Could James Harden take a page out of Kevin Durant’s trade request playbook?

Kevin Durant, James Harden (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant, James Harden (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Could James Harden copy Kevin Durant’s trade request strategy from last summer? 

The NBA has never been more loaded with star talent. And, as a result of simple math, NBA star trade requests are also at an all-time high.

The most recent example is James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers. Well, not exactly — Damian Lillard requested a trade days later — but for the purposes of our work today, the focus will be on James Harden’s trade demand.

The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to proceed with patience. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski even suggested that the Sixers could try to convince Harden to stay. That brings to mind another not-so-distant trade request: that of Kevin Durant last summer.

James Harden is potentially following the Kevin Durant trade request path

It can feel like decades have passed, but Kevin Durant started last season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. He didn’t want to, of course, but he did. Durant requested as a trade last summer over concerns about the direction of Brooklyn’s franchise. Then, the Nets simply did not trade him.

Eventually Durant came to terms with the fact that Brooklyn, with four years of team control over Durant, were not going to execute a trade without good cause. Durant returned, repaired his relationship with the front office, and made a genuine effort to contend.

Had it not been for Kyrie Irving’s own trade request midway through the season, Durant would probably still be a Net — and heck, Brooklyn might have won a very winnable East, and we’d be talking about a very different set of circumstances this summer.

Durant was sent to Phoenix at the trade deadline in February. The Nets, sans Irving, decided to reset and rebuild on the fly.

Is this the direction the James Harden saga will take in Philadelphia?

As noted by Woj, the Sixers’ asking price for Harden is “extremely high.” The team won’t accept anything less than top dollar and Daryl Morey is a notoriously shrewd negotiator.

Meanwhile, Harden has spent the majority of his NBA stardom working alongside Morey and Sixers president Tad Brown. The Sixers’ lead decision-makers, without any clear avenue to acquiring a star better than Harden, could tap into shared personal history to convince Harden to stick around.

If no trade is made, Harden may have no choice but to stick it out in the final year of his contract. That’s where Harden’s situation departs slightly from the Durant saga — Philadelphia doesn’t have as much long-term control here — but on the flip side, there’s incentive for Harden to show up and perform in a contract year. If his market is small now, a year of self-sabotage in Philly would virtually guarantee a less-than-desirable payday in 2024.

Harden is making his point: he’s unhappy with how the Sixers handled his free agency and he wants to stir up a market for his services. But not every trade request ends in a trade. Don’t be shocked if ultimately Harden is wearing ‘PHILA’ across his chest on opening night, whether he wants to or not.

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