2. Miami Heat
Fresh off of the Miami Heat’s appearance in the NBA Finals, it’s easy to see why Harden would want to go to South Beach. Harden and the Rockets made a run at Jimmy Butler, who Harden reportedly has a good relationship with, and were convinced that the Houston native was going to be playing in the Space City, up until he left them hanging at the altar.
Butler instead wanted his own team, and it’s hard to argue with him based on the fact that Miami reached the NBA Finals in his first season with the franchise, which rarely happens with star players, as it usually takes time to build chemistry with teammates. Butler and Bam Adebayo both made the All-Star team in 2019-20, and Adebayo landed a long-term extension at the conclusion of the season.
But the Heat simply don’t have enough of a package to send the Rockets for Harden, unless they were to include Butler or Adebayo, which would defeat the purpose of trading for Harden, from their perspective, as Heat executive Pat Riley certainly has his sights set on a Big Three of Adebayo, Butler, and Harden. The Heat have been rumored to have built a package centered around Tyler Herro, who is a promising young player, but doesn’t have nearly the ceiling of Harden, even at this stage of his career.
The Heat figure to offer Andre Iguodala, Herro, Kelly Olynyk, Duncan Robinson, and several draft picks, which doesn’t meet the asking price of Rockets GM Rafael Stone, who is seeking a franchise cornerstone. In addition, Harden wouldn’t be a fit from a culture standpoint, as Riley and Butler are known for employing a no-nonsense approach and have established a culture of a blue-collar work environment.
Although Harden is a hard-worker on the court, he plays just as hard off the court on the party scene, which would certainly continue in a city like Miami. Butler and Riley would certainly reach a breaking point and would grow weary of Harden’s lifestyle off the court, much like they did with Dion Waiters (although Waiters’ life outside of basketball is much more egregious than Harden’s), and it could create a much worse situation for Harden than the Rockets.
That, coupled with the fact that the Heat don’t have the ammunition to give the Rockets what they want, is why Harden shouldn’t expect a deal to transpire with the Heat.
Next: No. 1