Rockets All-Star guard James Harden, the talk of this young 2020/21 season for a variety of reasons, has expanded his wish list of NBA trade destinations to include the Trail Blazers and Celtics, according to Kelly Iko and Sam Amick of the Athletic.
The Nets, Sixers, Heat and Bucks were the four teams Harden has previously identified as preferred landing spots. The Heat have reportedly paused cursory talks surrounding a Harden trade, apparently balking at the Rockets’ asking price. The Bucks are also not expected to pursue Harden.
Finding salaries to match Harden’s in a trade is no small feat. The 31-year-old has two guaranteed years remaining on his current max contract, and holds a $47.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season.
The Trail Blazers, led by All-Star point guard Damian Lillard and talented shooting guard C.J. McCollum, impressed during their run to the 2019 Western Conference Finals. Though he has yet to make an All-Star team, the 29-year-old McCollum could be the kind of high-level scoring target around which Portland could begin build a trade. Last season, with Lillard clearly the focal point of Portland’s offense, McCollum averaged 22.2 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.2 RPG, 0.8 SPF and 0.6 BPG while posting a shooting line of .451/.379/.757.
The Celtics have appeared in the Eastern Conference Finals for three of the last four seasons. All-Star forward Jayson Tatum is almost certainly untouchable in any Harden deal, but versatile 24-year-old forward Jaylen Brown, who has emerged as a two-way force, might appeal to Houston.
Iko and Amick note that the Rockets have talked with teams that are not on Harden’s list of preferred landing spots. The Nuggets are among this group. Denver has not made star guard Jamal Murray available in trade discussions yet, though the Rockets remain intrigued by second-year forward Michael Porter Jr.