It's no secret that James Harden wants out of Houston, and that there's a good chance he heads to the Eastern Conference.
But are the Boston Celtics actually a possible destination for the Rockets star?
That question gained traction this weekend when a report claimed Boston and Toronto are the "favorites" to land Harden. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix was asked about that report Tuesday on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" and shared some important context that helps explain why we're hearing Harden connected to the C's.
"Can it happen? Of course," Mannix said. “As Houston has canvassed the league and addressed what they’re looking for in a deal, the Celtics check a lot of those boxes.
"They’re looking for an All-Star, kind of tentpole player. That would be Jaylen Brown. They’re looking for young pieces. The Celtics can offer Marcus Smart and some package of Romeo Langford and other pieces there.
"They’re looking for draft capital. The Celtics don’t have the cache of picks they once did, but they still own all their picks moving forward, so they can make a substantive move there."
Put simply, the Celtics are one of the few teams that can offer a Harden trade package to Houston's liking, and the Philadelphia 76ers might be the only team that can top Boston's trade assets if they make Ben Simmons available.
The question, of course, is whether the C's would part with Brown, Smart, Langford and draft picks for the Rockets' mercurial superstar. Mannix is skeptical, to say the least.
"In the short term, yes, 100 percent Harden makes you better," Mannix said. "But Harden’s 31 years old, and nobody’s really sure how his game is going to age. He’s logged as many miles as anybody over the last three or four years.
"Will he be able to play at this level into his mid-30s? And if he can’t, did you just throw away a chance to compete for championships into the next decade for a two or three-year window?"
Harden is one of the NBA's best offensive players and has won three straight scoring titles. But he's no slam dunk, and his recent behavior -- which includes missing the start of Rockets training camp to attend rapper Lil Baby's birthday party and reportedly throwing basketballs at teammates during practice -- has raised some red flags.
It seems unlikely that Danny Ainge would part with Brown and Smart to take a gamble on Harden, especially after their reported research on the Rockets' All-Star didn't yield spectacular results. Mannix also sees the Sixers as the favorites to land Harden if they're willing to trade Simmons.
In any case, we may not have a resolution soon: Mannix believes the Harden saga could drag out until the NBA trade deadline in March.