Prior to the 2012 NBA season, then Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets. In return for Harden’s services, Houston sent shooting guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, as well as two first-round picks and a second-rounder.
Both Martin and Lamb are no longer with the Thunder. While one of the draft picks turned into Steven Adams, it’s hard to think that the Rockets regret this deal in the slightest. However, while Harden is now an absolute superstar for Houston, there were several other teams that nearly acquired budding star.
7. Charlotte Hornets
Known as the Charlotte Bobcats at the time, the team was coming off an awful season that saw them go 7-59 in a lockout-shortened season. As a result of their poor play, the Bobcats found themselves with the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft.
At the time, the Bobcats were searching for an established player, floating the idea of trading their No. 2 pick for Harden.
Instead, Charlotte wound up picking Kentucky star, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist is a good defender but is no more than a role player and nowhere near the player that Harden would soon become.
A year prior, Charlotte chose UConn point guard Kemba Walker. A Walker-Harden backcourt would’ve been a sight to behold.
6. Boston Celtics
Danny Ainge’s 2011 trade that sent Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder in exchange for Jeff Green is often thought of as a big reason why the Celtics didn’t win another title.
However, at one point, James Harden was supposed to be in the trade instead of Green. Ainge was supposedly desperate to trade Perkins at the time so he accepted Green instead.
Green was a solid player for Boston, but imagine Harden with a veteran big three… then the current Celtics roster.
5. Golden State Warriors
Much like James Harden, although very promising, Thompson had yet to develop into the star he is now. On the other hand, I don’t think the Warriors really regret not pulling the trigger on this one as Thompson is one of the best shooters in the NBA and was integral to Golden State’s three titles in four years.
4. Utah Jazz
A package that included Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter was reportedly being semi-discussed by both the Jazz and the Rockets at the time.
Both Hayward and Favors would end up leaving the Jazz in free agency later in their careers and Kanter was actually sent to OKC in a 2015 trade that brought Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak to the Thunder.
The Jazz apparently never made an official offer for James Harden, but it’s weird to imagine Harden with another Western Conference contender.
3. Washington Wizards
Contract disputes apparently stopped the Wizards and Ted Leonsis from sending young shooting guard Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton in exchange for Harden.
While Beal developed into a star for Washington, a John Wall and James Harden pairing might have put the Wizards over the top.
2. Phoenix Suns
According to sources at the time, the cost was too much for Phoenix. The Suns were unwilling to give up the necessary pieces to acquire Harden at the time.
At the time, Phoenix’s best players were Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. The team finished 25-57 that season and haven’t made the playoffs in nearly a decade. Harden probably would have changed that.
1. Toronto Raptors
A proposed trade featuring a rookie Jonas Valanciunas, point guard Jose Calderon and either DeMar DeRozan or Terrence Ross in exchange for James Harden in a trade was reportedly on the table at the time.
The offer wasn’t on the table for very long as the Raptors quickly declined the offer. Toronto would end up trading DeRozan in the Kawhi Leonard deal; Ross in the Serge Ibaka trade; and Valanciunas in the Marc Gasol trade.
But hey, at least all those trades ended up bringing them a championship.