James Harden reportedly wants the Rockets to trade him to the Nets, 76ers, Bucks or Heat.
But Harden has two seasons left on his contract before he can opt out. Houston can trade him anywhere.
Far more consequential than where Harden wants to go: Which team will meet the Rockets’ high asking price?
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
The Rockets insist (for now) they will not trade Harden. The Sixers insist (for now) they will not trade Ben Simmons
But sources say the familiarity between the front offices can ultimately defuse any lingering tension from Daryl Morey’s departure from Houston to Philadelphia
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 11, 2020
Though this report is vague, I trust Stein to filter between people around the league who are just idly speculating and people who have specific insight into this situation.
Philadelphia makes sense for numerous reasons:
76ers president Daryl Morey, who was Rockets general manager, values Harden very highly. Morey might be inclined to make Houston its strongest offer.
Philadelphia has pieces to trade – Ben Simmons, other intriguing players and all but one future first-round pick. That doesn’t mean the 76ers will offer enough, but they have the capital to get Harden if they want to.
Simmons and Joel Embiid have fit issues. As more of a shooter and halfcourt creator, Harden would seemingly fit better with Embiid. Though Simmons is closer in age than Harden to Embiid, Harden’s superior current level might match better with Embiid, given Embiid’s long-term health concerns.
Of course, there are also obstacles. Philadelphia seems organizationally intent on keeping Embiid and Simmons together. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta might chafe at trading Harden to Morey’s new team. Houston was reportedly intent on not trading Harden for Simmons.
But that was before it became publicly known Harden requested a trade.
Now, the Rockets face a difficult situation with an unhappy superstar who already arrived late to training camp. Pressure is mounting. The 76ers could make a suitable offer.
Philadelphia is definitely the primary place to watch for a Harden trade.