NBA Rumors: 3 mystery teams who can out-bid Clippers for James Harden

If the Los Angeles Clippers bow out of the James Harden sweepstakes, these teams could emerge as dark-horse suitors.

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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1. Golden State Warriors

There is a strong chance the Golden State Warriors cite philosophical differences and excuse themselves from the mere thought of acquiring Harden. But... let's put the pieces together here. Golden State has Chris Paul on an expiring contract. The team doesn't want to pay Klay Thompson the full max, clearly, and he's due to hit free agency in 2024.

At this point, Harden is a "better" expiring contract guard than Chris Paul. The Warriors' movement-heavy system is almost antithetical to Harden's career, but Harden is a playmaking wizard. He can still pressure the rim and draw double teams on every drive. Factor in defenses' natural preoccupation with Curry and Thompson on the perimeter, and it's not difficult to imagine Harden settling into a productive niche for Golden State.

Let Harden run high pick-and-rolls while Curry rips defenses apart with movement on the side. Let Curry set screens for Harden. Let Klay set screens for Harden. Let Harden float off the ball while Curry pokes around the paint. Defenses will start to overthink and collapse on every pass, every move to the rim, every off-ball cut. Harden would have to buy in — and the Warriors would have to take a serious leap of faith — but it's a compelling hypothetical.

The free agency factor is key. Is Harden going to get more or less than Thompson next summer? Would the Warriors rather pay Harden, who offers a more diverse skill set than Thompson, or is the preference to bet on Thompson's elite mastery of a single skill? Or, perhaps more meaningfully, would the Warriors be willing to pay both?

Money could be what keeps Golden State away. It's clear the CP3 trade was made with a desire to get that money off the books as soon as possible. On the other hand, Golden State can easily top the Clippers' offer without completely busting up the future. If the front office still believes in the current core, but doesn't believe the roster as currently built can reach the mountaintop... maybe Harden makes his way to the west coast.


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