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Tuesday, 8 December 2020

The Chronicles of James Harden #RPTZFLZ


The NBA, like a lot of major pro sports leagues, is experiencing an unprecedented situation that has seen them have to begin a new season just over a month out of completing one prior and you can bet that it isn't going to be easy on the players who have already had to go through a sequestering of sorts in the NBA's first bubble league.  Add to that, it's going to be hard for the league to function as players and other team members try to dodge Covid 19.

Prior to the beginning of the season, James Harden of the Houston Rockets demanded a trade out of Houston, but the market yielded no takers as teams, felt that the price was too high but also most likely, doubted how much James Harden really wanted out of Houston.

Well, they should doubt no more.  Although John Wall has gone on record in stating that James Harden is committed to staying on the Houston Rockets roster, his recent actions have displayed the opposite.  So the question now is, are the Houston Rockets going to look at moving him before he can even attempt to attend the next practice?  Maybe not, but who would be surprised if they did?

So if the Rockets do move to trade him, who should bust a Masai Ujiri and take a win now chance on him?

I've gone down the list of teams with assets and best chances of contending should they go all in and make a move on James Harden.

The Philadelphia 76ers:  This is more of a long-term investment but it has the potential of making the 76ers a perennial eastern conference champion for a few seasons.

There seems to be a bit of an on-court clashing between Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.  They're the team's two best players but they both have the same outside-in style of play.  Many analysts have observed that the team would be better off if they were to move either player but preferably, Embiid.  The Houston Rockets are apparently looking to steal on whichever team chooses to deal with them so the loss would be pretty large once the cost is tallied but it would still see them go deep this season and most likely contend next season.

The Pros:  It would give the 76ers the outside shooting threat that they've been lacking for the past few seasons that is made glaringly obvious, every time the playoffs begin.

James Harden is also a better defender than he's given credit for.  He's not necessarily a stopper but he's good at sneaking into passing lanes and pestering ball handlers enough that he's good for a few steals every now and then.

Doc Rivers is a well-seasoned coach and his coaching staff is loaded with enough veterans of the game to keep Harden's temperament even-keeled.  

The Cons:  The only con I can see in this scenario is Harden's age.  If his conditioning holds up for three seasons, one of those could be a championship winner.

The Houston Rockets would get Joel Embiid and Terrence Ferguson.

The Boston Celtics: Another long term move here, and one that makes the Celtics a solid finals tenant.

The thing the Celtics lacked the most in recent playoff visits is consistent scoring.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum tend to take turns letting off the gas pedal here and there and as much as Jayson Tatum is seen as the future and rightfully so, his game still needs some rounding out.  He's a big, dramatic scorer who needs to figure out how to get buckets to come easier to him.

The Pros:  James Harden loves to score.  He's what I call a low energy scorer, he doesn't need to expend a lot of energy to score.  He utilizes tricky footwork more than he uses his athleticism.  This translates to more buckets, more often.

Brad Stevens is young but basketball wise and he's a player's coach.  He's not going to butt heads with Harden and I don't think he would be given reason to.  The Celtics organization is steeped in basketball tradition and experience from Danny Ainge down so they've never really had to deal with player disruption interrupting winning games.

The other thing the Celtics have had is great player personnel.  On-court, every player knows their respective roles and are willing to follow the team leaders.  Nobody's going to be crying about James Harden holding the ball for too long so long as they win.

Kemba Walker was a deadly scorer in college and since he's primarily become a ball-handler on the Celtics, it's taken away a bit of his bite.  With James Harden handling the ball more often than not, Kemba Walker gets to go back to shaking his defender to open spots or on the way to the rim.

The Cons:  Their defense might take a bit of a hit due to the players they would be losing, but James Harden is used to playing on teams known more for outscoring opponents.  They would also be less athletic but they would be a bit more efficient.

The Rockets would get Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

The Toronto Raptors:  It can happen.  I just don't know if he would be down for serving three seasons.

The Toronto Raptors are the most winningest team in the NBA over the course of the past five seasons and have been a perennial playoff team over that time.  This is, most likely, going to be their most competitive season as they're younger than they've been in a long time.  There are going to be a lot of growing pains along the way, and they've faced such in past seasons, but their roster make-up has always been one that was able to make the adjustments necessary to keep them in the mix.  With the departure of Kawhi Leonard, they lost a guaranteed bucket getter.  

The Pros: James Harden's inside game.  Not just getting to the hole but his mid-range game is sorely needed on a team that lives and dies by the three-point shot.  The Raptors have been one of the heavier three-point shot attempting teams in the league for the past ten seasons, James Harden would be able to explore other facets of his game, thus, allowing the Raptors to be a bit more efficient in other areas on both ends of the floor.

The Cons:  When the culture of your team isn't used to playing with the caliber of player of the likes of James Harden, there tends to be an adjustment period in the regular season and the playoffs.  One of the problems the Raptors had when Kawhi Leonard was around was in town was they tended to end up watching him and standing still.  They adjusted rather quickly but it was still a thing.

The Rockets would receive Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell.

At the moment The Rockets appear to be hanging on to the hope that James Harden wants to remain a Rocket, but he hasn't shown it, even if he says so and the Rockets won't be so bad off starting a season with DeMarcus Cousins and close friend John Wall, add another team's best piece or pieces.  I'm betting the Rockets are casting the bait for the sharks wading in the bloody waters around them.

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