James Harden has been one of the most polarizing superstars in the NBA over the past few years. Whether it is his playing style or trade requests, Harden always seems to make headlines good and bad. No matter what anyone has to say about him, there is no doubt he is an elite offensive player. A 3-time scoring champion and former MVP, The Beard makes every team he is on miles better. He created a contender with the Houston Rockets and eventually formed a dominant Big Three with the Nets last year.
But there are rumors that Harden could leave the Nets this offseason because the franchise has undergone a ton of changes. Kyrie Irving’s availability is a massive issue, especially with Kevin Durant injured for possibly the next two months. Even with Durant back, Harden has not played his best basketball in Brooklyn so far. He could be itching for a new challenge, one that would boost his playing style and give him a new avenue for something better. If The Beard leaves Brooklyn in the offseason, here are the 5 best destinations for him.
5. New York Knicks
Anytime a superstar player is a free agent, the New York Knicks will be a pivotal factor. The Knicks are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history because they bring a showtime factor to Madison Square Garden every night. Outside of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, the Knicks might be the most widely known NBA franchise around the world. For a player of James Harden’s caliber, joining the Knicks would absolutely break all media outlets because they would have a dominant scorer for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony days.
James Harden would have the chance to deliver an NBA title to the Knicks, or at least make the team far more competitive than they already are. The right pieces are there with Tom Thibodeau as the coach and Julius Randle playing All-Star basketball, and there are also some young studs in R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish on the squad. Harden would complete a solid starting lineup in New York that could be good enough for the Eastern Conference Finals. A decision to join the Knicks would greatly depend on Harden’s desire to be the primary option because he has shown that he would prefer to take a backseat in recent years.
Harden forced his way to the Knicks’ neighbors in Brooklyn because he figured he would not need to be the number one option every night. With the Knicks, Harden is thrust into that role where he would put up MVP numbers and possibly strive to deliver an NBA title for the first time since 1973. If The Beard is up for that challenge, New York is the place.
4. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics need to stop wasting time and go after a third superstar player. Jayson Tatum is one of the most talented players in the league, putting up 25.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 3.8 APG for Boston this year while Jaylen Brown is easily an All-Star talent. Brown has become a solid number 2 option, putting up 24.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 2.9 APG. As great of a duo as they are, Tatum and Brown will not be enough to lead Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals at the maximum. With a big name like James Harden, they are right in the mix for a championship.
An offensive Big Three has been proven to succeed in the past, as we recently saw when Kevin Durant joined Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State. Tatum, Brown, and Harden would be impossible to prepare for; especially because the first two players are in their absolute prime physically. With James controlling the offense and creating for Tatum and Brown, Boston can form the best offense in the league under head coach Ime Udoka.
The Celtics will not succeed as currently constructed, so it is time to move on from deadweight (Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Dennis Schroder) and make a big splash in free agency. Boston has been in the mix for countless superstars over the past several years (Anthony Davis, Paul George, Jimmy Butler), but have yet to make the right move. The franchise has done well with developing Tatum and Brown, but Harden would fit like a glove. Boston is a sport’s city that loves winners, and bringing a championship to the Celtics would do wonders for Harden’s legacy.
3. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat made some big offseason moves this year by adding former NBA champions Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker to join Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. With the likes of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson filling the shooting guard role, the Heat are a very solid team on both ends of the floor. But if they acquire James Harden, their title chances go through the roof. Superteams are the norm for winning championships, and Miami needs to go after one by going all-in on the 2018 MVP.
Harden, despite his shooting struggles this season, is putting up 22.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 10.0 APG for the Brooklyn Nets. A triple-double threat every night and a star who can carry an offense on his own, Harden can basically be the primary option on offense while Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo fit as secondary offensive options to focus on defense. If Miami finds a way to move Robinson and perhaps Herro, they can create the best starting lineup in the NBA that would frighten the entire league.
Miami made the NBA Finals in 2020 with only two stars, imagine what they would do with Harden on the squad. Kyle Lowry is very capable of playing off-the-ball to accommodate another ball-handler, meaning Miami could have a dominant starting-five that would space the floor effectively. The Heat haven’t won since 2013, so Harden could break that streak next year.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have two superstars on their squad already with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but both players have struggled to keep healthy together. Not to mention, they showed that they need another piece to succeed together after choking a 3-1 lead in the “Bubble”. With Kawhi and George constantly battling injury issues, a superstar of James Harden’s caliber is needed for Los Angeles to take another step up. Paul George did a sensational job by leading the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals last year, but that will likely never happen again.
Kawhi Leonard has stated in the past that the team needs a capable point guard to create for others, something James Harden does better than 99% of the league. With a Big Three of Leonard, George, and Harden; the Clippers are right back in the mix as the most talented team in the NBA. Outside of the Bucks and Suns, no team will have the firepower that the Clippers will have with their Big Three. Los Angeles is also a big market for Harden, a superstar player who has shown he enjoys the benefits that come with fame.
Most importantly, Harden has a chance to deliver an NBA title with the Clippers, something that will make history to positively affect The Beard’s legacy. For decades, the Clippers were considered “noisy neighbors” to the Lakers, and that still remains the case even with Leonard and George on the squad. Harden can jump in to break that stigma and form one of the most exciting Big Threes in NBA history.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have a massive problem in their hands with Ben Simmons refusing to be the point guard of the franchise. Quite frankly, the duo never worked in a basketball sense. Embiid is a fantastic big man who is shooting 48.4% from the field, 38.0% from three, and 81.4% from the free-throw line. On the other side, Simmons is shooting only 14.7% from three and 59.7% from the free-throw line over his career. Simmons will likely never be a marksman from anywhere on the court and is limited to a few feet near the basket. With a big man like Embiid in the post, Simmons' liability from the perimeter will always be a problem.
If James Harden takes his talents to Philadelphia, the 76ers become the scariest team in the East. They have more combined talent than anybody else and will certainly make a couple of Finals appearances together. The duo simply possesses too much scoring and intangibles to not be dominant, and it will be a sight to behold. This will be even more exciting if Harden reunites with his general manager Daryl Morey, who Harden is reportedly very fond of.
By creating the best little-man, big-man duo since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, Harden has his best chance to win a ring. It is no secret that Morey is waiting on Harden to become available, which is why he is probably holding Ben Simmons for as long as he has. If the Nets understand they will lose Harden, they will likely engage in a sign-and-trade for Simmons and other assets. If Morey’s master plan comes to fruition, the 76ers can win their first NBA title since 1983.