Would this hypothetical Harden trade be worth it for Celtics?


Here's a good way to incite trade rumors: Tell reporters that your team is "just not good enough" and that you're in a "crazy" situation that "can't be fixed."

Rockets star James Harden actually said those words Tuesday in an eye-opening press conference that put direct pressure on Houston to move him before the NBA trade deadline in March.

The Celtics could be among Harden's suitors; the team reportedly has called the Rockets about the superstar guard, who apparently has Boston on his list of "preferred destinations."

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So, what would a Celtics-Rockets deal involving Harden look like? ESPN recently put out some hypothetical Harden trade packages, and Tim Bontemps handled the Boston angle.

Here's the theoretical trade:

Boston gets: James Harden, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker

Houston gets: Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Aaron Nesmith, 2021 and 2023 unprotected first-round picks

There are some potential moving parts here, but if you're the Celtics, this boils down to one thing: Are you willing to give up Brown for Harden?

Brown has been one of the NBA's best players out of the gate, averaging 26.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists through 10 games. He's also an excellent defender and at 24 has the potential to be the league's next Kawhi Leonard as an elite two-way wing.


Then there's Harden. The 31-year-old is an eight-time All-Star, a three-time scoring champion and the best pure scorer in the league. But he's caused plenty of headaches in Houston, where he reported to the team late after violating COVID-19 protocols and reportedly has ruffled some feathers while trying to force his way out of town.

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Brown and Jayson Tatum are one of the best young duos in the league, and if Walker gets healthy for the postseason, Boston could make a deep run. But you could also make the case that Brown, Tatum and a injury-plagued Walker aren't enough to get over the hump in the Eastern Conference, and that adding a bona fide star like Harden would change that calculus -- assuming he doesn't completely disrupt team chemistry.

One more factor for the Celtics to consider: The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors reportedly are also in the mix, so if Harden doesn't come to Boston, it's likely he'll land on one of the Celtics' primary contenders.

That's a lot for Danny Ainge to chew on, but it sure looks like Harden is headed East one way or the other.