More than two years after they traded for Kawhi Leonard and won their first NBA championship title, the Toronto Raptors and their president of basketball operations, Masai Ujiri, could be planning to make another big move — this time involving Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden. Bringing Harden to Toronto would be more expensive than obtaining Leonard. In the potential deal involving “The Beard,” the Rockets have informed interested teams that they are seeking a package that includes an All-Star-caliber player, young prospects, and multiple future first-round picks.
Despite the Rockets’ high asking price, acquiring Harden is one of the moves that the Raptors could make to dramatically change their prospects this season. Bobby Marks of ESPN recently suggested a blockbuster trade idea that would enable the Raptors to land “The Beard” before the 2021 trade deadline. In the proposed scenario, Harden would be heading to Toronto, while Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, and unprotected first-round picks in 2023 and 2025 would be going to Houston.
“Harden is a top-five player in the NBA, and despite Toronto having cap flexibility to possibly add a max free agent in 2021 without a trade, there is no player of his caliber in free agency. The Raptors would leave themselves exposed when it comes to draft assets in future years if Harden does leave in 2022, but that is a risk worth taking to acquire the former MVP.”
Sacrificing Siakam would definitely be worth it for the Raptors as long as it allows them to add another MVP-caliber player to their roster. The potential arrival of Harden in Toronto would help them improve their offensive efficiency, which currently ranks fifth-worst in the league, scoring 103.3 points per 100 possessions, per ESPN. Aside from being a prolific scorer, playmaker, and an elite three-point shooter, “The Beard” would also give the Raptors a superstar who could step up and take charge of their offense in crucial situations, something that Siakam is still not capable of doing.
Kyle Lowry would likely not have a hard time sharing the backcourt with Harden since he already has experience playing alongside ball-dominant superstars like Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. As long as it increases their chances of returning to the NBA Finals and bringing home their second Larry O’Brien Trophy, Lowry might not mind receiving limited ball touches and a lesser role on the offensive end of the floor.
Meanwhile, though it remains unknown if the suggested offer would be enough for them to engage in a blockbuster deal, Siakam would undeniably be an intriguing addition to the Rockets. He may not be as good as Harden right now, but he has shown huge star potential. Instead of undergoing a full-scale rebuild, the Rockets could immediately build their next title-contending team around Siakam and Christian Wood.