According to the Shams Charania of The Athletic, sources with knowledge of the situation claim that the former MVP has added those two top East teams to a short list that had reportedly included the Philadelphia 76ers — though a trade with that team looks unlikely as new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey appears to be reluctant to part with either Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons to make that happen.
For Pat Riley to have any chance of acquiring Harden, a deal involving several draft picks and a combination of veterans and promising players such as Tyler Herro would have to be on the table. For the Bucks it would require just about anyone on the roster not named Giannis Antetokounmpo — who recently said he was only focused on the upcoming NBA season and not on his contract status.
Harden is currently away from the Rockets and is complying with the NBA’s protocols for coronavirus testing. He must register six consecutive negative tests before he can join them for training camp, though it remains to be seen if he will actually do so once he is cleared.
The fact that he is even listing the Heat as a preferred trade destination speaks volumes over how the Eastern Conference Champions are viewed around the league by stars who want to join a winning organization.
Even if a longshot deal with the Rockets doesn’t actually go through, it still bodes well for Riley to eventually land another whale. Even if he claims to the media he’s not actively looking for one, he always will be tempted to at least try to negotiate a deal — especially if the star player wants to make it happen.