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What might a James Harden trade look like?

Vincent Frank
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was already readily apparent following their Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Golden State Warriors that there would be some dramatic changes in store for the Houston Rockets this summer.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added to that big time on Wednesday with a report suggesting that every single player on the Rockets’ roster is available in a trade.

“Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has made his entire roster and future draft picks available in trade talks, a dramatic initiative with hopes of reshaping the team into a championship contender, league sources told ESPN,” the insider reported.

While Woj did note that the possibility of trading reigning NBA MVP James Harden “is believed to be extremely limited,” it got us thinking.

What if Houston did the unbelievable and actually traded Harden? What might a blockbuster deal of this magnitude look like?

We check in on the possibilities below.

Philadelphia 76ers: Pieces are in place for a huge deal.

  • Acquiring someone of Harden’s ilk would require potentially the greatest return in NBA trade history. Philadelphia has a lot to offer up in that regard.
  • It would obviously start with young All-Star forward Ben Simmons, who is still scene as a potential franchise cornerstone in the mold of Magic Johnson.
  • From there, Philadelphia would have to send Jonathon Simmons and other cap fillers to Houston while finding a third team to help make the contracts work.
  • Philadelphia also has two additional first-round picks (from Oklahoma City and Brooklyn and/or New York) in 2020 to help sweeten the pot. Add in two more first-rounders, and this could work.

Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge has the assets.

  • In terms of assets currently on the roster, Boston has the best chance of adding a star-caliber player in a trade. It’s why the team has been linked to Anthony Davis.
  • In this hypothetical deal, both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would head to the Rockets. That would give Houston two strong building blocks moving forward.
  • Boston would also send point guard Marcus Smart and high-priced forward Gordon Hayward to Houston as well as its 2020 first-round pick (from Memphis).
  • In return, the Rockets are able to unload Chris Paul’s contract. He’d act as a stopgap option in Boston should Kyrie Irving depart in free agency.

Los Angeles Lakers: A pipe dream scenario.

  • On the off-chance that Daryl Morey trades Harden, it would likely be to the Eastern Conference. He’s almost guaranteed not to move the star guard to a Western Conference rival.
  • Even then, the Lakers are an intriguing possibility in that they have both draft-pick assets and young players to entice Houston.
  • Much like in the Anthony Davis trade talks, this would include Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball heading to Houston.
  • From there, Los Angeles would offer up its first-round pick in 2019 (fourth overall) and unprotected first-round picks in 2020 and 2021. A third team would have to get involved for the cap numbers to work.

Washington Wizards: It could happen.

  • We still don’t even know who is going to be running the ship in D.C. after the firing of general manager Ernie Grunfeld. Whoever it is might look to blow this uninspiring roster up.
  • If so, any deal surrounding Harden would have to include Bradley Beal heading back to Houston. He’s still only 25 years old and is coming off a career-best performance.
  • Washington would have to send under-performing center Ian Mahinmi to Houston in order to make this work, leading to more assets heading to Houston in the process.
  • From here, Washington’s first-round pick in 2019 (ninth overall), first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 would head to Houston.

It remains highly unlikely that Houston moves James Harden. Instead, we firmly believe the likes of Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Eric Gordon are on the block.

That doesn’t mean a shocking trade won’t be pulled off. Even with Durant sidelined, Houston lost Game 6 at home against the Warriors. Does general manager Daryl Morey believe these Rockets can contend moving forward? We’re not too sure.

The idea behind trading Harden would be to blow this whole thing up and starting anew. These four hypothetical trade scenarios enables Houston to do just that.

We’ve seen weirder things around the NBA.