Trail Blazers

A possible James Harden trade to the Trail Blazers hit too many dead ends

Trail Blazers

It happened. 

James Harden forced his way out of Houston. 

After months of unrest and uncertainty, Tuesday night appeared to be the moment the water boiled over. 

Harden, after a 117-100 loss to the Lakers, said the Rockets are "just not good enough... I love this city. I literally have done everything that I can. I mean, this situation is crazy. It’s something that I don’t think can be fixed." 

Wednesday afternoon, a literal bomb sent shockwaves throughout the NBA. 

In the end, seven players were moved and nine Draft picks were exchanged between four NBA franchises.

But whatever happened to the Harden to Portland rumors and did it hold any water? 

Simply? Yes. It did hold water. 

But, as the days went by since the initial reporting of Harden's potential interest in Portland prior to the beginning of the season, it became clear: Houston was less interested in acquiring a big-name player for a big-name player with a lot of money left on their deal like they did in the Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade and more on the desire for young talent and Draft picks. 

The Trail Blazers just didn't have the necessary pieces to make that deal. The Rockets clearly didn't want a player like CJ McCollum, despite the numbers he's been putting up to start the season. And that's who the Trail Blazers would have had to include to make a Harden deal work.


Sure, the Rockets acquired a big-name player, Victor Oladipo, who appeared disgruntled with his now former team, the Indiana Pacers. But that doesn't go against the aforementioned point. Oladipo's $21M contract is expiring. He'll be an unrestricted free agent next season. McCollum hasn't even started the second $100M deal, which locks him up through 2024.

The Rockets are trying to clear the deck.

Additionally, in the deal, the Trail Blazers would have had to mortgage the future to get Harden, which some may have been more than happy to do. But, this isn't an online trade simulator. President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has to think years down the road. 

An obstacle that became clearer, as well, is the issue with Draft picks. Portland already dealt two first round picks in exchange for Robert Covington, neither of which were going to be very high picks.

And young assets like Zach Collins likely became less attractive due to his injury history. There's no guarantee the Rockets could keep a player like Gary Trent, Jr. if he was included in the deal because he will be a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason.

And newly signed or re-signed players were not eligible to trade yet.  

Plus, Portland and Houston couldn't do this alone-- they needed willing dance partners. 

And that's easier said than done. 

The Nets put an incredible mortgage out on the future and it is not something the Trail Blazers could or should have done. 

And they didn't. 

Should the Blazers have made a deal for Harden, the attitude and baggage that he would have brought in may have totally disrupted the fabric of the locker room. Again, some teams have thrived despite locker room toxicity. And most are very happy to look the other way if the team is winning.

But now, Harden is out of the Western Conference and Trail Blazers fans can rejoice that fact, at least. 

Now, the Nets are a ticking time bomb and newly minted head coach Steve Nash needs to figure out how to make sure it doesn't explode. 

The Trail Blazers do not play the Brooklyn Nets in the first half of the season. 

When they do, one can be sure, it's going to be a spectacle. 

The James Harden blockbuster trade answered a lot of questions, but it also created a lot more. 

Hopefully, it will bring closure to Trail Blazers fans. 


NBCSNW Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes contributed to this article