#2 Where the Houston Rockets and their trade partner(s) are in the standings
Points, assists, rebounds, and advanced metrics are how NBA front offices gauge the value of players around the league. However, with the goal of a championship in mind for contenders, these teams will be looking at where the Houston Rockets will be in the standings as they assess James Harden’s trade value.
Since the 2016-2017 season, Harden leads the league in win shares with 58.7, which bests Giannis Antetokounmpo by 8.9. Entering the 2020-2021 season, the Houston Rockets have posted a 63.9-percent winning with James Harden in town.
The franchise has never missed the playoffs during his career with them and while the team has fallen short of their expectations of winning a championship, they have come close with multiple Western Conference Finals appearances to show for it. With a mid-season trade for the All-NBA guard likely, Harden’s trade value will be partially dependent on where the Rockets are in the western conference standings.
The higher they are, the greater the leverage the front office will have when they negotiate return value for Harden as they would potentially be sacrificing a deep playoff run to aid another. The Rockets’ trade partners are in a similar predicament, which makes their win-loss record this season matter as well.
With many of Harden’s preferred destinations being in the Eastern Conference, the Rockets’ front office should expect those teams to pay a premium for Harden as the conference has become wide open since Lebron James took his talents to Los Angeles. Remember, the MilwaukeeBucks finished with the best record in the league the past two seasons, but this ultimately didn’t matter as the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat were able to upset the Bucks in the playoffs and earn a trip to the NBA Finals.
If the season plays out with many of these contending Eastern Conference teams playing below their potential, this will increase Harden’s trade value as he becomes their best avenue to gain a competitive advantage over their competition in the standings and the playoffs. It shouldn’t be forgotten, that without a bubble environment, home-court advantage is a real incentive this season, and teams will want to make a deal for Harden early enough that he can help improve their record.
Next: Factor No. 1