The 2020-21 Houston Rockets will look a lot different than they have in previous seasons, as the dominant storyline in Texas this offseason is the trade rumors swirling around former MVP and eight-time All-Star James Harden. Recently, he’s made the Blazers another desired landing spot.
Harden is not likely to see the court in a while, as the NBA has fined him $50,000 after a video of him in a strip club surfaced earlier this week.
As of now, Harden and Houston are awaiting word from the NBA’s medical staff to determine how long of a quarantine will be required before he is cleared to return to the team.
Harden has made his intentions requesting a trade clear, and as first reported by The Athletic, the Boston Celtics and Portland are teams he would be willing to be traded.
While the Celtics seem unlikely to give up young assets and break up their rising core in Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Jaylen Brown, a move to Portland to play alongside five-time All-Star Damian Lillard give the Blazers one of the most talented offensive backcourts in the NBA.
Right now, the Blazers are stuck amidst a competitive Western Conference. They proved this summer in the bubble that they’re good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to compete with the West’s elite in the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Denver Nuggets.
Adding the former MVP could vault the Blazers into the West’s Top-4 seeds, as they would have enough talent to be a finals dark horse.
The Blazers would have to give up a lot to sign the Beard, since Houston has made it clear they need more than a few draft picks and role players for Harden, as outlined by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
“The Rockets are demanding an especially steep return for Harden, a perennial MVP candidate who has led the NBA in scoring the past three seasons: a proven, young star as a centerpiece along with a massive picks package, according to sources.”
In order to make the salaries work, Lillard’s longtime backcourt partner-in-crime C.J. McCollum and his $23.9 million salary would have to be included to make this deal a possibility.
While the 29-year-old shooting guard has never made an All-Star team, he’s a career 39.7 percent three-point shooter who could serve in a veteran leadership role for a potential rebuild.
Along with McCollum and perhaps a few protected first-round picks in 2022 and 2024, the Blazers have a few other young players that have to be included to make the trade work moneywise, using the ESPN Trade Machine to match up the salaries.
Zach Collins is an appealing throw-in, as the 23-year-old post player can serve as an energy bunny on both sides of the court while stretching the floor with a three-point stroke that’s gotten more reliable each year.
While Nassir Little has not really lived up to his hype as a high school phenom, the man is only 20 years old, has shown potential as a 3-and-D wing, and could use a change of scenery to succeed in the NBA.
The same could be said for Anfernee Simons, as while the 21-year-old point guard has shown potential as a scorer, getting more opportunity on a team like Houston’s could unlock his NBA abilities.
To summarize, the best trade package the Blazers could offer would include McCollum, Collins, Little, Simons, and two future picks.
With Ben Simmons reportedly off the table in Philly, this is one of the best hauls the Rockets could get for their unhappy superstar, elevating the Blazers while Houston fully embraces a rebuild.