James Harden is reportedly thinking about a reunion with Kevin Durant.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, playing with KD and Kyrie Irving with the Nets is “resonating” with the Rockets guard. The teams have not yet engaged in trade discussions, Wojnarowski reported.
Harden isn’t the first Houston star to think about being traded recently. Russell Westbrook is rumored to be involved in trade discussions as the NBA Draft approaches.
If Brooklyn were to acquire Harden, then it would make him teammates with Durant again after they spent three seasons (2009-12) together with the Thunder early in their careers. That time together culminated in an appearance in the 2012 NBA Finals against LeBron James’ Heat.
The Nets made the Eastern Conference playoffs in the NBA’s Orlando bubble last season, but that was with Durant sitting out the entire year with an Achilles injury and Irving missing a lot of time due to various ailments. The latest odds from Betway have the Nets listed as the fourth favorite to win the 2021 NBA title, and a Harden acquisition would only improve those chances.
Moving a contract of Harden’s size would not be easy, though. He’s due more than $40 million for each of the next two seasons and has a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. The Nets are already over the NBA’s base salary cap for the 2020-21 season. After Durant ($39 million) and Irving ($33 million), their next-largest contracts are Caris LeVert ($16.2 million), Taurean Prince ($12.3 million), Spencer Dinwiddie ($11.5 million) and DeAndre Jordan ($10.4 million). (All figures per Spotrac.com.) A third team might be needed to make the money essentially match in a deal.
If Houston were to trade Harden, then the Rockets could want the 26-year-old LeVert back to be a young offensive creator who would shift their window of contention into the future. The Nets also have the No. 19 overall pick in Wednesday’s NBA Draft and all their future first-round picks.
A Harden acquisition by the Nets would also create speculation about what would happen in a three-headed Brooklyn offense with only one basketball. Durant, Irving and Harden are all regarded as ball-dominant players. Harden and Westbrook, another former Thunder teammate, have not quite jelled in Houston and there would at least be similar concerns in Brooklyn.