1. Houston Rockets receive Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton
This final package would be a win-win for both the Rockets and Bucks, as it would send a haul back to each team. The Bucks would get Harden, along with Eric Gordon and Danuel House, who have both proven their value over the years, and especially in the case of Gordon, who is a former Sixth Man of the Year.
House is under contract long-term and at a team-friendly contract, as he’s making just $3.7 million per year. In this deal, the Rockets would also be sending the Bucks their first round pick, which would help replace some of the draft capital they lost in the Jrue Holiday trade.
The Rockets would be getting back Holiday and Khris Middleton, who are both lockdown defenders who have been star players in their own right. Holiday has averaged at least 19 points and six assists in each of the last three seasons and is a career 35.5 percent shooter from deep, while also being second in the league in steals this season.
Granted, Holiday’s contract uncertainty would still be an issue, but the Rockets getting back Middleton alleviates some of that, as he’s under contract through 2024, although he has a player option of $40.3 million in 2023-24 that he likely will pick up. Middleton is also a force on defense, as he finished 12th in the league in defensive rating in 2019-20 and 13th in total defensive win shares.
Middleton’s size would allow the Rockets to hide Christian Wood on the defensive end, which is where he’s struggled this season. For the Rockets, getting back two of the best two-way players in the league would be worth giving up both Harden and the draft pick, and would be the best deal possible around the entire league for The Beard.