1. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers were the most recent inclusion to Harden’s wishlist, and they were the most surprising addition as well. For starters, each of the previous teams Harden listed were in the Eastern Conference, and it seemed rather odd that Portland would be the lone exception.
Would a Harden and Damian Lillard pairing make it out of the Western Conference? The answer would seem to be no, as the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers got stronger with the additions of Dennis Schroeder, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol.
Harden has had much more loaded teams with the Rockets than what he would figure to have in Portland, as they would have to part with essentially all of their assets to land Harden, which raises another point. The Blazers team that Harden would be joining would actually be a significant downgrade from the Rockets, as this Rockets team replaced Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington with Christian Wood, John Wall, and DeMarcus Cousins.
There’s also the fact that Lillard hasn’t exactly delivered in the postseason, with the exception of two opening round game-sealing shots. In this regard, Lillard and Harden have similar reputations, which raises further questions about the two joining forces.
The Blazers barely limped into the 2019-20 postseason with the eighth seed in the Western Conference, finishing with a less-than-stellar record of 35-39, and as mentioned above, they would have to rid themselves of most of their players that have upside, which will make them much weaker. Aside from last season, the Blazers managed to land the third seed during the 2017-18 season, only to be swept in the opening round by the New Orleans Pelicans, who held the sixth seed.
The Blazers were also swept in the opening round of the 2016-17 playoffs as well, which raises further questions about why exactly Harden would want to go there. If Harden’s desire to leave the Rockets is to place him in a better position to win a title, which is what’s been reported, then he’d be better off staying with the Rockets than joining the Blazers.
After all, the two teams just met and the Houston Rockets nearly beat the Blazers in overtime, despite being without John Wall, Eric Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins, and Ben McLemore.