After parting ways with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, James Harden has turned himself from a sixth man to an MVP-caliber player. Since making him the face of the franchise, the Rockets have been committed to building a title-contending team around him. However, despite his explosive performance almost every night, the Rockets’ greatest achievement under Harden’s leadership was reaching the Western Conference Finals.
If they once again fail to achieve their main goal in this season, the Rockets may finally consider taking a different route and make Harden available on the trading block this summer. If they plan to undergo a rebuilding process, Preston Ellis of Bleacher Report believes that the Denver Nuggets would be an ideal trade partner for the Rockets.
In the proposed trade deal, the Nuggets would be sending a trade package that includes Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Monte Morris to the Rockets in exchange for Harden.
“If the Rockets decide their small-ball experiment is doomed to fail, sending Harden to the Denver Nuggets for three promising young players could kickstart their rebuild. Jamal Murray could slide in alongside Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, while rangy forward Michael Porter Jr. would give the Rockets another versatile two-way weapon to go with Robert Covington. Monte Morris could serve as cheap bench depth for a year, particularly if Austin Rivers (player option) leaves in free agency.”
Instead of spending another year without a clear path to title contention, the Rockets might be better off rebuilding their team. By trading Harden to the Nuggets, the Rockets would be acquiring three young and promising talents in Murray, Porter Jr., and Morris who could be part of the next title-contending team that they will try to build in Houston. With the improvements he has shown since entering the league in 2016, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Murray becomes Harden’s replacement as the new face of the franchise.
Meanwhile, trading Murray and Porter Jr. is undeniably a tough decision for the Nuggets, but it would definitely be worth it if it means acquiring a player of Harden’s caliber. Pairing Nikola Jokic with Harden would further boost the Nuggets’ offense and give them a better chance of dominating the Western Conference and winning an NBA championship.
However, the arrival of Harden could force Jokic to accept a reduced role on the offensive end of the floor and learn to play without the ball in his hands.