NBA teams will soon need a James Harden transaction

Some teams were going to talk about it; the situation was too ripe. A blockbuster has come.

In the summer of 2018, Masai Ujiri continued to think about the difference between a good team and a great team.

President Toronto Raptors built good teams; he even won the NBA Executive of the Year award in his third season as general manager of the Denver Nuggets. He built a bunch of teams with 50 wins. He built teams that won division titles. He built teams that went to the conference finals.

But Ujiri wondered: Has he ever really built a great team in Toronto – one that can legitimately win everything?

While he spent days thinking about what might have been the riskiest move of his career, he finally came to an understanding of the answer and then executed the transaction for Kawhi Leonard.

Right now, the NBA has a bloated middle class. There is a large group of teams, maybe even a dozen, that are on the verge of quarrels. They have a star or two. They have a way, maybe, to get to the second round of the playoffs or maybe even to the conference final, if things go perfectly. They are good; they are not great.

This is where James Harden comes in and why his future could shape how this NBA season unfolds.

The Houston Rockets – who saw the redemption of assets that players such as Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday acquired in the commercial market with only one season left on their contracts – set and maintained a high asking price for Harden, who has two and more seasons. more than $ 90 million left in his business

The rockets can also see the field, and the new general manager Rafael Stone knows that a superstar with two seasons under contract is a premium asset. Typically, in recent years, teams trading stars have managed to pull off the combination of young players, slightly protected or completely unprotected choices and choose swaps in offers for star-level players.

In the Eastern Conference, for example, there are seven teams that could probably make it to the conference finals: the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers hot-start. The reality is that at least three of them from a mathematical point of view will not even make the second round. Then there is the collection of teams that will fight to make the play-in tournament; there are more competitors than spots.

This means that jobs could come into play in the summer. And now it’s Harden sitting there, playing well, even if he’s not in good shape and kindly showing limited motivation. And with so many teams feeling in contention, it promises to be the seller’s market at the trading deadline, it will probably gain even more interest.

It’s no coincidence that a number of teams, such as the Celtics, 76ers, Heat, Nets and Raptors – teams in the “good not big” area, have at least made a courtesy call to the Rockets, sources said. . Even the Bucks, sources said, had at least an internal conversation about it and led her past Giannis Antetokounmpo before deciding not to get involved. They had; with the current landscape, Harden’s final destination is on everyone’s mind in this tight race.

Of course, the West has similar stories. The Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers may be at the top of the list of competitors, but there are teams around them that have danced on the outskirts of Harden. The Portland Trail Blazers are also monitoring the Nuggets, who are interested in getting involved in a deal, even if they do not reach Harden, sources said. There could be more if the situation plays out a little.

It is not uncommon for there to be a lot of interested teams when a star appears on the market. It is not uncommon for it to take time for offerings to grow; the league changes in a way every day. But this set of circumstances makes this situation particularly interesting to watch.

Harden doesn’t have Leonard’s championship resume, but Harden is the type of player who can change a team’s fortune in the short term. Take it and a good team could turn into a great team. And he is available – the only player who makes a difference that fits this bill. As this season unfolds and the pressure to distance oneself from the pack naturally increases, the desire for a player like Harden will increase in some places. There are front offices that have the same debates that Ujiri had before the 2018-19 season: Is it time to make the riskiest move in hopes of a reward?

A blockbuster could come.