NBA rumors: Miami Heat pull out of James Harden trade talks

By Vincent Frank

NBA rumors have linked the Miami Heat to a potential James Harden trade over the past few weeks. It makes sense in that the defending Eastern Conference champions are in win-now mode with the 2020-21 NBA season slated to start this week.

However, it was always going to be difficult for Miami to pull off a trade for the three-time reigning scoring champion. Simply put, they don’t have the draft pick assets to entice the Houston Rockets in a potential James Harden trade. We now have more on this front, and it’s rather obvious what’s happening.

NBA rumors: James Harden trade scenarios

NBA rumors: Miami Heat pull out of James Harden trade talks

“Per source, Heat no longer are engaging Rockets when it comes to Harden. Was told conversation never was more than cursory, but that, of course, always is a matter of perspective,” Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Monday. “Heat made clear on eve of 2018-19 season they were out of Jimmy Butler talks for that season.”

While the Heat did not acquire Jimmy Butler during the 2018-19 season, they did pick him up ahead of last year. He’s one of the primary reasons head coach Erik Spoelstra and Co. earned a surprise trip to the NBA Finals last season.

The issue here as it relates to NBA rumors linking the Heat to a James Harden trade is their lack of assets. Star young guard Tyler Herro would have been the centerpiece heading back to Houston in a trade. Meanwhile, Miami does not have a first-round pick to offer up to Houston until 2025. That would obviously complicate things further.

It did seem like the Heat showed renewed interest in a James Harden trade after two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo inked a long-term extension with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier in December. That apparently doesn’t seem to be the case any more.

Then again, this could be Pat Riley’s way of playing the PR game as the head of the Heat front office. The all-time great executive knows how to play media like a fiddle.

Related: Top 50 NBA players heading into 2020-21

NBA rumors: Who remains in on a James Harden trade?

James Harden: NBA rumors: trade
Dec 17, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball during the second quarter of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Toyota Center on December 17, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Carmen Mandato/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s conclude for a second that the Heat are in fact out of the sweepstakes. They join the Los Angeles Clippers as teams that have bowed out. Los Angeles’ interest in a James Harden trade predated the huge extension Paul George just signed with the team. They just don’t have the financial capability of adding Harden to the mix.

NBA rumors recently suggested that the Philadelphia 76ers were willing to offer up Ben Simmons in a potential James Harden trade package. Front office head Daryl Morey threw that idea out the window in relatively quick fashion. It was previously noted that Harden to Philadelphia was unlikely.

This leaves two other big-time possibilities. Fresh off signing the Greek Freak to a massive extension, the Bucks are one of the teams on Harden’s preferred list of destinations. Whether that is even a possibility depends heavily on whether Houston views Khris Middleton as a central piece coming back in a hypothetical Harden trade.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Rockets, check out #OneMission rumors, rankings, and news here.

Out west, the Golden State Warriors had put in a call to Houston about a James Harden trade. However, those NBA rumors predated the injury to star guard Klay Thompson. Whether Golden State would still be interested remains an open question.

What we do know is that the Rockets have expanded trade talks with teams that Harden did not list as preferred destinations. Given the drama behind the scenes relating to the former NBA MVP and his organization, the Rockets want to get something done here soon.

Houston opens up its season Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s a good chance Harden will be on its roster at tip off.

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