The James Harden saga keeps twisting and turning.
Monday afternoon, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Nets and Sixers were “believed to be (Harden’s) top desired trade destinations." Charania also said that the Rockets are comfortable keeping Harden and Russell Westbrook, who reportedly wants out of Houston.
On Monday night, however, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Harden has "made it clear to ownership that he's singularly focused on a trade to the Brooklyn Nets." Houston and Brooklyn have not yet engaged in any "meaningful dialogue," per ESPN. Wojnarowski reports that the Rockets pitched Harden on signing a record-setting extension for two years and $103 million.
If the Sixers are willing to part with a star, they’d appear reasonably well-positioned to outbid Brooklyn. With Harden reportedly zeroed in on the Nets, though, it's unclear if that will end up being a relevant factor.
Another potentially significant development late Monday night was Houston's decision to trade Robert Covington to the Blazers in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Portland's 2020 first-round pick and a 2021 protected first-round pick, according to ESPN. We'll see the extent to which that signals a shift in direction for Houston or starts a series of moves.
President of basketball operations Daryl Morey said at his introductory press conference that he thinks All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid “can absolutely work together." But would the Sixers be willing to give up Simmons if it secured Harden? And what else might the Rockets want? The Sixers would need to include an additional player(s) for salary-matching purposes, and quite possibly draft picks, as well.
Simmons, a Third Team All-NBA selection and member of the league’s All-Defensive First Team, is seven years younger than the 31-year-old Harden and under contract through 2025. Harden is owed over $85 million the next two seasons and then has a $47.4 million player option in 2022-23.
While the news on Harden does seem to be accelerating, Houston does not need to trade him this offseason. It’s possible we get a quick resolution, but this also might linger into the upcoming season.