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets Receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets Receive: Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, two future first-round picks
The Brooklyn Nets are one of the premier destinations for James Harden. They're one of the top destinations on his personal list, and his friendship with Kevin Durant definitely plays a factor in his desire to get traded to Brooklyn. The big three that could form in Brooklyn would become instant favorites in the Eastern Conference, and give Harden an almost guaranteed spot in the Finals. Durant, Harden, and Irving could dominate the Eastern Conference for a few years, and possibly win a ring. Harden wanting to come to Brooklyn is convenient for the Nets: they have some young players to offer in a trade.
Caris LeVert was the bright spot for the Nets in the bubble. While some point to his high usage rate during the bubble, it is understandable. LeVert had to carry the offense because Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant didn't play in the bubble. LeVert is a wing who is dazzling on the offensive end, with a sublime midrange game and an okay 3PT shot. Spencer Dinwiddie is an all-around point guard who can set up his teammates, while Jarrett Allen is a promising rim-running center with elite rim protection. All three of those players are young and ready to prove themselves: an environment where they can develop and the franchise is rebuilding should help. The two first-round picks are just extra bonuses for the Houston Rockets.
2. Miami Heat
Miami Heat Receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets Receive: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk
The Miami Heat could make some big trades before it is all said and done. Pat Riley is a smart team president, and if there is a reasonable James Harden trade, then Riley could try to make it happen. James Harden and Jimmy Butler would be a duo as good as any, and Butler proved his superstar chops by leading the Miami Heat to the Finals. Bam Adebayo is a great running mate, but that roster would be even more deadly with a proven scorer like James Harden on the roster. Harden and Butler would dominate at the SG and SF positions and the Heat would be one of the favorites to make it out of the East.
The Heat could get James Harden at the cost of five players from their roster, but perhaps the price is worth it. James Harden is one player, but a player of his caliber can make other players better. On the Rockets, the young Miami Heat players could thrive: Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro in particular, are two candidates to get a bump in usage rate. Kendrick Nunn would be the first guard off the bench. Andre Iguodala would be an important veteran, and Kelly Olynyk could space the floor. Combine that with DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall, and the team practically builds itself in Houston.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets Receive: Ben Simmons and three future first-round picks
It was revealed by NBA insiders that the favorites in the James Harden sweepstakes are the Philadelphia 76ers. That is understandable: their new president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, witnessed Harden's greatness first hand in Houston. Now, Morey could be trying to bring Harden to Philadelphia to finish what they started together. Imagining Embiid and Harden on the same team is tantalizing simply because they would be one of the best one-two punches since Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. They would be simply terrifying.
It is rumored that the Rockets want Ben Simmons and three first-round picks in exchange for James Harden. That sounds like a lot, but if the price is getting a player of MVP level, then giving up a young player could be worth it. Daryl Morey is known for swapping assets for immediate contention, and that could be the case here. In Houston, Ben Simmons could be more of a dominant player and have better spacing, while Harden would go to his favored landing spot in Philadelphia. The trade would help both players and both franchises achieve their goals: a win for absolutely everyone.