The Milwaukee Bucks are now on the clock. Surely they still possess a competitive roster heading into next season after trading for Jrue Holiday, but, it could get a lot better if they move quickly.
James Harden is making it more than known that he no longer desires to be a part of the Houston Rockets, which was more than apparent through his antics off the court lately. The former MVP recently expanded his already-created trade list on Thursday, adding the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat to the already-competitive list.
All of his desired destinations include Eastern Conference teams, which could suggest that his time in the West could be coming to an end. Even so, the Bucks could jump the talent curb by a wide margin by snagging the scoring champion now versus letting him fall to one of their competitors.
The critical part of making a move for Harden is from the aspect of the Giannis Antetokounmpo situation. The reigning MVP has yet to make a decision on his supermax extension with the Bucks and has until Dec. 21 to officially decide.
Spectators around the league assume that the dilemma on Antetokounmpo's end comes from the Bucks being an undesirable destination for free agents, which makes it hard to attract talent. With that in mind, grabbing Harden despite the price practically becomes a no-brainer for Milwaukee in hopes of keeping Antetokounmpo around long term.
Bucks Receive: James Harden
Rockets Receive: Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez; Three first-round picks
Any deal that the Bucks partake in surrounding Harden will have to include Middleton. Aside from Antetokounmpo, Middleton's the second-best player on the roster and will be highly coveted by the Rockets front office. If the rules were different, Holiday may be the likely target for the Rockets instead.
Harden is a significant upgrade from Middleton in the scoring department. The former Arizona State standout averaged 13.4 more points per game than Middleton while shooting with a slightly lower efficiency from the field. Adding Harden gives the Bucks another playmaker in the backcourt with Holiday while Antetokounmpo takes up the frontcourt.
Another aspect of the situation that could benefit Harden is by playing under a new coach. While that is also what would take place with the Rockets with Stephen Silas, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer comes with a tremendous amount of experience along with the mindset of putting his top players in the best position possible to win.
For the Rockets, if nothing else you get a star-like wing in Middleton while grabbing some additional depth at the center position with Lopez. DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood are expected to take up the bulk of those minutes, but Lopez would be another solidified option incase Cousins goes through another injury scare.
While the thoughts of Middleton returning along with Holiday and Antetokounmpo could be favorable, Harden is certainly a must-have for the Milwaukee Bucks.