ESPN reporter: Rockets could trade James Harden to Cavaliers

Collin Sexton #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers attempts to block James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Collin Sexton #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers attempts to block James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

As the Houston Rockets have been engaged in trade talks for James Harden, the Cleveland Cavaliers could enter the fray for Harden’s services.

The 2020-21 NBA season hasn’t gotten started to the Houston Rockets‘ liking, as the Rockets have posted a 2-4 record through their first six games, and have lost each of their last two games. A slow start shouldn’t be entirely surprising, as the Rockets haven’t been at full strength thus far, due to COVID protocols and injuries, not to mention that the team didn’t have a full crew during training camp, due to the absence of James Harden, who started the season holding out, in hopes of being dealt elsewhere.

On the court, Harden was his usual dominant self through the first three games, as he averaged 37 points on 52 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep, while also averaging 11 assists per contest during that span. To say that Harden has cooled off in the last two games would be a major understatement,  as he’s averaged just 18 points on 10-of-31 from the floor (32.2 percent) and 4-of-16 from long-range, which is good for a dismal 25 percent from three.

There have been many theories about what could be the cause of Harden’s drop off, ranging from speculation that he could still be injured, as he missed the Rockets’ second game against the Sacramento Kings due to an ankle injury, or simply that Harden could be checked out and still has his sights set on getting out of the Space City. To the latter point, the Rockets haven’t found a team that has been willing to pay the asking price for Harden, although he has compiled a list of teams that he’d prefer to be sent to, in hopes of increasing the likelihood that he’s moved.

Could the Houston Rockets deal Harden to the Cavaliers?

Rockets general manager Rafael Stone’s focus is to ensure that the Rockets get what they want, and not exactly to appease Harden. For this reason, the Rockets are wise to talk with teams that aren’t on Harden’s list, which they’ve reportedly been doing throughout this process.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Harden sweepstakes could include the Cleveland Cavaliers, which Windhorst explained on ESPN radio’s Greeny.

“If you’re a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, that is loaded with young players, and loaded with all of your future draft picks and extra draft picks, how are you gonna get a player like James Harden?

You’re not getting him in free agency. Maybe you could draft a guy like that. They won the lottery three times in four years, I don’t know if I would gamble on winning the lottery again.

They wouldn’t become a championship contender but they haven’t made the playoffs in two years, and they’re not going to make the playoffs this year. Who knows about next year?

These are the teams that could talk themselves into it. That’s why I think there’s going to be something that happens here.”

There’s quite a bit to unpack here, starting with the fact that the Cavs don’t figure to have the best deal possible, as they significantly lack star power. They certainly have a plethora of draft picks, which figure to be lottery picks, as they’ve consistently been in the dregs of the Eastern Conference.

The closest thing they have to a star player is Kevin Love, who doesn’t match the definition of a young franchise cornerstone, as he’s 32-years-old and his best days are certainly behind him. The Cavs could always include a third or fourth team to get such a deal crafted, but could run into issues there, as a possibility remains that many of the teams they would be relying on to help them land Harden could actually want Harden themselves.

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The fact that the Rockets have been playing the waiting game and entertaining teams that aren’t on Harden’s list is a clear sign of a regime that’s shifted away from catering to Harden’s beckon call, unlike the previous regime that included former Rockets GM Daryl Morey and former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni.

As time passes, we’ll likely hear about more teams being interested in Harden, which will continue to give the Houston Rockets more leverage and decrease the chance of him joining a team of his liking.