NBA Rumors: 3 dark horse teams who should trade for 76ers’ James Harden

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports) /
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James Harden, Scottie Barnes (Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports)
James Harden, Scottie Barnes (Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports) /

The James Harden trade market is at a standstill, but it shouldn’t be. These four dark horse teams should have immediate interest in the former MVP. 

The Philadelphia 76ers are back in the spotlight. In this week’s episode of the NBA’s best soap opera, James Harden has called Sixers president Daryl Morey ‘a liar‘ and vowed to never play for an organization he’s a part of ever again. It’s a heartbreaking and tragic twist. The NBA’s most prominent player-manager bromance is dead in the water.

As the Sixers look to navigate the turbulent waters of Harden’s public displeasure, it’s only natural for trade rumors to circulate. That said, Philadelphia has momentarily ended trade talks after no traction was gained with the Los Angeles Clippers, Harden’s preferred destination.

It’s understandable, of course, that teams are hesitant to trade for a 33-year-old in the final year of his deal. Harden has also demanded trades from his last three teams, which could lead to natural reticence from franchises not listed on his one-team wishlist.

Here’s the thing, though. Harden no longer has the leverage. No team was willing to pay him a long-term contract last summer. Who’s to say next summer will be any different? He wants to go to the Clippers, but the Clippers haven’t made any genuine effort to trade for him.

If a team trades for Harden and embraces him with open arms — and potentially a juicy contract offer next summer — that team will have the upper hand. We have seen superstars thrive in unexpected places before. Harden is no longer the MVP of yesteryear, but he is one of the best offensive engines working today.

These teams aren’t generally thought of as Harden trade destinations, but all three should hit the phone lines and make Daryl Morey a real offer.

Dark horse James Harden trade destination: 3. Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors finished last season 41-41, good for ninth place in the East and a swift exit in the play-in tournament. Pascal Siakam trade rumblings have proliferated all offseason after Fred VanVleet left for Houston in free agency. There’s reason to believe Masai Ujiri is closer than ever to embracing the tank.

What if Ujiri salvages the current group instead? The Raptors probably should think about getting younger, but James Harden is James Harden. Age, contract, and his track record of unhappiness are all valid concerns. But, he was a genuine top-five point guard last season. He led the NBA in assists and was a prolific, efficient three-level scorer.

Harden elevates teammates at a level few other NBA stars can achieve. Even when his own production fluctuates, Harden is always improving those in his orbit. Joel Embiid had the best scoring season of his life next to Harden. Not a coincidence. Tyrese Maxey took off once Harden arrived. Related? I think so.

A lack of spacing and offensive cohesion gravely impacted Pascal Siakam last season, and he still put up the best numbers of his career. Siakam would be in line for another leap in production next to Harden, who can still draw multiple defenders in the middle of the floor. Harden would unlock Siakam as a pick-and-roll weapon while also spoon-feeding him easy finishes and mid-range jumpers, just like he did for Embiid in Philadelphia.

The Raptors would have two bonafide top-30 players helming the offense. Harden would boost Toronto’s lowly 3-point numbers. He can place OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes in more advantageous positions to score. Meanwhile, the Raptors have the length and defensive versatility to cover for Harden’s primary area of weakness.

This is a tremendous fit. Toronto doesn’t have to rebuild if the right star becomes available. Well, he’s available.