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RUMOR: James Harden trade unlikely for Rockets until suitable Russell Westbrook deal found

Rockets, James Harden, Russell Westbrook

The Houston Rockets are fully expected to undergo a complete, tear-it-to-the-ground rebuild in the offseason. As it turns out, however, this is anything but a certainty at this point, with the Rockets reportedly looking to offload Russell Westbrook first before even considering parting ways with James Harden.

This report comes via SI’s Chris Mannix:

Teams have been probing the Rockets about James Harden in recent days, though Houston has been reluctant to fully engage, per league sources. The Rockets will engage on Westbrook but interest for the All-Star guard has been lukewarm, at best.

It’s unlikely Houston deals Harden without having a landing spot for Westbrook, which could prove exceedingly difficult.

The biggest stumbling block in a Harden trade is Westbrook’s potential move. As the report states, not too many suitors have emerged for the 32-year-old, and the fact that he is set to pocket $131.5 million over the next three years has likely caused opposing teams to think twice about absorbing that albatross of a deal.

The New York Knicks have been linked to Westbrook, but Mannix reports that they have “not engaged.” Likewise, the Charlotte Hornets are also a potential landing spot for the former MVP, but the team’s decision to draft their point guard of the future in LaMelo Ball further clouds Westbrook’s potential move.

Needless to say, the Rockets are having trouble finding a suitable trade partner for Westbrook. This has apparently become a key prerequisite for Houston before they begin shopping around Harden, so if the Westbrook deal is a no-go, then it could also follow that Harden will remain with the Rockets.