Houston Rockets star James Harden figures to at least start the year with his current team, per league personnel.
Executives told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps a Harden trade could very well manifest in the coming months. However, surveyed execs also explained a trade is a bit more difficult in practice because of Harden’s possible unwillingness to extend his contract outside of a select few teams.
Some insiders feel the Rockets could merely wait things out:
“Who f—ing knows, man,” said an Eastern Conference executive, per Bontemps. “I don’t think he gets traded unless other teams get involved and there becomes a bidding war of sorts. Otherwise I think they just hold pat. They’re not going to trade him for crap.”
Others still think the Brooklyn Nets–by all accounts still at the top of Harden’s list in terms of preferred destinations–could still create the best package:
“I still think [Brooklyn] can put together the best package for him,” a Western Conference executive said, per Bontemps. “Maybe someone else can, but theirs is the best one I see.”
Then again, Shams Charania of The Athletic previously reported the Rockets had little serious interest in dealing with the Nets unless Brooklyn included Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant.
It is for those reasons some executives think the Philadelphia 76ers will emerge as the favorites to land Harden, especially if Philly is ultimately willing to include Ben Simmons.
Regardless, as one Eastern Conference scout told Bontemps, “The universe of options is limited.”
Houston could be determined to keep Harden in the hopes he has a change of heart. At the very least, the Rockets will probably keep him up until the deadline.