It’s been over two months since James Harden demanded a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers and it doesn’t seem like one is coming soon. After the Sixers decided to take him off the trade market, he tried to make things uncomfortable when he publicly called Daryl Morey a liar. An NBA investigation followed those comments as well as a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne detailing how the relationship between the Sixers and Harden fell apart.
It seems like Harden’s time in Philadelphia is all but over since the team has cap space ambitions that wouldn’t include him. If he’s no longer in their plans, then why haven’t they moved him yet?
As of now his trade market appears dead and all indications are that negotiations with his preferred team, the Los Angeles Clippers, haven’t gained traction. By waiting into the season, more teams could make offers including players who were free agents this summer. They might not top the Clippers’ best offer for Harden, but perhaps a slightly bigger market could improve the Sixers’ return from them.
Here are several teams that could start making viable offers for Harden in December or January.
This could be a make-or-break season for the Bulls as they’ve been unable to regain the strong form they had in the first half of 2021-22. The pressure is likely on for them to be in the playoff mix or the front office may need to make big changes. Acquiring a player like Harden could be their last-ditch attempt to make this group work.
If the Bulls want to pair Harden with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic, they’ll need to wait until some of their free agents like Coby White and Jevon Carter are available to be traded. The bigger challenge could be finding a third team to take on Lonzo Ball and his remaining two years, $41.9 million remaining. His $20.5 million would make up the majority of the salary matching. The Bulls can trade up to two first-round picks: one in 2029 or 2030, and the lottery-protected pick the Blazers owe them.
The idea of the Rockets acquiring Harden seems dead since they didn’t sign him in free agency because head coach Ime Udoka, his former assistant coach in Brooklyn, wanted the team to go in a different direction. However, Houston is equipped to make a big mid-season trade with their newly signed contracts and surplus of assets. They could still acquire Harden if they feel they need another playmaker and if the price is right.
The Rockets will be in a good position to be players in the trade market as we get closer to the trade deadline with more than enough picks to top the Clippers’ best offer. They can match Harden with the salaries of Kevin Porter Jr., Jeff Green, and Jock Landale, all of whom have contracts with no guaranteed money past 2023-24.
Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving haven’t fully integrated with each other yet having only played 17 games together. Now that Irving is locked in long-term with the Mavericks, the pairing will be put to the test. In the event their relationship sours early on, swapping Irving for Harden could make sense for the Mavericks.
Irving for Harden works straight up, but it seems unlikely that the Sixers would want him. He would eliminate their 2024 cap space and they may prefer to give the ball more to Tyrese Maxey. A third team would likely need to be involved that is interested in Irving who is willing to send some draft picks to the Sixers.
Los Angeles Lakers
Nothing may motivate the Clippers to increase their offer more than the possibility of the Lakers getting involved for Harden. Their point guard rotation is set with D’Angelo Russell and Gabe Vincent but they’ll always be on the lookout for an upgrade. Once those players become trade-eligible in December, the Lakers could attempt to pair Harden with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Russell and Vincent would make up the majority of the salary matching but would probably need to be rerouted to a third team so the Sixers can preserve 2024 cap space. The Lakers can offer one first-round pick in 2029 or 2030 and up to five second-round picks. They also have several young players like Jalen Hood-Schifino, Max Christie, and Maxwell Lewis they could include.