Rockets star James Harden ‘open’ to 76ers trade as season nears

Report: Rockets star James Harden ‘open’ to 76ers trade as season nears originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

James Harden’s future with the Houston Rockets is uncertain, and we’ve now learned of another team he would be willing to join via trade.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that the superstar guard is open to the idea of being dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers. 

“After it was clear there was no traction in talks with the Nets, Harden expressed to the Rockets that he would be agreeable if a trade with the 76ers materialized, sources said,” MacMahon and Wojnarowski write. “Harden also indicated that there could be other teams that fit his criteria for a preferred destination, a source said.”

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MacMahon and Wojnarowski also noted, citing sources, that the Rockets are looking for “a young franchise cornerstone and a bundle of first-round picks and/or talented players on rookie contracts” in return for Harden. 

The Sixers, if healthy — and that’s a big if — are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and a legit contender for an NBA championship. Philadelphia’s title hopes were derailed by All-Star point guard Ben Simmons’ season-ending injury that forced him to miss the team’s first-round sweep at the hands of the rival Boston Celtics in the 2020 playoffs.

A Harden/Simmons or Harden/Joel Embiid pairing in Philly would be fun to watch and make the 76ers a tougher team for the other top East contenders — Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets and Celtics — to beat. 

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From a Celtics perspective, a Harden trade to the Sixers or another East contender might not be the worst thing in the world. He’s actually played worse versus the C’s than many other teams since he was drafted in 2009. Harden has averaged 22.4 points, 5.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 22 career games against Boston. The only team — excluding the Rockets — that Harden has a lower scoring average (21.5) against is the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Celtics have several good wing defenders — including Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart — capable of slowing down Harden.

There’s a lot of anticipation for the 2020-21 NBA season, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 22. One of the most fascinating storylines is Harden’s future, and which team he will go to if the Rockets make a serious push to move him before the trade deadline in March.

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