James Harden, Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets became obsessed with beating the Warriors. They did everything in their power to take down the NBA's goliath, and likely would have in the 2018 Western Conference finals had Chris Paul not injured in hamstring at the end of Game 5.
Alas, Harden never got to celebrate defeating the Dubs when it mattered. But, you know what they say, if you can't beat them, join them. At least, that's what Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix posited in his bold NBA prediction for the next decade. Now, they call them bold predictions for a reason, and there's no way Mannix actually thinks the Rockets would trade Harden, their beloved superstar, to their mortal enemy for D'Angelo Russell and the likely top-five draft pick the Warriors will have from their current down season.
But let's examine the idea -- one that would only take place in the bored mind of a teenager playing 2K -- for what it's worth.
Yes, the departure of Kevin Durant left the Warriors with a gaping hole in their lineup, one that can't easily be filled. The trio of Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson was the most lethal offensive attack in NBA history. When at full strength, the Dubs were unguardable and almost unbeatable.
Adding Harden would, on paper, give the Warriors another dynamic scoring trio that would be unrivaled in today's NBA. But for all of Harden's scoring talents, of which he has many, the ball-dominant, high-usage game that he has crafted and perfected while running the show under Morey's analytically-focused gaze wouldn't fit with the beautiful ball the Warriors play when they are at their best. The ball Durant left Oklahoma City to come and play.
That's not to say Harden couldn't adapt his game and fit in. Of course, he could. He's an MVP and one of the greatest scorers in league history. But trying to jam Harden into a Steve Kerr offense that is predicated on ball movement, cutting and making the defense scramble would be the equivalent of acquiring the best man-to-man cover corner in the NFL and asking him to play zone. You'd be zapping him of what he does best or you'd be throwing your offense out of sync by letting him do his thing.
Remember the outrage when Durant would go into iso mode and the ball would stick, causing the Warriors' offense to stagnate? That would be on steroids if it happened with Harden, a guy who hasn't won a title and is more or less reviled by Dubs fans, doing so in the Bay.
Yes, in order to win high-pressure games, you need a guy who can get his own shot, get to the rim and create for others. But Harden's game often becomes predictable, especially in the playoffs. The Warriors have shown if you funnel him into the same situation over and over again then eventually his decisions are easy to dissect and he becomes much easier to stop during crunch time.
When the pressure is ratcheted up, Kerr and the Warriors trust their system to get them the looks they need to win the game. It's worked time and time again. In a contrast of styles, the Warriors' way of doing things has led to titles, while Harden pounding the ball into the floor for 18 seconds has led to ... disappointment and playoff exits.
From a Rockets standpoint, Houston could lose out, finish the season 40 games below .500, every Chick-fil-A and Beck's Prime could close and Morey still isn't going to trade his superstar to his nemesis in order to rebuild around Russell Westbrook, D'Angelo Russell and James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
It would be akin to LeBron James joining ... well, the Warriors.
Much like Batman and The Joker, the Warriors and Harden are destined to battle forever.