The Rockets need to trade James Harden before Bradley Beal is moved
Why James Harden and Bradley Beal have equal trade value
The trade value of the two is relatively equal for two key reasons, while Harden is currently the superior player, Beal is younger and cheaper. A trade for Harden means your championship window is now, but a trade for Beal gives you a high-powered scorer for the next two seasons, plus you can extend him while he’s still in his prime.
James Harden vs Bradley Beal’s contracts
James Harden (age) Bradley Beal (age)
2020-21: $40.8 million (31) $28.7 million (27)
2021-22: $43.8 million (32) $34.5 million (28)
2022-23: $46.8 million (33) $37.2 million (29) ← Player Options
While Harden is still considered to be the superior player over Beal, the gap has closed considerably as Beal has added new wrinkles to his offensive game each season. Since 2017-18, Beal has gone from averaging 22.6 points per game, to 25.6, to 30.5, to a league-leading 35 points this season.
Harden, over this period, averaged 30.4 points per game in 2017-18, then up to 36.1, then down to 34.3, and now stands at 26 points a game this season. Harden is not in decline as much as his role in the Rockets’ offense has changed year to year, but it’s not entirely clear which player is the better scorer at the moment.
In 2017-18 Harden won the league MVP as a 28 year old and has maintained that level of production into his 30’s. However, Beal won’t turn 28 until June of this year and could be entering into the MVP conversation soon if his play continues to grow.
While Beal’s scoring is beginning to rival Harden’s, it is Harden’s passing that truly separates him from Beal. Since 2017-18, Beal has averaged 5.2 assists per game compared to Harden’s 8 assists per game.
With the reality that age and contract are almost as important as a player’s production in trades, it is clear that Harden and Beal will fetch similar offers. This could harm Harden’s value on the market, especially if the Rockets wait too long and let the Wizards find a new home for Beal first.
Next: How a Beal trade hurt Harden's value