James Harden now has the Bucks and Heat among his preferred trade destinations, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. Milwaukee and Miami join Brooklyn and Philadelphia as the top landing spots on Harden’s wish list.
As we observed on Tuesday when we wrote about Harden adding the Sixers to his list of preferred destinations, the Rockets are under no obligation to send the former MVP to one of the teams on his list, since he has multiple years left on his contract and doesn’t have the ability to veto trades. However, it’s possible those clubs would be more willing to offer significant packages for Harden if they know he wants to play for them.
Neither Milwaukee nor Miami looks like an ideal trade partner for Houston, however, given the Rockets’ asking price of an All-Star caliber player plus several young players and/or draft picks. Both the Bucks and Heat have traded away multiple future first-round picks and/or pick swaps, compromising their ability to build an offer heavy on draft assets.
The Bucks have other former All-Stars in Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, but neither is on a particularly team-friendly contract — Middleton is owed $147MM over four years, while Holiday can reach free agency in 2021. Tyler Herro would be an intriguing target in any deal with the Heat, but has only played one season, so the Rockets would have to be awfully high on his potential to accept a package built around him.
The Nets and 76ers are still atop Harden’s wish list, according to Charania, who says the 31-year-old has been “resigned to the belief” that he can no longer compete for a championship in Houston.
However, Charania hears that the Rockets have no interest in a Brooklyn offer that doesn’t include Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. A Sixers offer would likely have to include Ben Simmons, but new head coach Doc Rivers has “privately made clear” that he wants an opportunity to try to maximize the potential of the Simmons/Joel Embiid duo, Charania writes.
General manager Daryl Morey and the Philadelphia front office, having added sharpshooters Seth Curry and Danny Green to complement Simmons and Embiid, appear committed to keeping their two young stars for the time being.
Harden is currently going through the NBA’s coronavirus testing process and will have to register six negative tests before he’s cleared to practice with the Rockets. According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, Harden only requires three negative tests to begin individual workouts, and Charania suggests the superstar guard is expected to have a workout in front of team personnel soon.
According to Charania, Harden has “maintained a dialogue” with trusted Rockets assistant coach John Lucas, even as he has been non-communicative at times with the club’s front office.