When news leaked that James Harden was open to trade locations other than Brooklyn, the speculation started to fly. Philadelphia makes the most sense (a swap with Ben Simmons at the core of it), but the Sixers reportedly are not interested, at least right now. Philly want to make a run this season with its revamped roster and coaching staff and see if it works.
The Clippers also have come up in speculation, with a package centered around Paul George. However, Sam Amick of The Athletic said the Clippers are not thinking that way.
If there was friction between George and some of his teammates, as has been reported in several places, it seems to have been somewhat minimized by the roster moves and the Clippers, sources say, remain fully committed to George as part of their program.
The Clippers don’t work for the Rockets as a trade partner. What Houston is asking for in a Harden deal is a young, franchise cornerstone type of player plus a mountain of draft picks. What the Clippers can offer is 30-year-old George — who can be a free agent and walk after this season — plus Los Angeles gave up a lot of its good draft picks to get George. It’s not a fit.
Plus, the Clippers are committed to winning a ring with Kawhi Leonard and George as their core.
Teams such as New Orleans (Brandon Ingram and picks) or Miami (Bam Adebayo and picks) can make the kind of offer Houston wants, but the buzz around the league is neither has any interest. Which is why all roads seem to lead back to Brooklyn or Philadelphia — if the 76ers struggle the first half of the season they may feel differently about that Simmons-based offer at the trade deadline than they do now.
Houston understandably wants a haul if it is going to trade The Beard. Right now, teams are not giving that up, and since Harden tried his power move with two years left on his contract before he could opt-out, the Rockets can be patient. Which is why Harden is in Houston getting ready to play and we can expect this drama to drag out at least half a season.