One of the biggest deals in NBA history fell through on Wednesday when the Houston Rockets finally ended their James Harden saga by sending it to the Brooklyn Nets on a four-team contract. But unfortunately for these three teams, they were not the ones who could land Bart, or at least get other parts out of this exchange.
Before Harden finally landed in Brooklyn to meet Kevin Durant and join Kyrie Irving, he already had his list of favorite targets in mind before the start of the 2020-21 season. While the former MVP has a notorious reputation and extra baggage, there’s no denying that he’s still one of the least protected offensive players the league has ever seen. Every team in the league would be better off (at least on paper) if they acquired a disgruntled superstar.
Of course, there’s no point crying over spilled milk. However, these three franchises will likely kick themselves in the head for having a chance to land Beard. Let’s take a look at the three teams that failed by not trading James Harden for the Nets.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Shortly after James Harden announced that the Rockets were hospitalized, most pundits had him donning the Sixers jersey within days. In addition to the Nets, the City of Brotherly Love was also high on the 31-year-old megastar’s list, given his relationship with Philadelphia’s new basketball president, Daryl Morey.
It appeared they were very close to pairing Harden with superstar Joel Embiid after offering their own All-Star Ben Simmons, along with promising recruit Tyrese Maxey and a series of recruiting picks in a mammoth package.
The only problem was that the missiles wouldn’t bite. Houston knew they could take a bigger step elsewhere, and that’s exactly what they did. Of course, at this point Simmons is probably more valuable than Victor Oladipo, who made Houston the center for Harden. But H-Town got two roles in Dante Exum and Rodion Kurucs, as well as three unprotected picks in the first round and four more picks in Brooklyn.
Of course, the Sixers couldn’t keep up and would have even tried to remove Maxi’s name from the conversation.
If Morey’s front office and the Sixers didn’t miss a future pick and agree on Maxey, he could probably get his superstar back. It also remains to be seen how Simmons will react when he hears his name on the deal that has now fallen through. There are reports that the Australian would like to stay in Philadelphia, but we will have to wait and see if this has any implications for the Sixers in the future.
There’s something good going on in Philadelphia right now: They are second in the East with a record of 8-4. The acquisition of Harden may have had a negative impact on the team’s chemistry. But it might as well be the part that separates them from the rest of the eastern challengers. I guess we’ll never know.
2. Miami Heat
In addition to Philadelphia, the Miami Heat were also on Harden’s commercial wish list. His potential to be a part of the Heat culture and the team’s basketball philosophy has been debated ever since, but there is no doubt that the Heat need all the help they can get right now. After last year’s Cinderella Run, where they were the unlikely champions of the 2020 Eastern Conference, Miami didn’t look like the same world winner. They currently have a list of 4-5 (10th in the east).
Many skeptics still consider Miami’s big bubble season a fluke, and their poor start to the 2020-21 season doesn’t help them at all. Harden could probably change his fate if he ended up in South Beach. An All-Star eight times would give them a reliable marker every night, which they currently lack. His shortcomings on the other side of the field wouldn’t have been a problem had he played alongside Jimmy Butler.
Numerous reports have suggested that the Rockets would consider trading Harden to the Heat if rising star Tyler Herro was part of the package. After all, the Kentucky veteran has impressed so far with his impressive play in the postseason last year and a good start to his sophomore season. But it seems like the Heat really want to hold onto him and see how good he can be, even if it means giving up on Harden.
3. Milwaukee Dollar
The Bucs’ biggest concern is now behind them after convincing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign this supermax extension. However, they have yet to make a decision to give the existing MVP more support. They missed that opportunity by not acquiring Harden when the Rockets were actively looking for him.
The Bucks were actually one of Harden’s most tempting offers, as the package would include Chris Middleton, Donte DiVincenzo, DJ Wilson and Pat Connaughton to make up the salary. They also had some future options to sweeten the pot.
However, Milwaukee was not interested in the potential deal, even though Harden added it to her list of preferred destinations. They seemed to support the decision and didn’t even try to throw their hats in the ring. The Bucks (7-4) have rebounded this season and remain one of the biggest threats in the East. Yet they’ve been in the same boat for two seasons, and we all know how that ended.
Milwaukee would probably roll the dice if they left all the balls behind James Harden. But maybe that’s exactly what they need to finally get through this.