The possibility of landing a player of James Harden’s caliber is one that only comes around once in a while. Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP award winner, requested a trade from the Houston Rockets and recently added the Miami Heat to his preferred list of trade destinations.
The Miami Heat have a reputation of blockbuster trades for disgruntled stars. For example, sending Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for star center Shaquille O’Neal in 2004. To say it worked out is an understatement, as it brought Miami its first championship in the franchise’s history.
Entering the 2020-’21 NBA season, the Heat find themselves in a similar scenario. Miami is coming off its first NBA Finals appearance since LeBron James left the organization in 2014. Teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have significantly better rosters than last year. This makes the allure of trading for Harden stronger. However, what would a potential deal look like for Miami?
What would an offer for James Harden look like?
The centerpiece in any potential trade for James Harden has to be Tyler Herro. Some experts have said that Herro alone is better than any other player that rival teams could realistically offer for Harden. Herro averaged 13.5 PPG, 4.1 REB, and 2.2 AST while shooting 42.8% from the floor last season. This only improved during the playoffs as he averaged 16.0 PPG on 43.3% shooting from the field.
The fierce controversy among Heat fans has been whether James Harden is worth it to trade the young 20-year-old guard out of Kentucky. The short and quick answer for this should be yes. Harden can average 30-plus points during the season/ Realistically, Herro will never get close to that. Herro’s salary going out would be around $3.82 million.
Kelly Olynyk and Andre Iguodala must be included in any deal for Harden as well. Both players’ salaries combined would come out to be $27.2 million. Miami would need to send out just under $41 million to complete a deal with Houston. Another player to include would be Rookie of the Year runner-up Kendrick Nunn. Nunn is expendable for Miami as they could have undrafted free-agent Breein Tyree as the next version of Nunn. Nunn’s outgoing salary number would be $1.66 million.
KZ Okpala would be the final player included with his $1.52 million outgoing salary hit. The next issue for Miami could be its draft pick situation. Because of the protections on their 2023 first-round pick, they would be unable to trade any first-round picks away. The Heat could work with the Thunder to lift the lottery protection on the 2023 first-round pick, allowing them to trade their 2025 and 2027 first-round picks away.
James Harden trade proposal:
Miami Heat receive: James Harden
Houston Rockets receive: Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Kelly Olynyk, Andre Iguodala, KZ Okpala, 2025 first-round pick and 2027 first-round pick.
Would James Harden fit with the Miami Heat?
Fans have been quick to judge whether James Harden would fit within the Heat “culture.” Here’s a quick story to answer the question. After Houston won a game last season, Russell Westbrook walked past the weight room and saw James Harden lifting weights. When Westbrook asked Harden what he was doing, Harden replied with, “getting better” (H/T Locked on Heat). Harden’s work ethic is not up for debate.
In terms of playing style, Harden is the perfect fit alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Butler’s role with the Heat last year was traditionally driving to the hoop and scoring or passing out to open players. Butler passing out to an open Harden, who also efficiently drives to the hoop, could elevate the offense even further. Harden would also garner more attention than someone such as Herro or Nunn would, allowing the role players around them to be open more often.
The spacing that Harden would provide for the offense would also benefit Adebayo. The lane would most likely be less cluttered with more room to roam, which fits into Adebayo’s offensive skill set. Harden was also great at lobbing the ball to former Rockets center Clint Capela when he was in Houston. Adebayo could flourish with Harden in ways that Giannis Antetokounmpo would be unable to provide.
If Miami threw out the lineup of Avery Bradley, James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Maurice Harkless, and Bam Adebayo, the plug-in of Bradley into the defense would allow Harden to guard the second guard. Even though Harden is an underrated defensive player, he isn’t able to defend the opponent’s best guard. They would be able to hide him to a lesser point than they did with Duncan Robinson.
The bottom line
Miami should do whatever it takes to bring James Harden to the organization. He is a better fit alongside Miami’s two superstars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo than Giannis Antetokounmpo would be starting in 2022. Jimmy Butler’s prime is now and they have to maximize it to its fullest potential to bring a fourth banner to the franchise.
The addition of Harden would most likely prolong Butler’s prime and career as Harden could take over for Butler, which is something that couldn’t be done in the NBA Finals. The risk of this deal is huge in regards to the future. They are essentially mortgaging the future for one player. However, the chances of winning a championship increase if they make the deal for Harden and that is what should be important.
This is what Pat Riley built this team to do. To swing a trade for a “whale” and still have depth around another version of the “Big 3.” Riley has proven that he will do what it takes to get what he wants whether he has cap space or not. If fans are still not on board with the idea, perhaps a stamp of approval from Jimmy Butler would convince them otherwise. The time is now for the Miami Heat.